What’s next for Micah Richards?

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Capped by England as a teenager, it’s almost inexplicable how Micah Richards has arrived at this point in his career.

According to multiple reports in England, Aston Villa and manager Steve Bruce are finally going to set Richards free, after more than two years without a single appearance. It’s been 665 days since Richards last played a match, starting and playing 66 minutes in a 1-1 draw in 2016 against Wolverhampton. In that time, Richards has reportedly earned $4.2 million. Richards’ contract at Aston Villa reportedly runs through the end of this season.

Its a far cry for what Richards’ potential was 10 years ago, when he looked like the England and Manchester City centerback stalwart for at least the next decade.

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It’s easy to forget, since he hasn’t been in the news, just how long Richards has been playing at a high level.

The Leeds native made his professional debut at the age of 17 for Manchester City on October 22, 2005, in a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal. Starting that day for Manchester City was none other than U.S. Men’s National Team legend Claudio Reyna. The two would play together in City blue for another two seasons.

Richards made his England debut at 18 in a 1-1 draw against the Netherlands in 2006 and played a big role in England’s qualification campaign for the 2008 European Championships in Austria and Switzerland. But that was before the injuries took their toll.

Richards was mostly a regular for Manchester City through the 2011-2012 season, when he was a candidate for club player of the year. A meniscus and cartilage injury in his knee forced Richards out for six months and as he came back, he found himself already replaced. Since that injury, Richards has only played 38 games in six years. According to Transfermarkt, Richards has suffered a series of hamstring and knee injuries in that span, partially which has kept him off the field.

But strangely, after 24 appearances for Aston Villa in 2015-2016, manager Bruce decided when he arrived that next season that Richards wasn’t in his plans. And yet, the club couldn’t move him on, or perhaps the player himself didn’t want to leave.

Which brings us to now, with a player who once looked destined for a career in the spotlight, finds himself likely without a club and without an appearance to his name in nearly two years.

Perhaps he could re-join Reyna with New York City FC, a club he got to see first hand in 2013 when Manchester City visited New York on two occasions. But Richards would have to prove his fitness, with MLS a physically tough league, like the Premier League. Richards could also drop down a level, find a club which is willing to give him minutes. Or he could get the next phase of his career started in earnest, earning his coaching license and working with youngsters to train them to be the next first team stars.

Like he once was.