Le Grand Depart - will Yaya be on his bike this summer?
As the 101st Tour de France arrives in Yorkshire, there’s consternation on the other side of the Pennines that Manchester City’s very own ‘Toure de Force’ could yet be peddling his talents on the other side of the Channel when the new season kicks off.
City’s Ivorian colossus, Yaya, and his notorious representative Dmitri Seluk, have seemingly been orchestrating a media campaign to help engineer a money-spinning move away from the Etihad to Paris Saint-Germain.
Puerile drivel about City's alleged lack of respect towards the world class midfielder, has seen Yaya’s standing and reputation tarnished in the eyes of many City fans.
Ridiculous and childish, not to mention baseless accusations, about birthday cakes and handshakes via the perilous medium of Twitter, has left many a metaphorical ‘PR’ bullet lodged in Yaya’s magical feet.
The man, quite rightly worshipped as an on-the-field City legend after two Premier League titles, FA and League Cup victories in just four years, delivered a masterclass in how to go from hero to zero in 140 characters.
Direct quotes and TV interviews proclaiming it would be ‘…an honour…’ to play for PSG, if he was required, further inflamed a situation leaving City’s fans puzzled and perplexed just days after the club’s greatest ever single season.
Murmurings of a return to Barcelona, Yaya’s football ‘home’ also went down like a lead balloon with the City faithful.
Such assertions were built on foundations of sand, with new Barca boss Luis Enrique distancing himself from any scenario involving Yaya taking up employment at the Nou Camp.
As he held the Premier League trophy aloft following the title clinching 2-0 win over West Ham on May 11th, who in their worst football nightmares would have contemplated for a nano second, the possibility of Yaya departing?
The diatribe of nonsense just kept on coming from demented Dmitri, apparently with Yaya’s blessing, and as the media lapped up the almost daily controversy engulfing the newly-crowned champions, Yaya retreated behind a glib statement saying he was focused on the Ivory Coast’s World Cup campaign.
He would clarify matters once his country’s participation in the competition was at an end.
Seluk dangled an olive branch of sorts saying Yaya wasn’t interested in improving the terms of the three remaining years on his contract. It wasn’t about money, it all came down to ‘respect’ and City should make a pledge to Yaya of a ‘job for life’, a key role, similar to that accorded to Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid.
So, if it had nothing to do with materialism, why did Seluk insist on using the analogy of Roberto Carlos receiving a Bugatti Vayron supercar as a birthday gift from Anzhi Makhachkala’s billionaire owner, Suleyman Kerimov?
And there’s poor old Yaya, virtually destitute on his reputed £220k weekly wage, having to settle for a couple of enhanced Victoria Sponges – one can only empathise with such a less than ‘self-raising’ experience.
Fans were becoming increasingly alienated from the player credited with being the biggest single influence on City’s title and League Cup wins.
With an outstanding haul of 20 goals from 35 PL appearances – only the second midfielder along with Chelsea’s Frank Lampard to achieve such a feat – Yaya would be totally deserving of being acclaimed as City’s Player of the Season.
The fact that voting takes place from today – July 4th – and runs for a week, will be a telling barometer of the mood of the fans.
Based solely on performances, Yaya would be the undeniable favourite, eclipsing the claims of fellow nominees David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Pablo Zabaleta.
Arguably, Yaya could have been the PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year, but both opted to honour the undeniable brilliance and ‘reformed’ character of a certain Luis Suarez…and we all know how that one turned out, as El Rodento went back to his old gnawing habits in the Brazilian sunshine.
The litmus test will be whether Yaya’s post season protestations and antics overshadow his massive contribution to a season that showcased his talents like never before.
It’s easily forgotten that despite his undoubted success at Barcelona where he won just about every medal going – Champions League, La Liga (twice), Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup – it’s only since his arrival at City that he has achieved truly global prominence.
Credit where credit is due, it was the now oft maligned Roberto Mancini, who ‘converted’ Yaya into the powerhouse attacking midfielder, the virtually unstoppable, match-winning juggernaut that City fans laud and celebrate.
He’s scored 55 goals in a total of 183 League and Cup appearances at City. Contrast that with 18 goals in 230 games in the rest of his club career in Belgium (Beveren), Ukraine (Metalurh Donetsk), Greece (Olympiacos), France (Monaco) and Spain (Barcelona).
The most troubling single and saddening aspect of Yaya’s summer of discontent is the tragic death of his and Kolo’s younger brother, Ibrahim, who died at just 28 years, from cancer.
Having suffered the devastating loss of a sibling, I can only sympathise and empathise with Yaya, Kolo and the extended Toure family. The grief and pain, especially at the death of such a young person, can engulf an individual and take them to an emotionally dark place.
Yaya and Kolo were representing Ivory Coast in the World Cup at the time of Ibrahim’s passing. Bearing the burden whilst being so far away can hardly have helped.
Death can often put things in life into perspective. People react in different ways – anger, frustration, guilt – such a gamut of feelings often accompany the indescribable pain and emptiness of grief.
Following the loss of his brother, Yaya was reported to have said City refused him time off to be with Ibrahim at the end of the PL campaign, instead insisting that he went on the end of season trip to Abu Dhabi.
Yaya is said to have cited it as another example of City’s alleged ‘lack of respect’ for him. Such an allegation doesn’t stack up.
City, who have maintained a dignified silence throughout Yaya and Dmitri’s rants, are said to have diplomatically informed the media that they did not receive any request from Yaya for compassionate leave.
Such a simplistic one-liner speaks volumes, especially when set against the backdrop of the club’s track record of supporting players and managers during times of personal turmoil or tragedy.
Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Pablo Zabaleta, Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini are prime examples where they have – quite rightly – been accorded time away from City to help deal with family matters.
In the wake of a very demanding 2013/14 season and all that has gone on since, Yaya has said he is physically and emotionally drained – understandably so.
The matter of his return to the Etihad and the honouring of the three years remaining on his four year deal, has still to be addressed. The club have maintained the status quo that Yaya is, and will remain, a City player.
The likelihood is that it will indeed be the case as the club attempts to retain their PL crown and make serious inroads into the latter stages of the Champions League.
A fit and focused Yaya Toure is a huge asset in the achievement of such lofty aspirations, but a disenchanted and lack lustre Yaya would present City with a dilemma that would surpass that of anything that has gone before with the likes of Carlos Tevez or Mario Balotelli.
City have demonstrated their strength and resolve in the face of any petulance or indiscipline from within the dressing room – or manager’s office – in the recent past. They won’t hesitate to do so again.
For the sake of continuity and keeping the wheels of success spinning, Yaya needs to apply the brakes on any further misguided utterances.
David Walker @djwskyblu www.readbutneverred.com