Both have failed to make an impact in Serie A this season
1 May ~ British players are often castigated for preferring the familiarity of the Premier League to taking a chance on a move abroad. Micah Richards and Ashley Cole were rare high-profile exports last summer, leaving Premier League heavyweights for Italy. Richards had seen first-team opportunities evaporate at Manchester City, losing his place to Pablo Zabaleta and not making enough appearances to warrant a Premier League winners medal. Cole’s Chelsea contract had expired with his left-back spot occupied by a right-back, César Azpilicueta.
Serie A has long been regarded as a retirement home for flagging footballers, where the slower place is suited to those that are on the wane, but not quite ready to settle for MLS. It may not be as frantic and intense as the Premier League, but it is likely to expose any flaws in your tactical awareness and technique. Richards is a very physical, imposing player but has never been renowned for a sharp footballing intellect. He has struggled for playing time on loan at an impressive Fiorentina side, making four starts in the league and a further four in the Europa League.
He has also drawn criticism from coach Vincenzo Montella, who was unhappy with Richards’s fitness level and tactical inflexibility. “He is more of a full-back in a four-man defence and when he arrived, in my view, his fitness levels weren’t up to scratch to sustain that role,” Montella claimed. “Then we changed tactical system to 3-5-2 and compared to the others he is less prepared for this approach. He is certainly a player more suited to a four-man defence than three, in my view.”
Cole has started 11 league games for Roma, but he began the campaign as first choice and has since lost his place to Jose Holebas. Manager Rudi García favours an attacking 4-3-3 with his full-backs overlapping, but Chelsea fans will testify that it has been some time since the 33-year-old Cole has provided an attacking outlet. Brazilian veteran Maicon was acquired in the previous summer and was a huge success on the right flank, but Cole has thus far failed to justify his hefty salary.
García has praised Cole’s application in training and stated that he remains “an important player”, but he has not made the expected impact. Richards, who cost Fiorentina £3.5 million in loan fees, will soon depart and becomes a free agent when his contract at City expires in the summer. The 26-year-old will not be short of offers, but the suitors are more likely to be Aston Villa than Arsenal.
Cole and Richards have been unused substitutes on more than 50 occasions between them thus far this season and will have done very little to encourage major clubs overseas to take more of an interest in the English market. Scott Johnson