Michael Johnson, one of the most gifted youngsters to have emerged from Manchester City's fabled youth academy and christened "FEC" – Future England Captain – in the club's dressing room just a year back, will give serious consideration to leaving the club this summer.
Johnson understands that City's decision to reject Newcastle United's £8m offer for him on Monday had more to do with the asking price than a reluctance to part company with a former academy player – a result, the player believes, of the unwarranted reputation he has in some quarters at the club, as an individual who enjoys his night life too much.
Johnson, who is 21 this month, is privately frustrated by his own image as a rebel – one which is not borne out by him having broken any club curfews, to his mind – and he is coming around to the view that he must leave behind the Manchester goldfish bowl, where his every move is under scrutiny, and make a fresh start if he is to build on the potential which earned him two England under-21 caps.
He has been monitored by the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton since breaking into the City's first team in October 2006.
Though Johnson believes that a particular "bender" he went on in the last close-season summer, with no City games imminent, might have contributed most to his reputation, there is a prevailing view from some at City that he has not applied himself as he might to his rehabilitation from a prolonged abdominal injury. Johnson finally returned to first-team training during City's break in Tenerife, though he broke down almost immediately. It is unclear when he might make his comeback though there were some suggestions from his representatives yesterday that he might be only a week or so away from that.
Johnson's personality does not always help him. In one of their first conversations, Sven Goran Eriksson congratulated Johnson on playing the last nine matches of the 2006-07 season, to which the Manchester-born player replied: "Yeah, I saved us [from relegation]," as Eriksson tells it.
He excited Eriksson at first by his sheer versatility and on his day he can be a Premier League force whether defending, tackling, passing or shooting – a rarity in such a young player. But the Swede is understood to have become irritated with Johnson's so-called "big-time" attitude and was considering selling the England Under-21 international when he himself was ousted. Johnson's relationship with Mark Hughes is better, though doubts do remain about the player.
Johnson is contracted until 2013 though, is not unhappy at the club and is determined to demonstrate his value in the same way that Stephen Ireland has, despite the tough struggle he will have to re-establish his position in the side, with Nigel de Jong and Pablo Zabaleta, a revelation in the new midfield role he has been allocated, to get past.