CITY today said farewell to one of the club’s most resolute and enduring defenders in Republic of Ireland star Richard Dunne, who has signed for Aston Villa.
The player’s departure, confirmed this lunchtime after the Football Association checked the paperwork, signals the end of an era and Richard goes to the Midlands with the best wishes and gratitude of everyone at Manchester City.
Dunne, who will be 30-years-old next month was signed by Joe Royle in October 2000 for £3m and has turned out to be one of the best buys ever for the club.Not only did the former skipper clock up 290 league appearances and 55 more outings in the cup but he wrote his name in the Blues’ history books by being voted Fans’ player of the year on four successive occasions.
Make no mistake, the departure of Richard Dunne, club captain and longest serving player is a very significant move, and perhaps symbolic in that the remaining link to the past now departs the club, on more or less the anniversary of the ADUG takeover.
Dunne made his debut back in October 2000 against Southampton at The Dell in a 2-0 victory, that was (if memory serves me correct) the Monday night game on Sky. Also in the line up that night were the likes of Spencer Prior, Paul Ritchie and Steve Howey - a real sign of Dunne's staying power.
The hope is that although there was a delay in Dunne moving to Villa, there was not an acrimonious ending to his time at the club. Whatever the feeling is regarding his departure from the club, he would have deserved better than that for what he gave to the club over the best part of the past decade.
Whilst he would have continued to have been a valuable squad player - and no doubt featured when Kolo Toure is away on African Cup of Nations duty, with some players you have to be fair with and allow them the opportunity to move in if they are not going to be a realistic part of the clubs future plans. This is something that Mark Hughes readily acknowledged:
"Richard has been outstanding for Manchester City. He is the ultimate professional and has served the club magnificently. Winning the player of the year award for four consecutive years tells you everything about him. We all wish him well for his future career at Aston Villa," he said.
"It would have been difficult for Dunney to stay given his standing at the club and I understand that. I wasn’t going to stand in his way. I could have tried to stop him going and said I wanted him as a squad player but out of respect for what he has done for City I wasn’t going to do that.
"Not only has Richard performed exceptionally well for this club over the years but he has been a terrific ambassador and is a inspiring person who commands the respect of everyone. He has conducted himself in a impressive manner throughout my time here and way beyond that."
Dunne's time at the club has undoubtedly come, and as sad as it may be in some ways to see a player of his stature depart, it is the correct decision as ultimately, sentiment cannot stand in the way of the progress the club is making and the direction and destination they are aiming towards.
His partnership with Sylvain Distin in the mid part of the decade was a key factor (if not the reason) that allowed for our survival in the Premier League at a time when our demise may well have proved fatal.
The signing of Kolo Toure was perhaps the initial writing on the wall for him, but the addition of Joleon Lescott ushered Dunne towards the exit door. A move to Villa though is a good one for him though. They are a well set club, consistent over the past few seasons under Martin O'Neill and could realistically finish ahead of us this season. Certainly they (along with Tottenham and Everton) will be challenging for the top six.
Whilst Dunne was no longer the pillar binding the side together. Whilst his commitment, effort and devotion were obvious traits, he remained a largely underrated player, possessing deceptive speed and qualities not obvious to the casual observer.
Dunne may not go down as one of the all-time greats but he will certainly be fondly remembered for his time at the club and will undoubtedly see his name when the teams of the decade begin to be put together.