Manchester City's Adam Johnson may have to convince his club that he is capable of putting football before his lifestyle if he is to be retained beyond the end of this season.
Johnson is City's single world-class wide player but the club are still looking for evidence that he has the necessary application to go with the ability – an ability that makes him appreciated at the highest levels within the Etihad Stadium as a type of City player who is unlike any other.
There is a deeply held conviction at City that a generation of top players, including Stephen Ireland and Michael Johnson, has been lost because those players could not find the application to go with their talents. The City academy is built around attempts to create more rounded individuals who will not let their talents go to waste in the same way. Johnson has received the City message, to an extent.
The club perceives a calmer, more professional approach to life as the 24-year-old has started to adapt his lifestyle in line with club demands. But he appears to have a way to go to convince Roberto Mancini that he is worth persisting with. Though the club are unlikely to seek a move for the player, he is among those for whom an offer might be considered if one comes in this summer. The former England manager Fabio Capello shared Mancini's doubts about the player's approach to life.
City's frustration with Johnson is all the greater because of what he delivers once on the field. He has scored six league goals despite making only 10 starts this season – one reason that his ability is in no doubt.
Mancini is not the kind of manager to put an arm around Johnson's shoulder, however. The club return on Sunday to Molineux, where after a Carling Cup tie in October, Johnson refused to board the bus home as he was so indignant about the Italian's public criticism of him. Mancini was unmoved.
"I am happy he is upset," Mancini said at the time. "I say what I want because, if he were not a good player, then I would not waste my time on him. But because he has everything, I don't want him stopping at this level. I want him up a level and then a level more."
The incident typified the kinds of concerns which lead City to fear that Johnson will look back in two or three years' time and wonder what might have been at the Etihad. All that said, however, Johnson's cause has not been helped by Mancini's disinclination to use wide players.Reuse content