Joleon Lescott interview: Playing for his Man City future
Ever since he won a prolonged battle to leave Everton for Manchester City in 2009, Joleon Lescott has been under pressure to prove his worth.
The next six months, though, could provide the biggest fight of his career. Having cost £24 million (Dh143.8m) – becoming the second-most expensive English defender after Rio Ferdinand – Lescott will cost nothing when his contract ends with the Etihad outfit.
Capped 26 times by England and a Premier League winner with City in 2012, he should not be short of offers. But Lescott, 31, would love nothing more than to get an opportunity to extend his stay at City.
“I want to stay, that is the main thing,” he says. “But the club have not approached me yet, so I don't know what the situation is with them.
“If I am playing for my future here, then great. If I am playing for it elsewhere, then so be it.
“I just know that every time I am out there, I have to perform at a level where top clubs would be interested in signing me.
“It is not great not playing in the last year of my contract. No professional enjoys not playing and I am no different.
“The situation is not ideal, but I just have to try to play well when I am given the opportunity.
“We all train through the week to play and then when you are not it is disheartening. But you have to keep yourself mentally and physically right so when you are given the opportunity to play, you are not letting anyone down.”
Having come off the bench in last weekend’s 6-0 win over Spurs and started in Wednesday’s 4-2 Champions League win over Viktoria Plzen, Lescott is hoping to stay in the side to face Swansea today.
With Matija Nastasic and Vincent Kompany doubtful after injury, it is another challenge for Lescott in the spotlight.
And that’s what he wants in the future too as he will also consider a move abroad, whether in January or the summer, as he adds: “I am not just going to leave a club like this for the sake of it, but at the end of the season I would have to [if there is no new deal].
“Nothing can happen now. But when that opportunity comes, if it does come in January, I will have to look at that.
“I need to be given a fair opportunity. I know no one can guarantee me playing every week, but I would like to think that given a fair opportunity to play if I am playing in the team I can do well enough to stay in the team.
“If you start to doubt yourself it will affect you so I try not to doubt myself and believe I can perform.
“When the opportunities come you have to grab them and if it means playing the next few games when Matija is out and Vinny is not ready then great for me, and hopefully once again I can prove to the club - and if it is not here somewhere else - that I am worthy of a new contract.
“I just want to be treated like everyone else. If I am in the team and the team is winning I stay in the team.
“Realistically there is probably only one place up for grabs when Vinny is fit and three of us are fighting for that.
“There is only one player who can play and if we are waiting for the opportunity then I am ready for the challenge.
“I feel through my Manchester City career I have had to battle speculation and comparisons to other players. But we are all in it together and we do not hold anything against each other. We just want to do well for Manchester City when given a chance.”
Lescott’s situation mirrors that of keeper Joe Hart, whose future has also been the subject of speculation after high-profile mistakes saw him dropped.
After recalling him against Plzen, City boss Manuel Pellegrini must now decide whether Hart keeps his spot, ahead of Costel Pantilimon, for the visit of Swansea.
Lescott has no doubt his friend, and colleague for club and country, will prove his worth among the world’s best after his rough ride.
“Joe is a strong enough character,” said the centre-back. “He will be stinging from this. He wants to play every game, we all do. I don't think he will be proud that he is not playing.
“But he is a great professional and it will not affect his dedication to the team. Joe is obviously a world-class goalkeeper and when you have a dip in form you are going to be scrutinised.
“It cost him his place in the team, but I am sure when he gets back playing consistently he is going to perform at the highest level again.
“I don't think anyone has ever doubted his ability. I think Joe would be the first to admit the mistakes were probably around decision-making.
“But he is still relatively young as a goalkeeper and he will have to make mistakes to get better. Every player has to and Joe is no different to that.
“If it makes him better and stronger, it can only bode well for Man City and England. Everyone was watching [against Plzen] because he is Joe Hart. He has made himself that name and that character.
“No matter what, he will be scrutinised because he is England's number one. Being England's number one and playing at Man City, which is a high-profile club in England and in Europe, it is a lot of pressure.
“He has done exceptionally well so far and long may it continue. When he plays, he is going to play well for England.
“When he goes and represents his country as number one, I think he will prove to the world that he is as good as anyone out there.”
World Cup doubt
With a World Cup on the horizon, Hart needs to be playing to ensure he goes with England to Brazil. Having missed out on the 2010 finals through injury, Lescott would be thrilled to join him, but adds: “It does not look like I am going at the minute. I have not been in the last few squads, so it is going to be hard.
“But if I am playing for City and we are progressing in the Champions League and the Premier League title race, then there might be a place for me.
“No disrespect to England, but my main priority is Manchester City.I have not given up - but I know that comes from playing for City, so the faster I can get myself back in at City the better.”