Wembley hero, driving force, champion - Yaya Toure's best moments at Manchester City
Yaya Toure will leave Manchester City at the end of this season as one of the defining players of a trophy-laden era at the Etihad Stadium.
The Ivory Coast midfielder's £24million move from Barcelona in 2010 raised many eyebrows but he quickly proved a pivotal figure in Roberto Mancini's side, inspiring City to the FA Cup and Premier League title in consecutive seasons.
Toure reached levels rarely seen from a midfielder in the Premier League era during Manuel Pellegrini's first season at the helm in 2013-14, securing his legacy as a City great.
Even though he has proved a more marginal presence under his old Barca boss Pep Guardiola, particularly en route to a third top-flight title in City colours this season, there can be little doubt over the 34-year-old's status at the club.
"Yaya Toure came here at the start of this idea of the club and what we are in this moment is because of what this guy has done," Guardiola told reporters when confirming his departure on Friday.
Here, we look at some midfield powerhouse's finest moments.
150 - Yaya Toure is one of only four players to have featured on the winning side in 150+ games for Manchester City in the @premierleague , alongside David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart. Uncle. pic.twitter.com/16LtTe4WzO— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 4, 2018
Mancini's decision to deploy Toure as a marauding attacking midfielder was initially mocked given he predominantly operated in a holding role for Barcelona but it proved a masterstroke as defences were scattered by those trademark driving runs. Timely goals were also a factor, never more so than on two unforgettable Wembley outings towards the end of the 2010-11 season. Toure sunk rivals Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup semi-final before he lashed in a left-footed strike to dispatch Stoke City by the same scoreline and secure City's first major trophy for 35 years.
Premier League champion
Sergio Aguero's arrival meant a switch to 4-4-2 as City stormed out of the blocks in 2011-12, Toure dropping back alongside Gareth Barry to control games with his exquisite passing range. Unleashing the big man became Mancini's "plan B" during the closing weeks of a tense Premier League tussle with United and it worked like a charm in the penultimate round at Newcastle United. With the game locked at 0-0, Nigel de Jong was introduced and Toure roamed free. He exchanged passes with Aguero to dispatch a precise finish from 25 yards and added a late second to put City on the brink with a 2-0 triumph.
City's driving force
Aguero's feat of improbable final-day escapology meant it was his goal and not Toure's the weekend before that remained as the indelible image of City's first league title for 44 years. But when they repeated the feat under Pellegrini in 2013-14, there was no doubt over the main man. Freed up by the tenacious, relentless Fernandinho alongside him, Toure set about dominating opponents, entire games and the division at large.
He scored 20 goals and supplied nine assists in 35 top-flight appearances, including strikes in each Manchester derby victory and four precise direct free-kicks from seven attempts. On the day Steven Gerrard infamously slipped up against Chelsea to hand City the title initiative, Toure scored a rampaging solo goal in a crucial win at Crystal Palace. Another to round off a 4-0 thumping of Aston Villa brought the house down at the Etihad and demonstrated an unstoppable force in full flight.
Wembley hero (again)
Before bringing his best form to bear down the closing stretch of that title race, Wembley beckoned once more in 2014. City were abject in the first half of the EFL Cup final against Sunderland and trailed to a Fabio Borini goal. They were little better after the break until Toure whipped an incredible 35-yarder into the top corner. Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas completed a 3-1 win. Two years later at the same ground, Liverpool took City's bid to regain the cup to a penalty shoot-out. It was little surprise to see Toure stroking home the decisive spot-kick.
In from the cold with Guardiola
Toure's race appeared to be run at City as his reunion with Guardiola got off to a rocky start. Deemed to be out of shape when the team returned for pre-season, the Ivorian was frozen out – a state of affairs prolonged by a public spat between Guardiola and Toure's outspoken agent Dimitri Seluk. His return back at Selhurst Park against Palace in November 2016 came as a surprise but the lay-off had done nothing to temper the City hero's sense of occasion. He opened the scoring and snaffled a late winner in a 2-1 victory before a jubilant travelling support. It was a timely reminder of better days and paved the way for the fittingly celebratory farewell he will enjoy against Brighton and Hove Albion next week.