Micah Richards: Young Man City players will not get a chance
Fiorentina full-back Micah Richards is one of only a handful of British players and managers plying their trade abroad.
The 26-year-old England international is on loan from Manchester City and enjoying life in the historic city of Florence.
In an interview with BBC's Football Focus, he reveals why he had to leave City - a club he joined at 14 and represented for 12 years - after manager Manuel Pellegrini "lost a bit of faith" in him.
Settling into the Italian way of life?
Richards: "It has been easy. The lads have been great with me. There are two players here (Stefan Savic and David Pizarro) who were at City and they have taken me under their wing. Off the field, it is a beautiful city, so it has been easy to settle in."
Has Mario Balotelli been in contact?
Richards: "He texts, but when he texts me it is English. I keep telling him to text me in Italian, so I can learn."
Why did you come to Fiorentina?
Richards: "Signing a new contract with City would have been the easy way out. It is the club closest to my heart. I would love to stay there. But ultimately it comes down to how much you play. After I got injured, Pablo Zabaleta established himself as the number one right-back. And I hold my hands up, he did well. But there comes a time in your career where you have to do what is best for you. Coming here was the right decision."
When did you know the time had come to move on, that manager Manuel Pellegrini was perhaps not your biggest fan?
Richards: "He brought me off in the FA Cup against Watford. We were losing, I thought I was having a decent game. Not amazing. Not bad, but I wasn't the worst player on the pitch by any stretch. And he brought me off at half-time and brought a right-back, Pablo Zabaleta, on. No disrespect, a right-back isn't going to change the game. At that point, I thought maybe he has lost a bit of faith in me."
Did you feel you were a scapegoat by Pellegrini?
Richards: "There was a breakdown in communication. Before he was there, I was the number one right-back. I played the most. It wasn't like I was a young lad, I had eight years experience in the Premier League, I had won a Premier League, won an FA Cup."
Did you feel like you represented the 'old City'?
Richards: "Definitely. I wanted to stay there so long to prove to people you don't need to go out and spend £30m on a defender because you have got it here. I feel a little bit sorry for the youngsters at City because they have got some really, really good youngsters. They are not going to get a chance because whoever is in the managerial role is under pressure to get results. The manager has to pick the best team that he see right for results, whether the players are English, Spanish, Portuguese."
What was your relationship like with Mancini?
Richards: "I wouldn't say it was a love-hate relationship but, if you weren't playing well, he wouldn't beat around the bush. He would just say: 'What's going on? Why are you not playing well? Come on.' I don't want to give away his tricks, but he said things to the media to get a reaction from his players. Some players like that and some people don't. But for sure, he was one of the managers, along with Stuart Pearce, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Steve McClaren, they all got the best out of me.
Do you still look out for City's results?
Richards: "Yeah, of course. I followed Arsenal as a kid, but I always look out for City. I really do want them to do well. I know the people that are still there, who were there when I was. It means so much to them. I know there are a lot of new people who have come in. They think they know the club, they think they can take the club in the right direction. Some do, some don't. The people who have been there for a long time, when we were in the Second Division and still getting 30,000 fans, they are the true City supporters. The ones that come to the game and are moaning when we don't win 5-0 or 6-0, they aren't the true City fans."
|Richards on Pablo Zabaleta|
|"He is rarely injured. He is like a machine. And even if he is injured, it isn't for long. I did my hamstring and was out for two weeks. He did his and within six days he was back playing."|
Do you think you will ever play for City again?
Richards: "I would never say never but, if I am being realistic, I don't think I will. But I do believe I will work at the club in some capacity in the future."