As per Jamie Sanderson with Metro, Richards has declined the opportunity to sign a new contract with his present club and has just one season remaining on his existing deal. This has in turn given rise to City deciding he can leave the club this coming summer—and Liverpool are willing suitors.
The Reds have been interested observers of Richards in the past, and it seems this summer could be the time he makes the move to the club—but perhaps with the idea of him playing at centre-back rather than the right-back role he has featured in more often over the past few years.
Richards the Right, Richards the Central
It was only two seasons ago that Richards was being spoken about in the media and on highlights shows as the most complete full-back in England, with his powerful, raiding runs forward a feature of Manchester City's fast, attacking play.
A number of hamstring injuries later, he is well and truly behind Pablo Zabaleta in the running for the City right-back role. Concerns linger over whether the City academy graduate can stand up to the constant sprinting and tracking back required from a modern full-back.
Earlier in his career, though, under Sven-Goran Eriksson, Richards played as a central defender.
He was raw and inexperienced, and he relied on the more sturdy Richard Dunne beside him—along with his own great acceleration—to get out of trouble when positional errors occurred. But by and large he showed he could certainly have a future in the game in that position.
Sakho First Choice?
Mamadou Sakho was signed by Liverpool for around £17 million from PSG last summer, and though he has had injury problems of his own at times this season, he has been a regular and impressive performer when fit.
Sakho is accomplished on the ball, rarely giving away possession cheaply even when under pressure. He's quickly adapted to the fast, physical nature of the Premier League with a series of composed performances. He wins tackles with great regularity, is quick to break out of the defensive line to close down and intercept danger, and defends aggressively when required.
The one area Sakho hasn't been excellent in—aside from fitness—is in his aerial battles, where both Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have outscored him this season.
In Richards, Liverpool would have a central defender on their hands who has been utterly imperious in the air almost since he stepped onto a football pitch. Richards dominated against under-18s because of his powerful frame and great leaping ability, as seen in a Youth FA Cup final against Liverpool.
At first-team level, his aerial power and ability to win the ball was a big feature of his game even from his early days as a centre-back.
By moving Richards to right-back, City gained an extra body who would help out defensively against high crosses and were able to make use of his strengths on the ball.
There are not too many games which show off his statistics over the past couple of seasons, but winning six headed duels out of seven this season, and 24 from 31 last (77 percent), shows just how regularly and consistently he is capable of winning his aerial battles.
Add into the mix his pace, strength, and the fact he's been a big part of a title-winning side, and there are a lot of attributes there that Liverpool would do well to identify and try to bring into the team.
Comparisons with Kelly
A right-back with aspirations and potential to play in the centre is nothing new to Liverpool fans. Many have been saying the same thing about Martin Kelly for a number of seasons.
Kelly was arguably the most in-form right-back in the country at the time of his cruciate knee ligament injury in 2012; unfortunately, 18 months have passed since that occurrence, and Kelly is still looking some way short of being a regular for Liverpool again. Questions will be asked in the summer of his future.
Andre Wisdom has probably overtaken him now as a more likely candidate to have a future with the club—and again, he can play both right and central.
As for Richards, he wants games and to play for a team challenging for trophies. It's tempting to look at the situation as though he needs to prove himself as a starter with a big club...just like another former City youngster, Daniel Sturridge, has done.
If the fee is right and Brendan Rodgers believes Richards and Sakho could form the right balance at the back, this could be a deal well worth pursuing for the Reds.
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