The future of Micah Richards has been often speculated about over the course of the 2013/14 season, with his minutes reduced due to a combination of injury and his own and Pablo Zabaleta's form.
It does appear though as Richards will be leaving the club this summer though with Daniel Taylor of The Guardian today reporting that he has turned down City's offer of a new (and improved) contract to seek pastures new elsewhere:
City had been trying to dissuade Richards from joining that list, offering a new deal with improved terms, but Pablo Zabaleta has established himself as Manuel Pellegrini's first-choice right-back over the past two seasons and that has been uppermost in Richards' mind. His talks with Pellegrini have been amicable and there is an understanding within the club that it has been a difficult decision for a player who has been involved with the club since the age of 14. City will want around £7m for the 25-year-old, citing his importance in their title-winning season before injuries allowed Zabaleta the chance to take over on the right side of defence.
Such a move on Richards part is understandable as his progression has stalled over the past couple of seasons, with no prospect of a change in circumstance on the horizon. He does find himself in somewhat of a Catch-22 scenario given the need for playing time, yet unable to get the necessary minutes to warrant a regular place in the side (as touched on in this excellent piece from shuddertothink last December).
It is a shame as Richards should be an ideal fit for Manuel Pellegrini's system: possessing the pace and power that as a full-back should make him a dominant part of the side. Yet it has been apparent on his rare appearances this season that he is not gelling with the rest of the side, appearing on the fringes of the play with an almost lack of trust from certain players in the attacking phase whilst his technical deficiencies have at times been exposed.
Assuming Richards does move, as appears likely, it will be a move that the club will have mixed emotions regarding. Taylor cites the fact that talks with Pellegrini and the club have been amiable and he is undoubtedly a popular figure at City.
He is also held up as the totem of the clubs Academy set up, having made his debut in 2005 he was part of a group that included Nedum Onouha, Joey Barton Stephen Ireland, Michael Johnson and Daniel Sturridge. Richards is the last remaining member and the mantle of longest serving player would fall to Joe Hart.
There will likely be no shortage of interest for Richards given his play over the years and still untapped potential (he is, after all, still only 25 years old) but whereas previous clubs linked have been the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool is the top six realistic? Taylor's article suggests City would look for a few in the region of £7million which with only one year left on his contract looks ambitious.
Factoring in a desire for regular minutes as opposed to a rotation it does suggest a move to a mid-table Premier League side would be more likely (a £3million move to Stoke anyone?). It may even be that after weighing up options available that Richards even feels that remaining at the club is his best long term option.
The signs though do point to the fact that time is drawing to an end on the careers of one of the more popular players to have pulled on the shirt down the years; a career that has seen plenty of success but could (and should) have offered so much more.
As we look at the potential end of his time at City it is timely to think back to the moment where he announced himself on the national stage, at just 17 years of age: