The Real Trouble with Touré

The Real Trouble with Touré

It’s not often you get to revisit an old story as if it’s new. Back in October 2014, writing about the birthday gate scandal and all things Yaya (The Trouble with Touré), The Football Reflective concluded it was time to get behind a midfielder that had just provided 24 goals and pushed the team to a league and cup double. The recommendation was given while acknowledging his misdemeanours.

Like all bad offenders, trouble has reared its head once again.

The escalation to a standoff between manager Pep Guardiola and Yaya has been a few weeks in the making. As ever, the Ivorian’s agent, Dimitri Seluk, placed a pivotal part in proceedings. He fanned the flames when he said his client had been “humiliated” following his exclusion from Manchester City’s Champions League squad.

Going as far to claim the Spaniard would owe Touré a personal apology should the club fail to lift the trophy this season.

It was classic goading, that until now, Pep was right to ignore. A manager lives and dies by his big decisions but the world has already seen none will be shied away from during the reshaping of the Etihad outfit. It’s also reasonable to assume that like Joe Hart, Yaya would have been informed he was down the pecking order, and in his personal case, unlikely to feature in the UEFA squad.

Unlike Joe Hart, Touré and his agent lack any semblance of dignity or respect.

It had always been a suspicion that the birthday cake debacle was a rouse to manufacture a move when Yaya’s stock was at its highest. This time the pair needed to play a different game for the maximum financial return.

In the year that will see Paul Pogba’s agent earn more than Cristiano Ronaldo, Dimitri Seluk obviously fancied one last big pay day. The final milking of his own personal cash cow.

By remaining under the radar, appearing to favour the fight for his City place, meant the summer transfer window slammed shut, locking club and player in a £220,000-a-week contract. That is fine, it’s a two-way street. Contracts give security and in a perfect world are honoured by both parties unless a reasonable way to part is offered.

In 2014 City said they were not prepared to sell Yaya, hence, they used that binding contract to their advantage. Part of that choice would have been to assert authority over players, to prove the club couldn’t be dictated to. Back when they took that stance they were prepared to be out of pocket to make the point.

Seluk knows this, and knows last time his planned was foiled.

Rather than face a second defeat, he’s hoping he can create enough of a storm so that City pay off the majority of Touré’s contract, freeing up a move to another club. He could then sell the idea to the next club that Yaya should get an even larger signing on bonus in lieu of a transfer fee.

Any doubts finally have faded away: Yaya Touré and Dimitri Seluk are driven by greed first. Football interests come way down the list (below cakes and call girls).

In a desperate attempt to further incite the club, Seluk has made outlandish claims to The Mirror, calling into question Pep’s ability as coach. Claiming he inherited teams and didn’t improve Bayern Munich. Guardiola’s start to life in the Premier League has offered just a glimpse into the unique talent he possesses.

Pep hasn’t just improved Manchester City in his short time as manager, he’s reinventing the English game before our eyes.

Seluk’s attack comes at the end of Touré’s sick note for a migraine. They can be unpleasant but Pep has taken offence at the midfielder’s lack of courage to pick up a phone and tell him he was under the weather.

For a no-nonsense manager, the hint of silly games is enough to lay the law down fast. Reminding the world what his agent had said about humiliation, Guardiola demanded the team and fans receive an apology for those comments. Until that happens, Touré won’t play again.

It may seem that phase one of Seluk’s plan is complete – but he’d be wrong.

Manchester City can afford to let Yaya rot, albeit at the cost of £220,000-a-week, more than agent and player can afford to watch a whole season of football pass them by when the talent is in severe decline. Yaya was never the most mobile player and he’s no spring chicken. Time is working against him.

The club will back Pep with any decision. For too long bad attitudes in the dressing room have dictated performance on the pitch. No longer will this be the case. City have a General happy to exert authority over all of his troops. They’ll be no Carlos Tevez style climb-down here.
Yaya apologises or he will never pull on a City shirt again.

It’s a sad end to a player that should be remembered as one of City’s all-time greats. But Citizens value character, personality and correct application as high – sometimes higher – than ability. Despite his contribution over the years, Yaya Touré has failed with his traits as a professional.

The real trouble with Yaya isn’t his greed, or his conceited agent, or even his couldn’t care less approach to legacy.

It’s his stupidity.

Stupid to think he can win a war with Pep. Stupid to think he would benefit financially. Stupid to tarnish his legacy with City’s loyal fans.

It will haunt him in years to come, when as an old man, he realises all the cash in the world doesn’t wipe out the debt caused by the irrevocable damage these decisions have done to the game’s lasting memory of Yaya Touré.

The Trouble with Touré

The Trouble with Touré

Certain things can’t be denied when it come to Yaya Touré. His talent is unquestionable. Last season he drove Manchester City to a league and cup double, scoring 24 goals in all competitions from midfield. He is also controversial and divides the opinion of loyal supporters. From missed birthday cakes to protracted transfers, he appears in the media for the wrong reasons, when it’d be more fitting if he was revered in the same way players like Messi and Ronaldo are. Or is this a stretch too far?

Before we go any further, I should make my personal thoughts regarding a few things Yaya clear. In spite of his performance last season, I would have happily seen him sold in the summer. A number of factors played into this. The obvious one was the way he allowed his agent to act unprofessionally and disrespectfully toward the club. It seems obvious they were either haggling for an improved contract or were seeing if they could manufacture a move away. He’d just had the season of his life so they assumed Yaya’s stocks were high, that they should cash in.

Of course, they didn’t get a move, and City held firm. These initial actions undid all of Yaya’s work gaining loyalty from the fans. I have no problem with players wanting to move on. As Sami Nasri noted when he left Arsenal, he wasn’t a fan, it’s just his career. I get that. I don’t expect everyone that pulls on the blue shirt to be a City fan. This doesn’t mean they can act in manner that wouldn’t be acceptable in another line of work. Yaya was unprofessional. This combined with the high wage, the fact he’s already 31, meant it wouldn’t have been a terrible move to balance the books the same summer we faced FFP fines and restrictions, by offloading a player that had stepped out of line.

The standard response here is to argue he is irreplaceable. Well, no man on the planet is irreplaceable. I’m not suggesting there is a like-for-like player out there. City would have needed to change the way the team plays. Formed a Plan B and C. Given the one dimensional tactics we adopt in the Champions League, this wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. Mentioning the Champions League, it is worth noting that Frank Lampard, the 36-year-old, warming-up for his American vacation, looked a level above regular City midfielders the night we played Roma. The only one comfortable at that level. So perhaps we shouldn’t place Yaya on that pedestal just yet.

Which brings us to the main niggle I hear at the ground, in the pub afterwards, and in groups and forums: The idea Yaya can’t be dropped/should be dropped. Some argue his moments of magic, which appear from nowhere and clinch big games, allow him to drift rather than put a shift in. That he looks laboured when he’s not. Others argue that no player should be guaranteed a place if their form continues to dip. I sit more on the fence with this one. At some point any player, regardless of stature or former contributions, should face the axe if they fail to deliver. For me, at this moment in time, Yaya is still one of the first names on the team sheet. The recent Aston Villa game is a good example of why he’s a worthwhile passenger to have along for the ride.

The idea of who your favourite player is should lend an idea to the damage Yaya has inflicted on his own legacy with the club. David White is my personal favourite. I know he’s not the best footballer I’ve seen play for the Citizens. But watching him burst off at pace, smash shots on goal, was like watching a superhero when I was younger. I know nostalgia plays its part there. It still breaks my heart, that Niall Quinn made the club’s Hall of Fame, and White didn’t.

MCFC White

As for the best player I’ve seen, the most talented, it has to be from the current crop. I think Sergio is a true world class talent, belonging in the upper echelons of the world elite. David Silva also rates highly; if he added more goals to his game it’d be hard to dismiss him. Yaya Touré should be above both of these though, in terms of contribution and evident talent. Yet, how many City fans would have him as their number one now?

There’s still time for the fans that criticise him to warm once again. The tarnished summer can be painted over with the gloss of further success. I don’t subscribe to the idea any dip in form is a loss of interest. Reneging on the agreement he wouldn’t attend the 2015 African Cup of Nations could be seen as a further effort to appear inflammatory, I suspect it’s just a change of heart. Also, the loss of his brother will be weighing heavy on him and affecting his actions. Such an experience often requires years of recovery.

Yaya hasn’t been given the recognition by external awarding bodies. Last season he was cruelly overlooked. It’s easy to see why that could breed a feeling of being unloved. It doesn’t excuse his actions over the summer, but as fans we should wipe the slate clean. If the professional critics fail to give him his dues, the best we can do is start sending back positive vibes from the stands.