Sunday 19 November 2017

James Lawton: Time for City to show Toure the door

Yaya Toure played a key role in Manchester City's title triumph
Yaya Toure played a key role in Manchester City's title triumph
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini and Yaya Toure pose with the Premier League trophy
James Lawton

James Lawton

As Manchester City grapple with the price of winning two Premier League titles in three seasons and attempt to find a least torturous route through UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations they should be grateful for at least one large and tender mercy.

It is that not all the decisions they face are complex and desperate. One might be described as a piece of cake. It is the uttering of a brusque farewell to Yaya Toure.

Some at City's futuristic Eastlands complex may tremble at the loss of such a mighty talent but they are unlikely to include manager Manuel Pellegrini, the man who spent much of his first and title-winning season there imparting some of the values of a fully grown up, coherent football man.

Pellegrini has a proven eye for the higher orders of talent but he is also keen on having a club which is stable, adult and has at least some loose understanding of the vital balance between reward and achievement.

Big Yaya – it has the potential for a lasting description of someone utterly detached from the rest of the working world's understanding of reality – and his agent Dimitri Seluk have made matchwood of such a concept with their bizarre complaints about the failure of City's owners to show him proper respect when he arrived with the rest of the team in the United Arab Emirates last week.


At first Toure separated himself from Seluk's declaration, "None of them shook his hand on his birthday. It's really sick." Then he tweeted, "Everything dimitri said is true. He speaks for me. I will give an interview after world cup to explain."

Some City fans, in awe of their superstar's huge power and often astonishing touch, may await that outcome with some trepidation, but maybe they should delve a little deeper into the meaning of his recent restiveness and the seeping impression that he was looking for a sharp increase in his weekly wage of £250,000. The issue, we are told by his agent, is not heaps more money but 'human relations', though he did also refer to the fact that when Brazilian Roberto Carlos celebrated a birthday he wasn't presented with a cake but a classic Bugatti car by the president Russian club Anzhi.

Can City, so anxious to underpin their status as a new power in the European game, afford to banish a player of Toure's immense ability? The more pressing question concerns not the retention of an exceptionally gifted individual but a little credibility. City were not so low on talent last spring when they ended a miserably under-achieving season, an abject failure to match the title winning effort of their city rivals United, with a hapless FA Cup final performance against relegated Wigan Athletic.

That was breaking point in the regime of Roberto Mancini but it also represented not so much the end of one managerial reign but a failed culture. Now, after the sharply improved, though scarcely overwhelming, performance in a season which brought the League Cup and the title and, finally, progress into the knock-out phase of the Champions League, Toure's tantrum re-awakens all the old fears.

These concern a football dressing room gorging on money and acclaim and starved of any sense of team. If Toure's behaviour is both juvenile and fatuous, it is hardly unfamiliar.

Mancini went back on his stand against the swaggering arrogance, and indiscipline, of Carlos Tevez. He indulged, beyond reason, the wild irresponsibility of Mario Balotelli. City's training sessions were a magnet for the paparazzi. They were an invitation to see how it can be at the richest end of football in the second decade of the 21st Century.

The hierarchy of City finally decided that it was time to end the days of riches and whine. Pellegrini came in with a record of solid work at Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga. He was ejected from Real Madrid after coming within a point of winning La Liga and compiling a record number of points and it was true he had still to add to the impressive list of titles won in his native South America. But after his near miss at the Bernabeu he said he had been out of sorts with the Galactico system, it was no way to make lasting success at a great football club.

Now he is required, this man who has the reputation for creating communal values and carries easily the nickname "The Builder" from his days as a successful civil engineer, to contemplate the inane swaggering of Big Yaya.

It is easy to guess at the level of his private distaste. At the moment of City's title triumph, which was achieved with none of the melodrama that came two years earlier when Queen's Park Rangers were beaten in the last seconds, the City players threw him in the air in celebration and it was not hard to believe that this was a tribute to the respect he had imposed along with a new level of professionalism.

Where does that sit now with the posturing of Toure – and another spirit-draining statement from his agent, "I don't expect City to present Yaya with a Bugatti, we only asked that they shook his hand and said, 'We congratulate you'. It is the minimum they must do when it is his birthday and the squad is together. The club owners ate a 100kg cake after winning the Premier League this season but they and the players were together and none of them shook his hand on his birthday. It shows they don't care about him."

The real question is, of course, how much they care about the meaning of their football club and the possibility that it may indeed have, through so many follies, reached a new level of achievement and self-respect. One guide, you have to believe, is how swiftly they volley big Yaya out of the door.

Irish Independent

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