Thursday 13 December 2018

‘Man City was my first wife – even my wife knew it’ - Yaya Toure

Fire still burns as Touré prepares for emotional farewell

Yaya Touré. Photo: PA
Yaya Touré. Photo: PA

Jason Burt

Manchester City will say goodbye to one of their modern greats tonight when Yaya Touré plays in sky blue at the Etihad for the final time.

City manager Pep Guardiola has promised the 34-year-old a "beautiful farewell" against Brighton and Hove Albion and, alongside the pageantry, there will also be a more permanent tribute - a corner of east Manchester that will be forever Yaya.

A pitch at the City Football Academy has been named after the midfielder and will be signposted by a mosaic of his celebration following his decisive goal in the 2011 FA Cup final against Stoke City at Wembley - a goal that ended the club's 35-year wait for a major trophy and kick-started the Sheikh Mansour's growing collection of silverware.

Symbolic

It was a symbolic moment in Touré's Etihad career, but perhaps not quite as symbolic as the semi-final that preceded it, when Alex Ferguson's Manchester United were downed by another Touré strike and a significant blow was struck in a Manchester football's burgeoning power struggle.

Ferguson once famously boasted of knocking Liverpool "off their f****** perch".

Touré believes City have now done the very same to United and he considers that sense of a growing superiority - first found in that 2011 semi-final - to be the greatest achievement of his eight years here.

"When I came to City, for them to be a big club, we had to put United in their shadow," he said on the eve of his farewell. "That was the purpose. To come to City, to put United in the shadows and the semi-final was a big part of it.

Dimitar Berbatov, deputising for a suspended Wayne Rooney, spurned early chances, with City decidedly second best in the first half.

"At half-time we were nearly fighting in the dressing room," Touré remembered before recalling the words that inspired a second-half rally.

"Go out and play like men or we go home again and say to Khaldoon (Al Mubarak, City's chairman) 'Thank you, we've eaten the money but we move on because this club will never achieve.'

"We had that chat and you saw a different City in the second half. That's why we won the game. It was brilliant, awesome."

Toure admits that he has found it difficult not featuring in Guardiola's team over the past two years. "I am very sad about it. I wanted to be more part of it on the field, not out of the field," he said.

"But look in our dressing room and they are all competitors now, with the will to win and to achieve. It's a great ability and I love it."

Touré believes he helped to instill that winning mentality and, for a long time, dictated the team's mood.

"I have given so much to this club in terms of energy, mobility, and to work with people around me, to get them to play the way I wanted them to play," he said.

"I remember when Kun (Sergio Aguero) was in great form and Gabriel Jesus was not playing and not happy. I took him to one side and gave him a pat on the back. The manager doesn't know I'm doing that.

"I look at the kids around me and know I have had to be an example, even though it's been hard at times."

Touré's situation became fractious on occasions, with his agent Dimitri Seluk infamously complaining in 2014 that the player had been "disrespected" when the club did not give him a birthday cake. Two years later, the Ukrainian criticised Guardiola's management.

But Touré says: "The way I was behaving during these difficult two years, I was behaving like a proper person.

"When I am angry, I stay calm. I prefer to stay calm. People can say what they want. That's OK. They have their opinion."

Nevertheless, even if his status as one of City's greatest players - and one of the best midfielders the Premier League has seen - is secured, Touré believes he deserves more recognition.

Respect

"I think maybe when I am retired from football, I will have more respect," he said.

Has he not got that yet? "No, I don't think so. What I have achieved and what I have done, I don't think so.

"People don't know how dedicated I was. I was so dedicated. This football club was my first wife, to be honest. Even my wife knew it."

Toure, who is 35 on Sunday, intends to play on and probably in the Premier League, with his family wanting to remain in England.

"Look, I am a competitor, I am a professional. I know my body. Nobody knows my body more than me. I hate it when people try to stop me.

"I know what I can do and I will know when I am not capable of doing it. And I know I can continue to play."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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