Richards adds to City delight over Barton

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The Independent Online

Micah Richards became the latest high-profile Manchester City player to declare his future lies with Stuart Pearce last night when he informed Chelsea he could promote his England career without a move to Stamford Bridge.

The newly capped England defender, a primary target for Jose Mourinho until City placed a prohibitive £18m price tag on his head, brought joy to a club still basking in Joey Barton's refusal to consider a move to Everton when he rejected suggestions he must leave Eastlands to protect his international future.

Echoing Barton's sentiments in the wake of Tuesday's FA Cup replay victory over Sheffield Wednesday, when the midfielder accused his own agent of unsettling him and insisted he would not leave City this month, 18-year-old Richards indicated he had heeded the cautionary tale of Shaun Wright-Phillips' stalled career at Stamford Bridge and saw his interests best served by staying with the club he first joined as a 14-year-old schoolboy.

"I'm very happy at City," Richards insisted. "The club gave me my chance to prove myself in the Premiership, the manager has shown great belief in me, and I am very settled here. Some people have said you need to move to a so-called big club to get into the England squad, but I've proved that you don't. Why would I want to leave when my career is going so well?"

That resolve is sure to be tested this summer when Chelsea rekindle their interest in the versatile defender but, for now, his commitment represents a remarkable turnaround at City following serious doubts about the future of their prized assets.

"It was great to hear about Joey," said Richards. "He has also been at the club since a young age and it's great that he has committed his future to City. He has come through the academy and shown all the young lads here that it can be done but, to be honest, Joey's decision to stay has nothing to do with me deciding to stay. I want to stay at Manchester City, regardless. I have been at the club since I was 14. Hopefully I will be there for years to come."

Barton is believed to be considering his future with his agent, Willie McKay, after a row over the midfielder's future. Everton believed they could sign the 24-year-old providing they activated a £5.5m release clause in his City contract and, when McKay publicly confirmed the clause on Tuesday, it is understood Barton telephoned his agent and told him not to discuss his future without authorisation and to abandon any plans he had to broker a transfer during the window.

For the past few months, Barton's commercial interests have been looked after by the First Artist group, a fact confirmed last night, and he may decide to cut his ties with McKay.

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