Micah Richards, Manchester City's longest-serving player, has reluctantly accepted he needs to leave the club and decided to turn down their offer of a new contract and pay rise. Richards, with almost 250 appearances to his name since making his debut in October 2005, believes he needs a fresh start elsewhere to play more regularly and try to rediscover the form that enabled him, at 18, to take Rio Ferdinand's record as the youngest defender to win an England cap. His move will be part of a gradual exodus of English players from the Etihad, with at least four others on their way out in the summer. City had been trying to dissuade Richards from joining that list, offering a new deal with improved terms, but Pablo Zabaleta has established himself as Manuel Pellegrini's first-choice right-back this season and that has been uppermost in Richards' mind. His talks with Pellegrini have been amicable and there is an understanding within the club that it has been a difficult decision for a player who has been involved with them since the age of 14. City will want around £7m for the 25-year-old, citing his importance in their title-winning season before injuries allowed Zabaleta the chance to take over on the right-hand side of their defence. Richards was nominated for their player of the year award that season – described by Gareth Bale as the most difficult opponent he faced in England – but there have been times in the current campaign when he has been fully fit and not even among the substitutes. After losing his place as a regular in England's squads, the past two years have become increasingly difficult, culminating in him being restricted to only 10 starts at City in Pellegrini's first season at the club.