From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.34 :: NO.49 :: Dec. 08, 2011
It is Manchester City's big-money signings who have been getting the majority of the headlines this season but a homegrown player that cost them nothing has undoubtedly been one of their star performers.
Micah Richards has been outstanding at right-back and the 23-year-old is the only player in the City side to have come up through the ranks with the Barclays English Premier League leaders.
Richards burst onto the scene when he made his City debut as a 17-year-old and such was his rapid rise that he made his debut for England just a year later.
The powerful defender became a first-team regular for City, who rejected a bid from Tottenham for their promising youngster.
Birmingham-born Richards, who grew up in Leeds, was also employed as a central defender but inconsistency and a serious knee injury hampered his progress at both club and international level.
But since the arrival of Roberto Mancini at the Etihad Stadium, Richards has been a revelation and his form this season is better than ever.
Now a marauding right-back with a licence to go forward, the City man has been a regular in Mancini's starting line-up as the big-spending Blues have soared to the top of the EPL.
He scored his first goal of the season against Newcastle recently and was also named Man of the Match to raise further questions as to why England boss Fabio Capello has not recalled him.
Richards' form has not gone unnoticed and team-mate Joleon Lescott believes he has the ability to become the best right-back in the world.
“Micah has been in immense form all season,” City and England defender Lescott told www.mcfc.co.uk.
“His confidence is really high. He is in the best form of his career and has the world at his feet. I would say he is the best right-back in the league just now. If he continues this form he will be the best in the world.”
Richards' impressive displays will almost certainly have caught the eye of England boss Capello. But City boss Mancini knows his compatriot has an embarrassment of riches at right-back, with Tottenham youngster Kyle Walker and Liverpool's Glen Johnson vying for places along with the versatile Manchester United duo Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.
Mancini said: “He's strong, he's quick, he's strong in the air, he can play different positions. But he can improve more and, for Capello, it's not easy to choose because there are a lot of good players (for that position). It's clear some will have to stay at home for the European Championship.”
Richards has made no secret of his disappointment at being overlooked by Capello, but if he maintains his current form then his chance will surely come.
But regardless of whether he returns to the international fold, things are looking very rosy for Richards and City as the Abu Dhabi revolution continues to gather pace.
And although it would come as no surprise to see Mancini go back into the transfer market in January, eyebrows would certainly be raised if the Italian brought in a right-back.
While City undoubtedly needed to invest heavily in order to compete with the big boys, it is refreshing to see a product of their Academy playing such a prominent role in their quest for success.
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