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Manchester City decided to celebrate their achievements in the 2018-19 season which of course, included the domestic treble by taking the trophies on a global tour. On the 23rd November, the trophies won by both the men’s and the women’s teams were on display in Kolkata as the club also decided to organise City Live! – the official live screening of the Premier League match against Chelsea.
Former City defender and an integral part of the 2011 Premier League winning season, Micah Richards was present and we caught up with him in an exclusive session where we tried to pick the brains of the Premier League and FA Cup winner.
He made 179 appearances for City as a right-back. The full-back position has often received a lot of weight as being the most important role in modern football. Managers with an attacking philosophy like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have repeatedly emphasised on the same. Richards, however holds a different opinion. To him, it’s the men upfront that are the most influential given the licence they have to directly influence games.
“I think the strikers are the most important because they are directly influencing the games with goals and numbers. But yeah, I think they mean when it comes to physical demands, it has to be the full-backs. You know, how much intensity and mileage to put in the game because physically it is the most demanding. They’re covering the most area on the pitch so it’s definitely the hardest. Back when I was playing full-back, it was easier because we just had to defend but now, they have to push forward at every opportunity so that’s why it is more difficult now.”
He also praised both City’s and Liverpool’s current full-backs who, in his opinion, ‘make the game more entertaining.’
Liverpool and Manchester City have been locked in a battle of wits since the last two seasons. The competition reached its tipping point in the Premier League last season where both City and Liverpool were in contention for the title until the very last matchday in one of the most exciting Premier League battles of all time. Liverpool lost out to City by a slender single point in the end, however but the rivalry shows no signs of stopping.
On being asked about this duopoly at the top of the Premier League and whether it was transforming the domestic scene in England into a two-team affair, Micah suggested that that wasn’t necessarily the case.
“Football’s a funny game where you know, everyone always says they’re gonna win it but it’s hard. You look at Leicester a few years ago when they won the Premier League, no one expected that. I think, in terms of squad, Man City and Liverpool have the best two teams so I think that’s why they are favourites but in football, anything can happen.”
“Do I think Man City can close the gap on Liverpool? Yeah, I do. It’s going to be difficult but we have to keep fighting and fighting until the end and hopefully, we can see what happens. City can still come back and push for the title, yeah.”
There were no doubts or second guessings for Micah when it came to the question of who should win the Ballon d’Or. “Oh Ballon d’Or? For me, I’d say Messi!” Micah Richards also revealed that Lionel Messi was also his favourite player in the world but O’ Fenomeno Brazilian Ronaldo beat Messi when it came to picking his favourite of all time.
Richards, who spent five years in the City academy before joining the senior side was asked to compare the academy in place right now to the one he came up with in the early 2000s.
“They’ve got more opportunities now. Of course, the facilities have become better but it’s also more difficult for them now because Manchester City have become better and have higher standards. And the good thing about City is that even though they are not playing in the Man City first team, they have a route where they can go on loan or play elsewhere, City won’t stand in the way [referring to Sancho]. It’s been brilliant [to see the Academy grow with time] and hopefully, this can continue.”
‘I think they’ll get to the semi-finals,’ the youngest defender to appear for the England national team spoke about his side’s chances in the UEFA Euro Cup in 2020. “There are a couple of teams who have been together longer and have more experience but I think, England at the next World Cup would be very good.”
Despite being favourites quite often, City have suffered in the deeper knockout stages of the Champions League, none more memorable than the exhilarating, dramatic and yet, painful loss to Tottenham in the previous season.
Micah cleared the air that he did not think there was an added pressure to achieve the Champions League this season.
“There are teams in the competition who have been trying to win it for years. City have not been in that competition that long and I think they’ve done amazingly well. They lost on goal difference last season as well. I think it’s one step at a time. I know everyone wants the Champions League but they’ve been very consistent the last few years in the Premier League and we just need a little bit of luck in the Champions League. I think, I don’t want to make excuses, but just a little bit of luck in that competition would be fine.”
“Manager? I’ll have to say Pep Guardiola. Player? Probably Kevin De Bruyne,” said Richards when asked about which manager and player he’d like to play with if the given the chance.
Micah Richards confirmed that this was his first time in India and also added how he greatly enjoyed being a part of the City tour.
“I think England has been pushing football for a while and like I said before, cricket’s massive here. They just need to give kids the opportunity to play football and push football, you know what I mean? It’s like everyone’s always asking when’s football going to become as big as in some of the other countries but it’s all a process. Get more support, pushing it slowly, invest more in grassroots football and I think that would be massive because as kids, you grow the most and that’s when you see the big changes happening,” the Premier League winner put forward his opinion on what India can do to step it up on the big stage given how passionate everyone is about the sport.
Sportwalk would like to thank Manchester City Football Club and Manchester City West Bengal Supporter’s Club for the invite.
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