For Richards the pre-Abu Dhabi era was a time of frequent torment.
He told the Guardian: "Back then the majority of the England team was playing for top-four clubs. I was playing for Man City who were struggling in the Premier League. From 17 to 19 or 20 I was just getting praise. Then when things aren't going so well you're getting most of the stick and it's hard at such a young age. That's when your confidence goes.
"My pace and power were getting me out of trouble. Richard Dunne was a massive part of what I was trying to do. We were playing centre-half together and he used to help me in every single game. When he's 100% fit and on his game he's probably the best centre-half I've played with.
"Some of the stuff with people saying I wasn't concentrating on football - I don't think that's right. Earning a lot of money affected me a little bit, yeah, but it didn't alter my hunger for the game. It's just an easy way to say I wasn't playing well. It didn't go to my head. Ask any of my managers."