Yaya Toure: Barcelona’s reject that turned out to be Manchester City’s treasure

(Source: futaa.com)

How many players have you come across who can play in any central position on the pitch? Be it centre defence, centre defensive midfield, centre midfield, centre attacking midfield or centre forward. Now imagine a player who has the attacking intelligence of a forward and the physical prowess of a defender. When you combine all of this, you get the Ivorian international who is also a Manchester City legend – Yaya Toure.

Toure is in no manner a classic success story of a young boy who rose through the ranks and made it big. His is a story of constant transfers, playing in various positions for a major chunk of his career and delivering performances that plastered him in the memory of the fans. He is an underrated prodigy who never pops up in the discussion of PL’s best central midfielders but true football fans know the impact he had on games and how his partnership with David Silva set up Man City’s team in the early years after their takeover.

Toure’s career was riddled with transfers trying to find his position and a good club that could help him achieve his goals. Between 2001 and 2007, Yaya played at ASEC Mimosas, K.S.K. Beveren, a short trial with Arsenal during which he became one of Wenger’s ‘regret not signing XI’, Metalurg Donetsk, Olympiakos, Monaco and then finally in August 2007, FC Barcelona.

Toure at FC Barcelona

(Source: Getty Images)

Toure secured a 10 million euros move to FC Barcelona in August 2007. Under the coaching of Frank Rijkaard, Toure played in a central defensive midfield role, right behind Xavi and Iniesta. His job was to hold the fort and break down attacks using his physicality. Then he had to feed the ball to Xavi and Iniesta in front of him and let them work their magic. Under Rijkaard, Toure made 38 appearances in all comps but Barcelona failed to secure any trophy that season. Rijkaard was removed and Pep Guardiola was promoted from Barcelona B to the first team as a coach. This was the beginning of the end of Toure’s Barcelona career.

When Pep took the helm of the Barcelona team, he brought Sergio  Busquets along with him to the first team from Barcelona B. In the earlier years, Toure kept his place in the team but by 2009, Sergio Busquets became the first team regular.  He occupied Toure’s position and was favoured over him because he was well drilled with Guardiola’s playing philosophy after playing under him in Barcelona B. This meant lower appearances for Toure and filling in for injuries such as playing at the centre back position. He was part of the defence that defeated Sir Alex Ferguson’s United 2-0 in the UEFA Champions League Final in 2009.

But as the season went by his relationship with Guardiola soured and in August 2010, he moved to Manchester City where he had the longest stint of his career at a single club. It was at City, Toure became known to the world and showed what he was capable of.

Toure at Manchester City

Toure was brought to  City by Mancini for 24 million pounds and made him the PL’s highest earner at that time with a salary of 220k per week. Eyebrows were raised when City fans saw Mancini splurging so much on a player who is not even a starter in his team. But Mancini knew what Toure brings to the table and had a plan for him in mind.

Mancini played him behind the striker in the attacking midfield role, a role very different from the usual defensive midfield role he played in at Barcelona. He had the power to make surging runs forward, shrugging off defenders with ease using his towering physicality along with precision in his finishing. In his first season at City, Toure demonstrated his big-game mentality by winning City their first title after 35 years by scoring the only goal in the FA Cup Final win against Wigan Athletic as well as scoring against United in the semi-final. Toure had a knack for scoring and assisting as well. He scored 12 goals in all comps in his first season followed by 9 in the next season in which City won their first PL title.

(Source: WhoScored.com)

His contributions to the game were more than just stats and figures. He brought a physical dimension to the game by being an attacking midfielder who can stop the opposition’s defence and CDMs from playing the ball out from the back. He had the best of both worlds and was pivotal in the City’s newly formed team. It was in 2013/14, he blew up and grabbed the title of being one of the best centre mids to grace the Premier League. He became only the second midfielder after Frank Lampard to score 20 goals in a single season. His free-kick ability was second to none as he converted 10 out of 13 attempts from the spot.

(Source: BR Football)

He helped City to their second PL title in 3 years and looked like a bargain for 24 million pounds. After his best season, Toure remained influential but his output started to fall over the years. But after the arrival of Guardiola in 2016, Toure lost his place in the team as the bad blood between the two continued after their stint at Barcelona. The situation worsened due to Toure’s outspoken agent, Dimitri Seluk, who publicly called out Guardiola for not including Toure in the Champions League squad. After this stunt,  Guardiola shunned Toure from the squad and told him he won’t play for City again until his agent apologised. After Toure apologised, he never became a regular in the squad and left City in 2017 as a free agent after running down his contract. After leaving City, Toure didn’t play much. He played half a season for Olympiakos and half a season in China before hanging up his boots in 2020.

Toure was a player of influence who brought a dimension to the game that most players cannot. He was a beautiful combination of attacking intelligence, creative play and physicality that could put defenders to shame. He was the engine of the Man City midfield that steamrolled through teams and scored 100 goals in 2013/14. He will always be regarded as one of the Premier League greats who came, saw, conquered and left.

(Source: BR Football)

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