Villa closing in on Richards, reports terrified Richards
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The former Manchester City man has announced publicly that Aston Villa are after him, and there is nothing he can do to stop them.
He first noticed men in dark glasses and gilets watching him train in March, he told FourFourTwo via an encrypted phone line, before mysterious typewritten notes began arriving saying things like "You'll like Sutton Coldfield."
Richards continued that he had found an image of a lion rampant chalked onto his front door, and that mysterious claret and blue helicopters had been seen circling near his apartment.
"Sooner or later they're going to swoop for me, and I'll be gone forever, just like Nicklas Helenius and Libor Kozak," he said. "And Joe Cole and Aleksandar Tonev and Aly Cissokho and... well, I could go on, obviously."
Richards' attempt to throw Aston Villa scouts off the scent by moving to Italy appears to have failed, and he paid an emotional tribute to his former team-mates at Fiorentina and Manchester City, telling them that he was sorry he would never see them again.
"I have no idea what they want from me", he said in a video message released last night, “but they have made it clear that I am their No.1 target. Nobody escapes."
The former England star added that his last hope might be to suffer a catastrophic loss of form and a series of niggling injuries causing Aston Villa to eventually lose interest and release him unharmed, adding that Stephen Ireland would be his inspiration.