Micah Richards: Ex-England defender retires from football

Micah Richards
Richards celebrates his goal for England against Israel, aged 19 years and 76 days. He is England's sixth-youngest scorer after Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Marcus Rashford, Tommy Lawton and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Former England defender Micah Richards has announced his retirement from professional football.

The 31-year-old has been hampered by a persistent knee injury and last played for Aston Villa in October 2016.

Villa released him this summer and he is set to combine punditry work with a promotional role at Manchester City, the club where he made his name.

Richards played 295 games for City, Fiorentina and Villa and won 13 England caps between 2006 and 2012.

He made his senior international debut aged 18 and remains England's youngest defender, scoring one goal for his country - against Israel in September 2007.

A right-back or centre-back, he won the 2011 FA Cup and 2011-12 Premier League with City, whom he joined from Oldham as a 14-year-old.

Richards told BBC Sport: "From when I was a young kid I dreamed that I would win the Premier League and play for England and I am very proud I achieved both.

"My time at Aston Villa was very frustrating because I wanted to play but my knee would swell up so I could not even train. But it was still an honour to play for them, and I am just sorry I could not do more for them on the pitch.

"It is great to be asked to come back and be involved at City, because they hold a special place in my heart. Everyone there took me under their wing right from when I joined."

Richards quickly became a fans' favourite at City after making his debut aged 17 in 2005.

"I burst on to the scene and did really well when I first broke into the first team, but a couple of seasons after that I was not really hitting the heights," he said.

"The fans always stuck with me though. I always appreciate the faith that they had in not giving up on me, and I think they could see that I always gave 100% when I was on the field."

After playing 245 games for the Blues, Richards spent a season on loan with Fiorentina in 2014-15, then left on a free transfer in 2015 to sign a four-year contract with Villa, which ended in June.

A City spokesman said: "Everyone at the club still thinks very fondly of Micah. The fans love him to bits and we are looking forward to working with him at events home and abroad in the future."

Micah Richards celebrates his last-minute equaliser against Aston Villa
Richards made his City debut aged 17 in October 2005 and he scored his first goal for the club four months later, a last minute-equaliser in front of the BBC cameras in a live FA Cup fifth-round tie at Aston Villa
Micah Richards on City's 2011-12 title parade with (l-r) Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy and Vincent Kompany
Richards (front) played right-back in 29 of City's 38 league games in their 2011-12 Premier League title-winning season
Micah Richards
Richards joined Fiorentina on a season-long loan in September 2014 and played 19 times for the Serie A side
Micah Richards
Richards played his last game for Villa in a 1-1 draw with Wolves on 15 October 2016, in Steve Bruce's first game in charge of the club

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