The sad reason why a ‘popular’ Premier League winner will soon leave football

Former England and Manchester City defender Micah Richards is set for retirement at just 30-years-old. Richards has tried hard to overcome long-term knee issues but has told friends of his intention to call it a day when his Aston Villa contract expires this summer. Richards has not played a senior game since being forced off injured during Steve Bruce’s first match in charge against Wolves on October 15, 2016, and despite undertaking tailored fitness sessions he has been unable to come into Dean Smith’s thinking.

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Richards has a persistent meniscus problem in his right knee – it can swell through exercise – and while he has been determined to return to action he is expected to reluctantly bring an end to his efforts once his Villa deal runs out in June. On medical advice Smith has continued Bruce’s policy of omitting Richards, who has not been named in a Villa squad for 16 months.

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In October, Smith said: ‘Micah has not played for a long time so he’s not near fitness to be in contention at all at the moment. He’s been on a special programme, the training minutes he hasn’t had so far. We’ll see how his body adapts as we go.’

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Smith’s predecessor had the same dilemma. ‘Micah is an absolute stick-on if he’s fit, he’s got the right mentality,’ Bruce said in February 2017. There remains the possibility Richards could try to earn a pay-as-you-play deal, perhaps abroad, but that looks difficult at present. Richards retiring would cut short a career that reached great heights. At 18 he became the youngest defender to play for England, taking Rio Ferdinand’s record, when starting against Holland in 2006 and shackling Arjen Robben.

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He went on to earn 13 caps, scoring once against Israel in a Euro 2008 qualifier, and he was a key member of the Manchester City side to win the Premier League title in 2012. He lifted the FA Cup the season before and also represented Great Britain at the London Olympics. Richards joined Fiorentina on loan in 2014, then signed for Villa under Tim Sherwood on a free transfer in June 2015.

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However relegation followed and Roberto Di Matteo blocked a move to West Ham in summer of 2016. The last solid offer came from Orlando in January 2017. It is understood talks last year to allow Richards to become a free agent were undermined because insurance premiums would not cover Villa, who were therefore happy to keep him on the books for the duration of his contract.

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During his time out of the side Richards has continued to be a positive presence at Bodymoor Heath, delivering advice to younger players including Jack Grealish. Club sources talk of a bright and likable personality. It is believed Richards has business interests outside of the game, which he could focus on.

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