LONDON (Reuters) - Yaya Toure demonstrated that it is never too late to say sorry as he made such a triumphant return to the Manchester City fold on Saturday which made his manager Pep Guardiola feel as if he had almost signed a brand new player.
Toure, left out of the team for three months in an unseemly stand-off between him, Guardiola and the player's agent Dimitri Seluk, was welcomed back from exile and celebrated his shock recall with both goals in City's 2-1 win at Crystal Palace.
It was an emotional return for the Ivorian, a huge favourite with City fans, as he was applauded back into the dressing room by his team mates after scoring the winner in the 83rd minute.
"They have always been brilliant with me, always supportive. I always want to be there to help them. I am professional, I always want to improve my game," Toure told the BBC after making his first Premier League start since April.
"I was prepared mentally and I knew that one day my manager would need me. You must always stay professional."
Toure's return was a reward for his magnanimity in making a public apology to Guardiola after the Spaniard had explained he would not be considered for selection until Seluk had said sorry for comments about Toure being "humiliated" by the club.
Even though his agent refused to oblige, Toure apologised fully at the start of the month for "misunderstandings of the past" and his committed attitude in training to be in his best shape was evidently enough for Guardiola to recall him.
It was a luxury, enabling Guardiola to rest midfielder Ilkay Gundogan ahead of the key Champions League match against Borussia Moenchengladbach.
But the Spaniard was left thrilled with the contribution of the player he also once coached at Barcelona.
"We have a new player now," he beamed after watching Toure's team mates give him a hero's reception. "It's a gift to have another player to compete (for a place).
"He's part of the history of this club. He's a huge personality and his team mates appreciate him a lot."
While City went to the top of the table alongside leaders Liverpool on 27 points, the joy was tempered by another injury to captain Vincent Kompany who made his first Premier League start for seven months.
He lasted just 37 minutes before having to be taken off following a collision with his own goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
(Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Ed Osmond)