Micah Richards’ decision to turn down Manchester City’s latest offer of a contract extension has put the defender’s suitors at home and abroad on red alert.
The Citizens man has just two years left on his current deal and his club could be tempted to cash in on him now, rather than risk losing him for a discounted rate next summer.
Richards burst onto the scene at City with his trademark battering-ram runs down the right flank and that same speed and strength made him a formidable opponent for the Premier League’s top strikers. Touted as a future captain by Stuart Pearce, he shone in central defence under Sven Goran Eriksson and was occasionally entrusted with defensive midfield duties during his standout 2008/09 campaign.
However following that season, his Premier League participation has dwindled, amassing more than 20 starts in just one of the following four campaigns.
At 25 he remains a player of great potential, yet competition for places at centre-half and right-back are fierce at City, with Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic forming a parsimonious partnership in the middle and Pablo Zabaleta a titan on the flank.
If he is to realise the promise shown in his early years, then a move may be the answer and AC Milan, Inter and Chelsea are all in the hunt.
Jose Mourinho has long been an admirer of the Birmingham-native, having tried to sign him during his first spell at Chelsea, whilst Inter boss Walter Mazarri is another big fan.
AC Milan’s interest in the defender has been fired by praise from former-City colleague Mario Ballotelli, who believes Richards could be a big success for the Rossoneri.
Richards would be ideally suited for life in Serie A, boasting the speed and power necessary to play the kind of high-energy wing-back role employed in the 3-5-2 formation so much in vogue in Italy, yet he can also operate at centre half.
The former Leeds youngster has suggested that he would like to spend the rest of his career at City, but an escape route to Italy could offer him the first team slot he needs to guarantee a decent return on the mountains of potential he has shown previously in his career.
The Sky Blues are 11/5 second favourites for Premier League glory next season behind cross town rivals Manchester United.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.