Spotlight: Who is Yaya Toure?

Yaya Toure in action for Manchester City FC in English Premier League

As we approach the end of the English Premier League season, FirstTouch takes time to look back and appreciate one of the most influential players in the league. Yaya Toure, an all-round midfielder from Cote d’Ivoire, played for Barcelona and Manchester City in the best years of his career. The 33-year old is approaching the end of his time at the Etihad with his contract set to expire at the end of the 2017/18 season. Let’s look at what Yaya Toure has been through during his stay at the above-mentioned clubs in Europe.   

First off, let’s focus on his time at Barcelona. Yaya Toure joined Barcelona from Monaco in 2007 for £6.7m after being an influential midfielder for the French side where he rescued them from relegation. However, Toure had problems with the previous manager of the club, Laszlo Boloni, who was not playing him in his midfield most preferred position. When he joined Barcelona, he enjoyed the first season under Rijkaard where he made a total of 40 appearances which managed two goals. Yaya Toure was still in the shadow of big brother Kolo who was making a name for himself at Arsenal as a rock solid defender in the EPL. Guardiola took over the reins just a year later, and he preferred Busquets to Yaya Toure as the defensive midfielder for Barcelona in 2008. The promise of first-team football in his preferred position at Barcelona was not going to be possible. Guardiola used the player as a center-back in the UEFA Champions League final in 2009 when the team suffered from injuries. He was later allowed to move to the club of his dream in 2010.

Manchester City approached Toure and he, initially thought that he would be joining Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. It was his agent who clarified that he was joining the team who wears blue and he was excited by the challenge of joining a club that was in the shadow of their local rivals. Manchester City paid £24.6 million for the services of a player who was pretty much a reserve player and Toure was going to be receiving £139,000 a week. The journey of the African player to become a legend at the Etihad Stadium was set on course.

Yaya Toure in action for Ivory Coast in African Cup of Nations

2012 was a year of history for the cash-rich Manchester club. It is the year that the club beat Manchester United to the title on goal difference. Sergio Aguero scored the winner for Manchester City in stoppage time of the last game in the 2011/12 season. Yaya Toure was an integral part of the club’s midfield. This earned him much respect in the English Premier League and comparisons with some of the greatest midfielders in the league like Keane, Vieira, etc. was just a moment away. Toure came out and thanked his teammates for the title and paid tribute to his manager for trusting in him and playing him in a position that he found difficult to maintain in the previous clubs he represented.

In addition to that, Toure evolved to become a ruthless attacker who scored goals that are still admired today. In the 2013/14 season, Yaya Toure assumed a more attacking role in Manchester City and even though he was primarily deployed as a defensive midfielder. This season, Yaya Toure managed to score 20 goals in the English Premier League which was unspoken off considering that he came from deep to set himself up and his contribution won his club the English Premier League title again as well as the FA Cup. At this moment, Yaya Toure had become the more popular player in his family and had stepped out of the shadow of the former Arsenal player.

His career might sound smooth when reading this piece, but Toure has had his fair share of controversy during his time at City. The player once threatened to leave the club because they had forgotten to show him love on his 31st birthday. His agent, Dimitry Seluk, is the one that confirmed the story that the player felt disrespected and the club was put under pressure. Some saw this incident as a stunt by the pair to pressurize the club to improve the terms of the contract, and the club fell for it. His contract saw him being the highest paid player in English football at $334,000 a week. All this was soon going to fade away with the player approaching the ‘old age’ years.

Yaya Toure in action for Manchester City FC in UEFA Champions League

The manager who pushed him out of the club at Barcelona and laughed at Toure for joining a ‘s**t’ team eventually found his way to Toure’s home. Pep Guardiola has announced the new boss at Manchester City in 2016, and the Ivorian player probably knew that he was doomed. It is no secret that the pair had a rocky relationship because of the way the manager treated Toure at Barcelona and eventually forced him to move to the Citizens. This time, Guardiola took over a club where Toure was already a legend and was the focal point of the team before Aguero. The Spaniard soon changed that and eventually left Yaya out of the first team after his manager after Toure’s agent, Dimitry Seluk, called out Guardiola on his hypocrisy in coming to England after making fun of the club in 2010. This did not sit down well with Guardiola, and he punished the player because of his agent’s words. The fans were heartbroken by this situation but the relationship was mended, and Yaya was restored to the first team early last year. He played enough to earn another year in an extension.

This season seems like it will be his last at Manchester City and he has been ousted again for the third time in his career by the same manager. Guardiola brought replacements for the player because he does not believe in his abilities and it is about time that the player takes the next step in his career. Toure played in the 4-1 win against West Ham today, and he could only manage a second-half appearance even when the team has been confirmed champions of the Premier League this season. It is evident that Guardiola never like him and the African player will probably leave in the summer. It has been quite a journey for the Ivorian midfielder who won the La Liga (twice), Copa del Rey, UEFA Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, FA Cup, League Cup (twice), and the English Premier League on three occasions. He has undoubtedly subscribed his name in the Hall of Fame of not just English football, but on the European scene and he will be missed if he decides to call his time at the end of the season.