Peek beyond the excitement caused by Liverpool's stunning win over Manchester City and you'll likely see Brendan Rodgers preparing for a summer of investment. The Reds boss isn't one to rest on his laurels, and amid fresh rumours linking his Premier League leaders with Micah Richards, he would be wise to tie up a deal before other suitors can wade in.
Richards, who appears surplus to requirements at the Etihad stadium, is reported to be capturing the interest of a Liverpool side that stands on the brink of national dominance, per Soriebah Kajue of the Mirror:
Milan have sounded out the player’s representatives about a switch to Serie A after getting a recommendation from his former City team-mate Mario Balotelli.
However, Liverpool still have Richards on their wish-list after a loan bid was rejected in January.
Rodgers should absolutely act on his previous interest. Richards, a tough defender and title winner, is exactly the type of smart investment that has thrust the Northern Irish manager's stock into the stratosphere since heading to Merseyside.
Richards has made just five appearances across the Premier League and Champions League this season, recorded by WhoScored.com. He is unable to dislodge Pablo Zabaleta from right-back, and despite his versatility, he isn't deemed trustworthy enough to take on a centre-back role for Manuel Pellegrini's side.
At 25 years old, this is the perfect time for Richards to move on. Under Rodgers, he would receive the personal touch needed to excel again.
The Liverpool boss is excellent at plucking stuttering talent away from clubs and polishing over their inconsistencies. Individuals such as Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho—both of whom struggled for match-changing form at their previous clubs—have developed into world-class stars under Rodgers' tutelage.
Richards also flaunts everything Rodgers looks for in a defender. The 41-year-old manager favours physical, athletic players at the back, as highlighted by the summer signing of Mamadou Sakho and Aly Cissohko.
Although the latter is likely to return from his loan spell to Valencia, per the Metro, Rodgers' template provided Liverpool with an overpowering physicality and great speed at the back. Richards' build allows him to naturally adhere to this philosophy, and indeed, slot in wherever Rodgers sees fit across the defence.
Considering Richards' contract expires at the end of next season and he could be available for "as little as £4 million," per Mike Keegan of the Manchester Evening News, his signing is something of a no-brainer.
This is a proven England international—someone who has fallen by the wayside during City's continuous splurging of millions—a player whose dominance has quickly been forgotten. He is extremely unlikely to even be considered for a spot in the Three Lions' World Cup squad, highlighting his downfall rather succinctly.
Rodgers is the perfect manager to turn Richards' career around. All the evidence suggests the Anfield boss is ready to give English talent a chance to shine—highlighted by the emergence of Sturridge, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling—suggesting a low bid for the unwanted City defender could prove fruitful.
There is little need to break the bank when a defender of such quality is available at cut-price. Rodgers will undoubtedly have bigger transfers to secure at the end of the season, but with his situation and ability considered, none make more sense than Richards.