As we all know by now, Yaya Toure is never a player to keep his counsel when he’s been disrespected.
Aggravating agent Dimitry Seluk has become his public mouthpiece on the subject which has descended into the bizarre use of birthday cakes as props but a decade ago it was so much simpler. Having impressed at the World Cup with Ivory Coast, his maiden season at Monaco – in a deal brokered by Seluk – it took the 23-year-old Toure just a few months to voice his dissatisfaction with his coach Laszlo Boloni.
The Hungarian had a tendency of not playing the Ivorian in an attacking central role (something that still grates as it’s detailed on Toure’s official website) before then marginalising him from the first team as the Principality club tumbled down Ligue 1.
Boloni lost his job in January to which Toure’s response was vintage Yaya: “I asked him to play me in my position and that made him laugh! He even told other players I wasn’t part of his plans.
“I have a status, I am an international and I do my job normally. For me, Boloni’s departure is a big satisfaction, it is logical. I was more than fed up.”
Under Laurent Banide, latterly of Al Dhafra, Toure along with Jeremy Menez proved the driving force behind Monaco’s resurgence as they finished 8th.
Although drama was never far behind as in his final match for the club he scored an own goal against Sochaux, with a calamitous slice at the near post while trying to clear a cross, before earning a red card for a brutal challenge on Philippe Brunel which would inspire countless martial arts-based memes if it happened now.
And that was Toure’s time in Monaco: celebration, irritation, domination, success and frustration. His career in microcosm in many ways. Those 27 appearance were, however, enough to earn him a move to Barcelona and from there he became a true world star.
Now firmly in the twilight of his career he returns to the club which catapulted him into the big time but something strange has happened over the last three months since he called a truce with Pep Guardiola and returned to the first XI: it’s all gone quiet. No moaning, misery or maladjustment.
The spoilt teenager of the last 12 months has given way to a Toure who seems to just want to get on with his football. To the extent Guardiola revealed he criticised Toure’s performance against Middlesbrough in front of the rest of the squad.
The Yaya of old would have been broadcasting such betrayal on a Monday morning but instead he faced the media this week and instead discussed Wednesday night’s tie. Credit must go to Guardiola for accepting he was wrong to exile him from the team so stridently at the start of the season, although circumstances with the injury to Ilkay Gundogan and Fernandinho’s disciplinary issues have also played their part.
Cynicism could also draw you towards the conclusion that Toure’s merely been keeping his head down to earn a contract either at City or somewhere else equally as lucrative in the summer, but it’s been a mutually beneficial partnership up to now.
In the Premier League, no City midfielder is passing the ball more per game (74.5) and with greater accuracy (90 per cent), while he is second to Fernandinho in terms of total tackles (23). And on Wednesday, Toure’s performance will be crucial if City can sustain their advantage over Monaco as he goes toe-to-toe with a midfield unit significantly younger than his 33-year-old self.
Tiemoue Bakayoko, Fabinho, Bernado Silva and Thomas Lemar weren’t even teenagers when Toure joined Monaco from Olympiakos in 2006 but will be equals on Wednesday night, buzzing around his ageing legs seeking to erase the two-goal deficit.
As potent as Kylian Mbappe, Radamel Falcao and Valere Germain can be, without service they’re influence is significantly reduced. Defensive diligence has never been Yaya’s strong point (just ask Boloni) but he must be exactly that in seeking to neuter one of the competition’s most vibrant and creative midfields.
Without the raw physical power of previous years, he’ll need a calm and composed head to succeed – something Yaya Toure in 2007 didn’t possess but the 2017 model could well.