Micah Richards has revealed that he turned down a new deal at Manchester City to join Fiorentina on a season-long loan.
The agreement to take Richards to Italy includes the option for a permanent move to be made next summer.
The 26-year-old is taking in his first experience outside of City, having graduated through the academy ranks at the reigning Premier League champions to become an England international and the longest-serving player in an era of big-spending.
He has been part of the first-team set-up since 2005, but has found opportunities increasingly hard to come by – with Pablo Zabaleta currently blocking his path to a right-back berth.
Richards has remained an important part of the fold, so much so that City were prepared to offer him a salary increase, but he feels the time has come to try something different and kick-start his career at an ambitious Serie A side.
He told talkSPORT: “I’m desperate to play football.
“It’s been a frustrating two years at Manchester City. It’s my club and I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears for them. When you find yourself not playing, it’s hard.
“I was offered a new contract and I had a long think about it. I was offered more money at City but it’s not about the money, it’s about playing football now.
“It was so, so hard to leave and it was an emotional day for me.”
While he is preparing to open a new chapter in his career, Richards hopes City supporters have not seen the last of him.
He added: “I’ve been at City for so long and it is my club. Hopefully, in the future, I’ll be back in some capacity because they are a club close to my heart.”
Richards has also posted a message on his personal website, reflecting on the past and looking to the future.
He said: “I’ve been at City for 12 years so I obviously leave with mixed emotions.
“I’m really looking forward to the new challenge the loan move to Fiorentina will offer and the chance to play abroad.
“I just want to thank all the City fans and staff for their incredible support since I made my debut in 2005. They are the best fans in the country and I will always love the club.
“For Fiorentina fans, ciao! I’m looking forward to working hard for the team, playing for such a historic club and getting to grips with Italian football.”