Is it time for this Manchester City star to move on?

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In the transfer merry-go-round that is the close season, one rumour that refuses to subside is the idea that Adam Johnson has decided that it is time to call it a day at Manchester City and begin his search for first team football elsewhere. There are likely to be a number of English clubs who would jump at the chance to take on the talented young Englishman, but would a move away from the Premier League champions be a backward step for Johnson?

After making just 16 starts last season, plus a host of substitute cameos, the 24 year old has become increasingly frustrated with his lack of first team opportunities. It is reported that both Sunderland and Liverpool have shown significant interest in taking on the tricky winger and it seems that City would be willing to sell for the right price.

As a lifelong Sunderland fan, a move back to the North East would be an attractive prospect for Johnson, and Martin O’Neill is keen to bolster his attacking options in order to build on the success of the club’s last campaign. However, Sunderland’s £60k wage cap could prove to be a stumbling block as the player would have to be prepared to take a marked cut from his current wages at City.

Liverpool have shown over recent transfer windows that they are willing to spend big to secure young English talent with the arrivals of Downing and Henderson, and the addition of Johnson would continue this trend. Downing has cemented a place on the left hand side of Liverpool’s midfield but they lack a true right-sided player since the shock departure of Dirk Kuyt, a position that Johnson has operated in on his limited appearances for City.

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The midfielder’s talent is rarely in doubt, despite some reservations from a portion of City fans with regards to his defensive qualities and willingness to track back. He does, however, remain a rare breed of English footballer – an unpredictable and creative attacking player with the ability to unlock a defence from nothing. Not since Joe Cole has the England set-up seen a player with this manner of promise – the constant threat of going past a defender, exhibiting a trick or two and bursting into the danger zone.

So would a move away from the blue half of Manchester be a wise move for Johnson? Following his exclusion from the Euro 2012 squad, it is understandable that he sees regular Premier League football as essential in order to force his way back into Roy Hodgson’s international set-up. However, for an ambitious 24 year old, surely jumping ship from a club which is undoubtedly in an ascendency is a step in the wrong direction?

Johnson knew when he made the step-up from Middlesbrough in 2010 that he would be faced with stiff competition for a spot in the side’s starting eleven, and this remains the case as City prepare to defend their first Premier League title. In order to be playing European football against the calibre of opponent that his talent merits, it is fair to suggest that the winger should consider his place as part of the club’s set-up to be a privilege and knuckle down in his quest to displace one of the regular midfield starters.

This is exactly Johnson’s problem, however; there are currently so many midfield players who sit above him in Mancini’s pecking order, that another season sat on the sidelines seems all too likely. Barry, Toure, Silva, Milner, Nasri and De Jong regularly fill the five midfield vacancies as Johnson takes up his place on the bench. With the likelihood that the City manager may begin to play two of his striking options on a more regular basis, it is possible that midfield positions will be even harder to come by. Perhaps then, this potential English star will be justified in his desire to seek a guaranteed starting position elsewhere in the country’s top division.

Follow Craig on Twitter @craignan89

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