With Pablo Zabaleta announcing he’s leaving City this summer, James Piercy and Alam Khan debate whether the veteran Ivorian midfielder should follow his fellow club stalwart out of the door or earn a new deal at the club.
Alan Khan says YES
With Pablo Zabaleta leaving Manchester City after nine years, it would be a mistake to lose another icon.
It’s true Toure may not be the midfielder he was, forging forward with finesse and fire, but he still has much to contribute, much to teach.
City have more pressing transfer priorities this summer, namely in defence, and with Ilkay Gundogan needing time to rec-over from his serious knee injury, Toure would provide trusted cover. He knows Pep Guardiola, his system and City.
I recall when Patrick Vieira joined in 2010 at the same time. At 34, in his final season, he was slower, but a calming influence when used by his old Inter boss Roberto Mancini. Vieira provided experience, expertise and a winning mentality that City needed at that time. That’s Toure now and why he should be equally respected and revered a la Vieira.
Ironically, the Frenchman’s farewell – six years ago yesterday – saw Toure score against Stoke to lift the FA Cup – ending a 35-year wait for a major trophy and sparking City’s rise.
Just like Vieira, Andrea Pirlo or Michael Carrick over at United, age doesn’t matter when brains can make up for tiring limbs in terms of doing the basics brilliantly, of knowing when to play the right pass or make the right tackle or take the right shot.
Toure can still control games, and that’s what Guardiola has seen since restoring him to the line-up in November.
It is difficult to find complaint with his attitude either. An effervescent character, through his enthusiastic displays and encouragement to the younger talent, Toure has become the ‘daddy’ of this team. Letting Gabriel Jesus take the penalty in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Leicester, when he was designated, was a sign of his maturity.
Having just turned 34, he doesn’t need cake to appease him, but recognition of his value.
And whatever agent, Dimitri Seluk, might say about better financial options elsewhere, this should not be about money for Toure, but his legacy at City.
James Piercy says NO
For all the influence and experience Yaya Toure brings to the City dressing room, as a footballer, his lack of suitability to the style Pep Guardiola wants to implement will only become increasingly more apparent.
The Ivorian deserves credit for the way he has applied himself in the second half of the season, albeit without delivering too many grandstand displays, just keeping it nice and simple. But Guardiola needs his central midfielders to either be controlled in possession or dynamic and able to get up and down the field, pressing, harrying and recovering the ball.
Toure hasn’t been such a midfielder, in a defensive sense, for a long time and his legs and body simply can’t summon the energy required to fulfil such a task across a 45+ match season.
Ilkay Gundogan’s injury has afforded him more gametime than perhaps Guardiola envisaged at the start of the season but he is nowhere near the same level of distributor as the German. Similarly, Fernandinho’s disciplinary issues and need to fill in at full-back meant Yaya was only in direct competition with the Brazilian, who possesses a superior work rate, for a limited time.
Under Manuel Pellegrini, Yaya became a luxury player, rarely checking runners, barely pressing and offering occasional protection for his defence. He’s improved marginally, but still not at a level of consistency, with Guardiola not starting him against Monaco in the Champions League second leg, Arsenal and Liverpool telling.
All with the nagging feeling that he’s merely obliging to ensure a new contract and may return to old ways. He’s doing that because clearly not too many clubs out there are willing to pay a 34-year-old £220,000-a-week, and neither should City for a glorified squad player.
Yaya’s place in club history is assured; bar the ludicrous influence of Dimitri Seluk he’s helped shape the club in the Abu Dhabi era. But there are plenty of midfielders; younger, fitter and significantly cheaper who can take the club forward under Guardiola.