Friday, February 6 th, 2015
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Who is Micah Richards, Fiorentina's full-back feared by Gareth Bale
Heralded as a future world class star – he has struggled to live up to this billing - but Man City’s loss is Fiorentina’s gain as the England international is presented with the opportunity to showcase his undoubted talent on a new stage – Serie A
by Richard Clarke
It is hard to pinpoint the reasons for the disintegration of Richards and Man City’s relationship – surely a match made in heaven, an academy graduate playing for one of England’s biggest clubs. Micah Richards sprung from Man City’s youth academy and made his first team debut at the tender age of 17 in the 2005/06 season - he garnered acclaim for his strong defensive performances and it did not take long for the young right back to earn a call-up to the full national side. He made his England debut aged 18 against Holland becoming England’s youngest ever defender in the process. The right-back also holds the record for youngest ever Man City Captain as he deputised for an absent Richard Dunne at the start of the 2007/08 season. Richards had a massive part to play in Man City’s Title winning campaign of 2011/12 finishing the season with 5 assists – the defender was in turn nominated for the Manchester club’s player of the year award.

A bright future beckoned. But why has the right-back’s career stalled? The form of Pablo Zabaleta has played a massive part in hindering Richards development, the Argentine has firmly become first choice right-back under Manuel Pellegrini forcing Richards into a summer loan to Florence. An ill-fated ligament injury sustained in a league cup game against Oldham put the defender on the treatment table for 7 months in the 2012-13 season – this allowed Zabaleta to cement his first-team place where he has stayed ever since. It seems that the signing of free agent Bacary Sagna was the final straw for Micah who has enjoyed an encouraging start to his Serie A adventure. Injuries have certainly played their part in hampering Richards career in England. A series of niggling ailments forced the defender to watch a significant portion of last season from the treatment table – in fact he only managed 2 league appearances meaning that he did not qualify for a League Winners medal.

Another factor is the culture in English football to sign foreign players instead of developing home-grown academy products – this is especially prevalent in the Premier League’s top clubs. Richards had been touted as a future club captain in the mould of John Terry or Gary Neville but instead has been treated more like a throwaway Ryan Bertrand. Man City fans will not be pleased to see their former player ply his trade away from the Etihad.

So what can Fiorentina expect from their new acquisition? A robust defender of International pedigree the Viola have a quality acquisition on their hands. Blessed with blistering pace and incredible strength Richards is sure to be a menace for Fiorentina. His marauding runs down the right were his trademark in Manchester and he will surely be given opportunity to showcase his talent in Florence – the right back made his debut last month in the Europa League and provided an assist for the third goal in 3-0 a win over French side Guingamp. If he can work this kind of play into his game in Serie A then Richards will surely be a hit with the Viola faithful. The Englishmen is aware of how important it is to have the fans on your side - upon his arrival in Italy the right-back said, 'I chose Fiorentina because this was the most interesting project and the fans are fantastic’.

While at Man City Micah developed a reputation as a tough opponent due to his imposing strength – you don’t have to look far for admirers, Gareth Bale once described the new Fiorentina loanee as his toughest opponent, ‘We always have a difficult time against each other. He's very strong and physical’. High praise indeed and it will be interesting to see how the defender fares against the skilful attackers of Serie A.

The most important asset that Richards brings to Fiorentina is his ambition and winning mentality – this will be crucial to the Gigliati in a season where they look to break the emerging duopoly of Roma and Juventus and qualify for the Champions League. On his new club’s chances the right-back remarked, ‘They finished fourth last year but they want to push higher and that was important for me. I think we have a team that can challenge’. The Viola’s new signing will fit in well will an ambitious squad that boasts the likes of Cuadrado, Rossi and Gomez.

One concern Fiorentina fans may harbour is how their new signing adjusts to the foreign nature of his new surroundings. Many British players have found it difficult to acclimatise to Italian culture but only time will tell how this Englishmen fares - with Italian lessons underway hopefully the language barrier won’t prove to be an obstacle in ensuring Richards loan spell is a successful one.

Tuesday, October 28 th, 2014
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