When Micah Richards burst onto the scene in 2005, it seemed that Manchester City had a potential superstar in their midst. His natural athleticism, speed, and strength made him a formidable foe for most strikers.
He was by no means the perfect defender. For example, questions were continually raised over his positioning, but more often than not he was quick enough to get back and clean up the problem.
The potential was there for him to be a staple of the England side for years to come, something that was reinforced in 2006 when he made his England debut, becoming the youngest ever England defender.
Recently, however, the man who showed so much promise has fallen out of the spotlight. Injuries have undone much of the hard work that had established Richards as an important England squad member.
Now, under Fabio Capello, he is yet to be called up to the England squad, falling behind Wes Brown in the pecking order.
Why is this? Well, perhaps Capello needs to see more of him fully fit, much like Michael Owen's situation. Perhaps he sees Brown as a better player.
I am more inclined, however, to think that it has more to do with his club form. And the worst bit is, it isn't his fault.
It is widely regarded that Richards' best position is centre back. He is seen as a competent right-back, but centre back is his first choice.
However, due to his versatility, he is often played either in right back, or more recently, left back, despite being predominantly right footed. His power, speed, and heading ability are more suited to central defence. He has also been deployed in central midfield on a few occasions.
Versatility is a great skill to have, but it can also be a curse. Some managers can take advantage of it, playing you out of position week in, week out. Steven Gerrard is another example of a player who is a victim of his own versatility.
But the players rarely complain. They know that they are played out of the position for the good of the team. But every now and again, that selfish streak that is present in all humans will become the voice in the their heads.
It will tell them that the current situation is damaging their potential and England chances. How can you perform to the best of your ability if you're not in your best position?
But often, especially with England, players like Micah Richards will accept the position they are given; they are just happy to be playing.
The manager, however, must realise that to get the best out of this extraordinary young talent, you need to play him in central defence.
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