When Yaya Touré joined Manchester City in July 2010, the objective was clear; he would be the man to take the club to the next level. Few people would argue that this objective has not been met, having won two Premier League titles, two Capital One Cups and an FA Cup with the club. Touré has, on more than one occasion, single-handedly dragged the club to success, following many lean years. With this in mind, it must seem strange to a neutral that Touré, now 33, finds himself in the bad books of a support who consider him one of their greatest ever players.
Although on the pitch factors, such as his seemingly low work rate and his declining performance levels, haven’t helped matters, it is off the field antics which have caused Touré’s fall from grace. Admittedly, it is not Touré who has been doing the damage off the pitch; rather, his agent, Dimitri Seluk. Seluk’s explosive and often untimely comments have only served to weaken Touré’s relationship with the Manchester City faithful. In this article I will look at the possible options available to Touré and Seluk, including moves to China and Italy, whilst also considering the possibility of him staying at Manchester City.
Having originally joined as a central defensive midfielder, Touré has been deployed in a number of different positions. However, his best and most frequent role is that of a box-to-box midfielder. Whilst playing in this role, Touré scored the winning goals in both the 2011 FA Cup semi-final and final, which gave City their first major trophy in 35 years. He was also instrumental in securing both of City’s Premier League titles, scoring two crucial goals in the penultimate game of the 2011/12 season against Newcastle, as well as netting 20 times in 35 games en route to the 2013/14 title, a career best for the Ivorian.
It was during the summer of the 2013/14 season, however, that Touré’s future at the club was thrown into doubt. Touré, or someone in control of his Twitter account, tweeted four times, explaining that he wanted to leave City as he felt disrespected by the lack of birthday wishes he received. A video then emerged of the club giving Touré a birthday cake on the actual day of his birthday and so Seluk had to backtrack, citing Roberto Carlos receiving a Bugatti Veyron from the owners of Anzhi Makhachkala as the level of respect that Touré deserves. Since then, Touré’s performance levels have dropped, as is to be expected of a player moving towards the end of their career; he is certainly not the indispensable player he once was. As a result of these events, Yaya’s future has been a regular topic of discussion amongst tabloid writers. So far, the rumours have proved to be just that, but it appears that this summer may finally be the one in which he departs Manchester in search of the next chapter of his career.
Touré now finds himself with some tough decisions to make as he weighs up the option of one final big payday in China, or prolonging his career at the very highest level in England or Italy. Whilst it is common knowledge that Touré is well paid currently, the money he would be offered in China is in a different bracket to that which any other English or Italian club could offer him. Jiangsu Suning, one of three Chinese clubs said to be interested in securing Touré’s services, have reportedly offered a staggering £577,000 per week in order to lure Touré to the fast-growing Chinese Super League. Such an offer would be hard to turn down for footballers playing in their prime, never mind a player who is approaching the end of their career, like Touré.
Although much has been made about the lack of quality in the Chinese Super League, there are a whole host of stars already plying their trade in China such as fellow Ivorian, Gervinho, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Alex Texeira, Ramires and Jackson Martinez, to name just a few. Furthermore, there is little to suggest that the quality of football in the Chinese Super League is inferior to that of the MLS in the USA. The MLS has, for a long time, been seen as an acceptable place for players approaching the end of their career to play, with former Premier League stars such as Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard all moving across the Atlantic. With this in mind, it is easy to see why the Chinese Super League is such an attractive option for Touré and whilst Seluk has openly dismissed the prospect of Yaya moving to China, he has been known to make false statements in the past and so it should not be ruled out.
The ideal scenario for Yaya would be to end up in Italy playing under former manager, Roberto Mancini, at Inter Milan. Mancini and Inter are long-term admirers of Touré, having tried to sign him last summer, before Yaya ultimately decided to stay at City. Moreover, the large transfer fee and wages that a player of Touré’s stature commands proved to be an issue. This is a recurring problem this summer according to a number of leading journalists, such as Alfredo Pedulla. Touré’s hopes of joining Inter may now depend on his agent, Seluk, convincing City to let him leave on a free transfer, as only then could Inter afford his wages. If Yaya truly does want to prolong his career at the highest level then Inter may be a good option due to the slower tempo of football played in Serie A.
A slower style of football would favour Touré, particularly due to his rapidly declining stamina and his inability to go on those typical driving runs which were a feature of his game two or three years ago. He does, however, maintain his fantastic passing ability, and he would be afforded much more time on the ball in Serie A compared to the Premier League, where teams tend to adopt much more of a pressing game. As previously mentioned, the pull of working with former manager, Mancini, is an attractive proposition for Touré. When Mancini was sacked by City in 2013, there were rumours that Yaya Touré was the only player to stick up for him in front of the board, giving an indication of their very good working relationship. The feeling is mutual, with Gazzetta dello Sport claiming that Mancini is ‘obsessed’ with completing the signing of Touré. Providing that the financial details can be agreed upon, it seems that the most likely outcome for Touré is a reunion with Mancini in Milan.
However, although Touré leaving City has been seen as a near certainty, the possibility of him seeing out the final year of his contract should not be ruled out. According to FCInterNews, City told Touré on the 13th of June that they would like him to stay at the club for another year. It remains to be seen what Touré’s role would be at the club or if the story is even true, but it does beg the question – does Touré have what it takes to carry on playing for City? It is possible to envisage a place for him in the side – Pep Guardiola’s teams typically dominate possession, whilst Touré is undoubtedly the best current City midfielder when it comes to ball retention.
Unfortunately, there are stronger arguments to suggest that Touré should not and does not have a future at City. Although Touré is excellent in possession, it is the other side of Guardiola’s tactics which Yaya is unsuited to – Pep gets his teams pressing very high up the pitch in order to recover the ball from the opposition as quickly as possible. Touré almost certainly does not have the fitness to press the ball effectively in the manner that Guardiola demands. As we have seen on countless occasions in the past two seasons, Touré is now only capable of one or two bursts per match, with the rest of the time spent dawdling in the middle of the pitch. Therefore the idea of him pressing the opposition for 90 minutes is simply unimaginable.
That leaves us with another question; could Yaya be reduced to a less prominent role and become a squad player? This would be the ideal option for City as it would allow the club to maintain his experience and save money on another player. It is unlikely however, that Touré would accept such a role as it wouldn’t satisfy his ego, especially when he has more attractive offers where he would maintain his ‘star’ status. Furthermore, the longer Touré stays at the club, the more tarnished his legacy becomes. Therefore the sooner he leaves, the quicker these past two disappointing seasons are forgotten. It appears that it is in both the club’s and Touré’s interests for him to depart this summer.
One thing which can be said for certain is that there are plenty of twists and turns yet to come in this saga. Time after time, Touré has supposedly been on the brink of leaving the club, only to stay for another season, and I would certainly not rule out the possibility of Yaya sticking around for a year under Guardiola. When Yaya does eventually leave City, all frustration and bad feeling towards him will be forgotten and he will be remembered for what he is; a club legend. He will be remembered as the man who brought the club their first trophy for 35 years, the man who helped to win their first league title in 44 years and the man who took Manchester City FC to the next level.