Toure on verge of shock City exit after 'sick' birthday snub
Yaya Toure, a star of Manchester City's title-winning side this season, is threatening to force a move from the Etihad Stadium this summer after being upset by the club's failure to mark his 31st birthday sufficiently.
On a day of farce surrounding the Ivory Coast midfielder, Toure denied, then confirmed claims by his agent that he was unhappy at the club.
With City robustly rejecting the possibility of Toure being sold or offered a new contract, the prospect of an acrimonious battle between club and player has been raised by the incredible comments of his Russian adviser, Dimitri Seluk.
"Yaya is so upset, he is thinking of leaving City," Seluk said. "A number of things have happened that have left Yaya feeling bitterly upset. City have really hurt him.
"What happened at his birthday meant the club don't care about him. It was proof. They can say whatever they want, 'Oh we like him, but we forgot'. None of them shook his hand on his birthday.
"It's really sick. The club's owners ate a 100kg cake after winning the Premier League this season, but when they and the players were all together, none of them shook his hand on his birthday.
"It shows they don't care about him. They don't know that money can't buy relationships – no sheikh can buy a relationship."
Toure has complained on more than one occasion this season that his ability is overlooked because he is African.
Toure appeared to rubbish Seluk's claims by issuing a response via his Twitter account: "Thanks for all the birthday messages today. Card from City just arrived... Must have got lost in the post. Haha.
"Jokes aside. Please do not take words that do not come out of MY mouth seriously. Judge my commitment to @MCFC by my performances," he tweeted.
However, within an hour of those conciliatory tweets, Toure reignited the furore by suggesting Seluk was indeed speaking on his behalf by criticising City's treatment of him.
"Everything dimitry said is true," Toure tweeted. "He speaks for me. I will give an interview after world cup to explain."
With Toure having signed a four-year contract in April 2013, senior figures at the Etihad have privately insisted that the former Barcelona player will not be sold and that no new talks will take place to discuss an improvement to his deal.
And the club moved quickly to pour scorn on Seluk's claims with the publication of a video clip showing Toure being presented with a birthday cake and serenaded with a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' by team-mates on the team's flight to Abu Dhabi last week.
City were last night attempting to discover whether the player had tweeted himself from Ivory Coast's Qatari training camp or if his account had been updated by an adviser.
The bizarre episode has added to a chaotic week for City. UEFA's decision last week to hit them with a £49m (€60m) fine for failing to adhere to Financial Fair Play regulations delivered a huge blow to the club's reputation.
Toure's discontent is likely to be a serious cause for concern, however.
When Seluk issued similarly outlandish claims about the player being unhappy last season on the basis of a lack of Toure shirts in the club shop and absence of pictures of him around the Etihad – with the exception of a 25ft poster of Toure on the side of stadium – the club negotiated his new contract.
Some believe Seluk and Toure are attempting to repeat the trick, but Seluk insisted the player's issues were not money-related. "No. Money is not important," he said. "He has enough money. The most important thing is a human relationship. If City don't respect him, then easy – Yaya will leave.
"He got a cake, but when it was Roberto Carlos' birthday, the president of Anzhi gave him a Bugatti. I don't expect City to present Yaya with a Bugatti, we only asked that they shook his hand and said 'we congratulate you'." (© Daily Telegraph, London)