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Manchester City have had their share of ups and downs since their formation back in 1880. It’s fair to say the last decade has been a high point.
At this present moment, they’re arguably the best side in the world and there are a few characters who, over the last decade, have helped elevate them to their current position. One of them is Yaya Toure.
Yaya is the younger, although more successful, brother of fellow professional footballer Kolo Toure and was born in Bouake, one of the biggest cities in Ivory Coast.
As a youngster, Toure joined ASEC Mimosas in his homeland and dreamt of putting his name into the Ivorian and African history books. Shortly after Toure’s 19th birthday, he made his first steps into the European game with a move to Belgian side Beveren, 30 months later he made a switch to Metalurh Donetsk and a year later Olympiacos came calling.
Despite a number of short spells, Toure was never in danger of becoming a journeyman and after just a year – and a league and cup double in Greece, his first foray into the ‘big five leagues’ came with a £5m transfer to AS Monaco.
Monaco had a mediocre season finishing mid-table but Toure was a standout player with five goals and seven assists in 27 Ligue 1 appearances and Spanish giants Barcelona stumped up the best part of £10m to land him.
Toure spent three years with the Catalan club and added four major trophies to his cabinet in the shape of two La Liga titles, one Spanish Cup and a Champions League. After 118 games for Barca, a move to Manchester City presented itself and Toure began a journey that would see him become a legend.
More Than Just a Player
One of the key reasons behind Toure’s move to City was the influence of then manager Roberto Mancini. Toure had been playing as a defensive midfielder in Spain but Mancini wanted the Ivorian to be the box-to-box powerhouse that the ‘project’ could be built around and that appealed hugely to a character that knew he was playing within himself at Barcelona.
Before kicking a ball for the club, Toure was already making his influence felt by liaising with other star players to convince them to join him in the North West of England. Whilst Mancini had a shed load of cash available to him it wasn’t guaranteed better players would sign for a ‘normal’ side i.e. one not challenging at the top but Toure was the catalyst that sparked that change and, with the help of the smooth talking of Toure, David Silva, Jerome Boateng and Mario Balotelli – to name a few – agreed to join.
That season Toure starred as City clinched their first piece of silverware for 35 years with victory in the FA Cup. Toure himself played a starring role throughout the tournament netting three goals including two crucial goals; first up, in a Manchester derby semi-final Toure intercepted an uncharacteristically sloppy Michael Carrick pass before strolling towards goal and cooly slotting past Edwin Van Der Sar to send City fans wild. The game finished 1-0. The final was a hard fought encounter with Stoke City and, like the semi, ended 1-0 to Man City, the man who bagged the solitary goal was – yep, that’s right – Yaya Toure. This time Toure displayed all of his power as he slammed home a loose ball. The players were jubilant, the fans were in raptures and City had that elusive trophy.
After his cup heroics Toure turned agent again and helped get a deal for Sergio Aguero over the line. It was the Argentine who provided one of the best moments in Premier League history as his last gasp goal in the 3-2 win over QPR, snatched the title from their nearest rivals and Manchester was blue.
It is arguably the biggest title City have ever won given what it has kick started and throughout the year Toure was instrumental chipping in with six goals in 32 appearances.
What Came Next?
After winning trophies in back to back seasons, it was imperative that City continued to challenge for them to be considered more than a flash in the pan success. Thankfully, they had someone like Toure in their ranks who had experienced the true winning mentality previously (at Barcelona) and his guidance and performances helped drive the team on to more.
2013 came and went without silverware as the old enemy, United, cantered to reclaim their Premier League crown. City finished a distant second and fellow North West side Wigan sprung a shock in the FA Cup final when Ben Watson bagged an injury-time winner.
City and Toure came back strong in 2014 though with their first ever double; the League title was back at the Etihad and joined the League Cup in the trophy cabinet.
In the league Toure finished top scorer with 20 goals and created a further nine for his teammates; his involvement in six goals (scoring two) in the last four games of the campaign proved decisive as the race went to the wire with a final day victory over West Ham the clincher. The clubs Player of the Year played a huge role in the cup success too with three goals and two assists, with four of those contributions – two goals and two assists – made in the semi-final and final. City were here to stay.
The next three seasons went by with just a League Cup win in 2015/16, which was won on penalties with Toure bagging what proved to be the winner. During that time Toure made 116 appearances and played a part in a goal every three games.
The Manchester City chapter of Toure’s career was clearly coming to a close but it was fitting that it would end as it started – with silverware.
Toure was only a bit part player as Pep Guardiola’s men wracked up a record points tally of 100 and combined it with another League Cup triumph but on 9th May 2018, it was Toure who took centre stage for a final goodbye as he captained his team in a 3-1 victory over Brighton.
Toure was branded a ‘legend’ on the team sheet and whilst it’s a word that is overused in the modern game it is true of Toure – no question.
It’s one thing that he scored 79 goals and assisted a further 50 in 316 matches during an eight year spell in which the club won seven trophies but it’s another altogether when you consider his impact off the pitch.
Back in 2010, Toure was playing for one of the best sides in the world, he could easily have turned away from the challenge at City. If he had, it’s highly plausible the Citizen faithful wouldn’t have seen the success they have in the last decade.
He was the first truly world class talent to sign, a terrific character, a leader and the player who helped make City what they are today, which is one of the top sides in world football.