'It was Gallas or me at Arsenal'
Toure blames feud for quitting Gunners as City continue bid to go fourth
IT is difficult to conceive of any reason to dislike or distrust Kolo Toure, yet the permafrost that descended on his relationship with William Gallas is the prime reason why he will be wearing sky blue, rather than red and white, during this evening's fixture between Arsenal and Manchester City at the Emirates.
Toure, the City captain, is living proof that not all footballers fit the modern-day stereotype of the self-obsessed, detached, money-driven star that does little to enhance the reputation of the Premier League.
A devout Muslim who continues to support his family in the Ivory Coast with his Premier League wages, Toure is a popular figure at Eastlands, a man who understands his duty to the club's supporters and community programme.
But while the 29-year-old will be afforded a generous reception by the Arsenal supporters -- unlike team-mate Emmanuel Adebayor --when he returns to the Emirates for the first time since his £16m transfer last summer, Gallas is unlikely to lay out the red carpet.
The two men barely spoke during their final season together at the heart of Arsene Wenger's defence. Gallas, a combustible character, lost the captaincy to Toure following his bizarre post-match sulk following a 2-2 draw at Birmingham in Feb 2008, but while Toure insists that incident did not spark their feud, he admits that the pair's relationship ultimately led to his departure from Arsenal.
"Gallas and me misunderstood each other at certain times and one had to leave," Toure said. "Would I still be at Arsenal otherwise? I don't know, you can say that, but I'm at a new club where I'm really happy.
"As a player, I had great respect for Gallas because he was older than me and, in Africa, when someone is older, you have respect for them.
"But I think sometimes he took advantage of that in some ways. Me and Gallas didn't talk to each other at all. I didn't want to leave the team in a difficult position, so I was the one who said I wanted to go.
"I think Arsene understood that. I didn't want to make any trouble for Arsenal because I had a really good time there and they gave me my chance there. There is no problem with me and Arsene. I have huge respect for him."
Toure's departure and Gallas' calf injury, sustained against Barcelona last month, have contributed to Arsenal being left with the veteran pairing of Sol Campbell and Mikael Silvestre at centre-half for the club's decisive fixtures in recent weeks.
Wenger's team have as many frailties as riches and, although they face City in third place with the visitors desperately attempting to dislodge Tottenham from fourth position, Toure insists that the Manchester club's immense wealth ensures that they are most likely to win the silverware he craved during his frustrating final years at Arsenal.
Toure said: "That is why I am at City because this football club wants to be on the top and, if you want to get to the top, then you need to have players who are capable of getting you there. The only thing you can bring players in with is money or, if you are like Arsenal, you wait for your youngsters to come in, but that can take a while.
"We really want to win trophies and I think I am at the right place to do that. At the end of seasons at Arsenal, we were without any trophies and it was difficult for me, because I had been used to winning trophies and, after four years without winning, it became difficult.
"I was at Arsenal for six years and everything was fantastic, but the last two years were a bit difficult. I had a few problems with a few people there and I was not feeling happy in the team and for me, I was looking for somewhere else and a new challenge."
Leading City to fourth place and the Champions League would replicate the feeling of winning a trophy for Toure.
The World Cup might lie on the horizon, but that can wait. Fourth place is everything.
"I am just thinking about Manchester City," Toure said. "For me, I want to bring the club to fourth place and I am really focused on that.
"You always think about the World Cup because it is a special thing, but I just want to finish this season well." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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