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.
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.