Why Manchester City’s Yaya Toure could be a perfect fit for Barcelona
There is something strangely fitting about the richest club in the world being undone by cake, as if the spirit of Marie Antoinette herself has been sucked up and spat out into the latest transfer saga that threatens to envelop the Premier League, and thus, our summers.
Just days after Manchester City collected the title with another final-day victory celebration, the club’s talisman Yaya Toure looks as if he could be out of the door due to miscommunication over his birthday, of all things.
The Ivory Coast international’s agent <Dimitry Seluk ripped into Man City’s hierarchy earlier this week for appearing to ignore Toure’s big day when the squad arrived in the United Arab Emirates last week to show off the title, stating: “None of them shook his hand on his birthday. It’s really sick.
“[Toure] got a cake but when it was Roberto Carlos’s birthday, the president of Anzhi gave him a Bugatti,” said Seluk, trying to pass off his best impression of a spoilt five-year-old.
But incredibly, Toure himself backed up his agent on Twitter, saying: “Everything Dimitri said is true. He speaks for me. I will explain after the World Cup.”
And with that, the 31-year-old has left the footballing world with the equivalent of a teaser trailer as he saunters off to Brazil this summer, while the top clubs around the globe sit and wonder whether the marauding midfielder could legitimately be prised from the Etihad.
This episode surely raises doubts over Toure as a stable, long-term investment, but his form last season is enough to convince any side – especially his former club Barcelona – of testing the waters with a bid after the World Cup ends.
Toure finished the 2013/14 campaign with City’s highest Squawka Performance Score of 1380, 53 ahead of his nearest teammate Samir Nasri. The Ivorian scored an incredible 20 Premier League goals from midfield from just 50 shots, achieving a great strike rate and an impressive shot accuracy of 54 percent. These goals were invaluable given Sergio Aguero’s injury concerns and Alvaro Negredo’s loss of form, and led City to the title.
While Toure showed strength and timing to score from inside the box, he also marked himself out as a dead-ball specialist last season, netting four from range in the league and more in other competitions; interested clubs will no doubt agree that a box-to-box midfielder who can also hit free kicks is a valuable asset.
While the midfielder’s goal output is tempting enough for potential investors, teamwork and creativity are fearsome weapons he also possesses. Toure created 40 chances for his teammates in the league, notching nine assists as a result, while his passing accuracy of 90% is world-class.
With 64.9% of those passes going forwards, Toure is a player who can reliably instigate attacking phases of play and keep possession when the pressure is on to keep a narrow lead.
What’s more, the 31-year-old’s strength on the ball at pace is unrivalled in England at this time, with Toure having completed 75% of his 56 take-ons to bully sides into submission from the middle. The way he tore Aston Villa apart during the last minute of a 4-0 drubbing in the season’s penultimate game highlighted all of his qualities, and it would be no surprise if the Camp Nou hierarchy were taking note.
Where Toure has flattered to deceive in the past has been, funnily enough, in his physical battles. He only completed 33% of his 112 attempted tackles last season, and for a man that stands at 1.89m and 90kg, 29 of 65 headed duels is not an impressive statistic. With just 24 fouls won and 38 given away as well, Toure can come to look like a sullen child on the pitch who isn’t getting his way – no surprise given the ‘Cakegate’ saga that is unfolding.
The imposing midfielder’s performances in the Champions League, too, leave much to be desired: just one goal and no assists from seven appearances is a marked contrast from his all-action Premier League displays, leading to accusations that in the peak years of his career, he is still failing to dominate on the grandest of occasions.
Still, the potential benefits of a move for Toure would surely outweigh the negatives for Barcelona should new coach Luis Enrique decide to return the Ivorian to the city that is “another home” for him, according to Seluk.
Los Blaugranas are not the all-encompassing force they once were under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, with tactical misdirection under the outgoing Tata Martino combined with a transitional phase for much of the squad having culminated in a disappointing season, the ultimate nadir coming at ceding the title at home to Nou Camp visitors Atletico Madrid on the final day of the season.
Despite his impressive returns since rejoining the club from Arsenal, Cesc Fabregas is relatively unloved at the club, and the word is that Barca are open to bids for the former Gunners captain. Despite recording a Performance Score of 1097 last term – behind only Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi – the playmaker could well move back to England, and a hole would open up on both Barca’s finance sheet and their roster for Toure.
While Xavi and Iniesta are rightfully regarded as two of the top midfielders in the world, the former only added two assists to his three La Liga goals last season; while Iniesta managed more with seven assists to three strikes, it is clear that Barca need a strong, creative player in midfield as the old guard are phased out.
Despite his age, Toure’s physical condition means he could easily carry on his current role for at least another two years, and then potentially occupy a more withdrawn role deeper in midfield. But for now, his goalscoring prowess would alleviate the burden on Messi’s shoulders: the Argentina captain has struggled at times this season under the weight of expectation of continuous brilliance, and Toure would, ironically, offer the direct threat that Martino so often sought yet failed to tease from the current squad.
Although Seluk’s sweet-talking may simply be a tactic in order to tease Manchester City into one last bumper pay-day for himself and Toure, there remains a very real possibility that the Premier League champions may lose their most important player this summer.
Toure’s latest comments obviously do little in the eyes of City fans so soon after another dramatic title win, but it is clear the Ivorian is already thinking about the future.
It would be no surprise if Toure finds himself back in a familiar strip in Catalonia for next season; Barca had better make sure that they bake him one hell of welcome home cake, though.