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.
After a dramatic night at the Cam Nou where Barcelona overturned a 4-0 deficit for the first time in a European second-leg, we look at some of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history.
Were you left joyous or even heartbroken by any of these results?
1. 2017 Champions League quarter-final: Barcelona 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain
Phew, most of us are still catching our breath back after Wednesday night’s quite incredible finish.
Luis Enrique may be departing at the end of the season but who would now bet against him leaving the Nou Camp club on a high and winning the Champions League?
The dramatic nature of three goals in the last seven minutes to secure a 6-5 aggregate victory over Paris Saint-Germain and overturn a 4-0 first-leg deficit was indeed the stuff of dreams.
Like other matches in our top five, it may not have been a final, but the comeback had absolutely everything and deservedly leads the way.
2. 2005 Champions League Final: Liverpool 3-3 AC Milan
The Merseysiders were 3-0 down at half-time in Istanbul and it looked all over – especially given the fact they were facing one of the great club side’s in recent history.
But Liverpool had other ideas.
A fine header from Steven Gerrard in the 54th minute got the ball rolling and when Vladimir Smicer fired in a piledriver from range just two minutes later, the comeback was well and truly on.
Xabi Alonso then levelled the match just a few minutes later, converting the rebound from his missed penalty.
And, after 30 minutes of extra-time, the deciding penalty shootout is famous for one man.
Jerzy Dudek’s wobbly knees clearly knocked Milan’s stars off their stride as he saved spotkicks from Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenkoas the Reds ran out 3-2 winners in the Turkish capital.
3. 1999 Champions League Final: Manchester United 2-1 Bayern Munich
The Red Devils were moments away from losing the final but then produced probably the most dramatic few minutes of injury-time in the history of football.
Teddy Sheringham poked home an equaliser in the 91st minute after a scramble in the penalty box and then, just a minute or so later, his header from a David Beckham corner was diverted into the net by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
It was a spectacular way to cap an epic turnaround for Manchester United and Alex Ferguson’s men lifted the trophy at the Nou Camp.
4. 2004 Champions League quarter-final: Deportivo 4-0 AC Milan
The most unlikely of turnarounds as Milan looked home and hosed with a 4-1 advantage from the San Siro.
Yet, Depor advanced with a 4-0 hammering courtesy of goals from Walter Pandiani, Juan Carlos Valeron, Alberto Luque and Fran.
5. 2012 Champions League round of 16: Chelsea 4-1 Napoli
The Blues’ 3-1 defeat in Naples had cost Andre Villas-Boas but back at Stamford Bridge, Didier Drogba, John Terry and Frank Lampard sent the game into extra-time – with Gokhan Inler making it 3-1 – before Branislav Ivanovic secured a 4-1 win.
What made this comeback more special was the fact Chelsea went on to win the trophy that season.
If you were expecting a stunning comeback story from Arsenal that would reassure fans of Arsene Wenger’s leadership, Tuesday night would’ve come as something of a disappointment.
Bayern Munich condemned Wenger and his troops to more humiliation as 10-man Arsenal were eliminated from the Champions League with a crushing 5-1 defeat amid furious protests against the beleaguered Gunners boss.
It was the first time Arsenal had conceded five at the Emirates and by the closing stages, there was a funereal atmosphere on an evening that started with Arsenal fans staging a protest march calling for Wenger to quit and ended with a chorus of boos and banners held up proclaiming: “Enough is enough – Wenger out”.
It was yet another chastening experience in the Champions League for Wenger, who has now seen Arsenal eliminated in the last 16 for seven successive seasons.
Having lost 10-2 on aggregate, Arsenal registered the second biggest margin of defeat in the Champions League.
Here’s a look at the top five highest aggregate defeats in the European competition.
Real Madrid 9-2 Schalke 04 | 2013-14 | Round of 16
A hat-trick of doubles then. Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale all bagged braces when Real Madrid visited Schalke in the Champions League three years ago.
An emphatic 6-1 win over the hosts was a stunning result for Los Blancos who went on to win the tournament. A 3-1 victory in the second leg then sealed a memorable 9-2 win on aggregate.
Bayern Munich 10-2 Arsenal | 2016-17 | Round of 16
Bayern repeated their 5-1 first-leg win in Tuesday’s second leg to condemn Arsenal to their heaviest defeat at the Emirates Stadium since they moved from Highbury in 2006.
Arturo Vidal scored a brace in the second leg but the tie was already dead and buried in the first when Thiago Alcantara registered a double at the Allianz Arena.
Barcelona 10-2 Bayer Leverkusen | 2011-12 | Round of 16
Yes, you guessed it. Lionel Messi had more than a little to do with this demolition story. The Argentine was on fire over the two legs. After a relatively modest 3-1 victory in Germany, he turned up the heat in the return leg, even setting a Champions League record.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner scored – fittingly – five times as Barcelona trashed Bayer Leverkusen 7-1 at the Camp Nou.
Lyon 10-2 Werder Bremen | 2004-05 | Round of 16
Werder Bremen were the German champions at the time but apparently, no one told Lyon that. Following a 3-0 win in the away leg, the French outfit ran riot back home and won 7-2.
Sylvain Wiltord bagged a hat-trick to put the Germans to the sword.
Bayern Munich 12-1 Sporting Lisbon | 2008-09 | Round of 16
If there was any danger of Sporting Lisbon being rather pleased with their standing Portuguese football and growing complacent, Bayern Munich took care of that with a good old fashioned spanking.
As if a 5-0 victory in the first leg wasn’t enough, Munich went on a rout that finished 7-1 in the return leg.
The massive 11-goal margin remains the highest winning aggregate in Champions League history.