Thursday 17 October 2019

Toure torn over club and country commitments

Mark Ogden

Yaya Toure will delay his departure to the Africa Cup of Nations next month in order to minimise disruption to Manchester City's bid to win a clean sweep of trophies this season.

The Ivory Coast midfielder admits he feels "guilty" at leaving the Etihad Stadium at such a crucial point in the campaign, but insists he is morally obliged to represent his country, which has once again been embroiled in a bloody civil war.

The tournament begins in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea on January 21 and with Fifa rules stating that participating nations can call on players to report for duty up to 14 days before the start of a major tournament, the Ivory Coast would be within their rights to summon Toure and his brother Kolo prior to the FA Cup tie with Manchester United on January 8.

The Ivory Coast begin their group campaign against Sudan in Malabo on January 22 and, as one of the favourites, could be involved in the competition until the final in Libreville on February 12.

However, City manager Roberto Mancini's friendship with his Ivory Coast counterpart Francois Zahoui has paved the way for City to retain the Toure brothers for the United game and the Carling Cup semi-final first leg at home to Liverpool three days later.

Losing Yaya Toure, in particular, will still represent a major blow to City's ambitions, but the player himself is adamant he would not have been able to forgive himself if he had not travelled to the Cup of Nations.

"Our country needs people like me and (fellow Ivory Coast international) Didier Drogba at the moment," he said. "There is a war again and it's important we do what we can for our people."

Toure's absence has led Mancini to rule out a possible loan move for unsettled Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong to Queens Park Rangers.

De Jong has fallen out of favour in recent months and his substitute appearance in the 2-1 defeat to Chelsea was his first involvement in a league game away from the Etihad Stadium this season.

The failure of Owen Hargreaves to prove himself as a reliable option after his arrival in August has left Mancini with just De Jong, Gareth Barry and James Milner as defensive midfield options.

Mancini could pursue a move for Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi, but the player's £200,000-a-week wage demands are likely to scupper any deal. Neither Yaya Toure or City, meanwhile, are likely to be punished by the FA's investigation into the bad-tempered game with Chelsea on Monday.

Toure appeared to strike Juan Mata on two separate occasions in the first half, first kicking the Spaniard as he lay on the floor and then slapping him in the face.

But neither incident appeared particularly forceful and referee Mark Clattenburg is understood to have told the FA that they do not require further scrutiny.

Both clubs will also escape sanctions for the heated scenes which followed the game in the tunnel, which saw Chelsea defender Ashley Cole allegedly goad City's beaten players. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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