Off Script: Micah Richards and the life of an Englishman abroad

In the latest edition of Off Script, former Manchester City defender Micah Richards reflects on his experiences as an English footballer abroad in Serie A.

It was not beyond the realms of possibility that Richards would see out his career at Manchester City after rising through the ranks from the age of 14 and going on to win the FA Cup in 2011 and Premier League in 2012.

However, just two years on from that Agueroooo moment, Richards traded the home comforts of life in Manchester for a complete footballing culture change in Florence…

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‘I knew I’d be second choice’

“I was at Manchester City since the age of 14. Everybody knew about my injuries; I couldn’t really get back on the pitch.

“It (the move) sort of came out of the blue really. Someone who worked at Liverpool and then moved to Fiorentina phoned my agent and asked if I would be interested in going. At first, I was like, ‘not really’, because all I had known was English football and I didn’t really want to leave City.

“But Pablo Zabaleta was playing really well at the time; I knew I was going to be second choice. So I went and sat down with my agent and we agreed it.

Deadline Day drama

“It was on Deadline Day, so it was all a bit of a rush. No one really knew I was coming; everything was a little hush hush.

“City didn’t really want to let me go, they wanted me to come back from my injuries and fight for my spot. But with Zabaleta playing too well, I knew in my head I needed to go and do something.”

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‘Technique in PL, tactics in Serie A’

“Italian football is very, very underrated. It’s a lot slower, when the season kicks off its 40 degrees and that slowed down the tempo.

“On the defensive side of the game, everyone stays behind the ball and, at times, it can be quite boring to watch. But technically and tactically, I’d say it’s up there with the Premier League. In fact, tactically it is better than the Premier League, it’s just lacking the excitement.

“We’ve seen Chris Smalling go over there, he’s loved it and is playing well. Ashley Young has gone over there, Romelu Lukaku is banging in goals over there, so it does look like an avenue players are taking now.

“A couple of years ago players, especially English players, wouldn’t want to go abroad but everyone is a bit more open to it now. I am glad I did it because it made me a better person and a better player.”

‘I didn’t need to leave City’

Jadon Sancho had a similar footballing upbringing to Richards at Manchester City but, with game time at a premium, he decided to move to Borussia Dortmund, a leap of faith Richards believes has been more than vindicated…

“Sancho has been confident enough to take that leap so early. I don’t think my parents would have allowed me had I had that many options at that age.

“But I didn’t need to leave City because I was playing in the first team at 17, so the scenarios were a little bit different, but fair play to Sancho.

“He wanted to play at City but with the players in front of him he was never really going to get in. He took the plunge and now he’s worth £100m minimum now, so I’ve got a lot of respect for him and credit to him and his agent.”

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‘Just make sure the club is right’

“When you are in England you don’t see Italian football. You could have an unbelievable game, a worldie game, and no one would see it.

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