Scouting Guide: Rumoured Liverpool Target Kolo Toure

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09:  Kolo Toure of Manchester City in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on December 9, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Liverpool are set to make their initial move in the transfer window according to recent reports, with Manchester City defender Kolo Toure their first target of the summer.

The Ivory Coast central defender is available on a free transfer and is set to join the Reds in July according to the BBC, when his contract at the Etihad Stadium comes to an end. The deal would be seen primarily as an opportunity to replace the retiring Jamie Carragher, who played his 737th and final game of his Liverpool career on Sunday.

Toure is an experienced defender but is also far older than Brendan Rodgers' signings so far, so is this a step up for Liverpool or a break from the norm as a sign of things to come?


Kolo Toure: A Background

At 32 years of age, Toure has been at Manchester City for the past four seasons, with the team winning the FA Cup and the Premier League during his time there. Toure was banned for the 2011 FA Cup final after failing a drugs test earlier that season, but played 14 games the following year to win a league championship medal.

Earlier in his career, Toure played from 2002-2009 at Arsenal, where he won another Premier League title and two further FA Cups.

Though he plays primarily as a central defender, Toure earlier in his career operated as a right-back as well and can fill in as a deep holding midfielder if required.

He has won more than a century of caps in his career, totalling 106 for the Ivory Coast so far and is twice a runner-up at the Africa Cup of Nations. His younger brother, Yaya Toure, of course also plays for Manchester City, while Ibrahim Toure plays in Libya for Al-Nasr.


2012-13 Season

The past season has seen Toure in and out of the side at the Etihad Stadium; he is not an automatic first choice in the centre of defence with Roberto Mancini preferring Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic, but he did play 18 times in all competitions and 15 times in the Premier League this season.

For what is arguably City's fourth-choice defender, it's an indication that the manager was still confident enough to call on him in a variety of situations. Toure finished the season in and around the team, featuring in six of City's last 12 league matches.

He also missed part of January and February while away with his nation on AFCON duty.

Statistically, Toure enjoyed a better campaign than rival and teammate Joleon Lescott and indeed averaged more tackles, interceptions and clearances per game than Jamie Carragher. While this is not to compare the players involved directly, it is an indication that Toure is still an effective defender in his own right.


Toure's Biggest Strengths

Four or five seasons ago, Toure was seen as one of the best central defenders in the Premier League and his move to Manchester City was a big loss for Arsenal. Toure played 31 times in the league in his first season at the Etihad, quickly showing his best form. As City's spending increased though, that was his most prolific campaign for them in terms of matches played.

Toure's assets in his prime included his exceptional pace and acceleration, his strength in ground battles and his ability to bring the ball out of defence. Now, entering the latter stage of his career, he is not as quick of course, but reads the game particularly well and, importantly to Liverpool, is a constant talker in the back line.

With Carragher absent, this is a key area the Reds have to fill.

Toure will order the players in front of him around, offer direction at set pieces and keep the lines of communication between goalkeeper and midfield very much open.

His experience is also important, with the Reds having a young squad, but perhaps most important of all is that Toure is a proven winner.

He has a history of winning major trophies and of managing expectation at big clubs, which is something the club have managed to dispense with from their playing staff over the past three or four years.

While quality and value are of paramount importance, it is also vital that the Reds bring in players with a winning mentality who can push the younger players that bit further, which is needed to compete for major honours.


Limitations or Drawbacks to the Deal

Toure is 32, making him the oldest potential signing of the Brendan Rodgers era so far. He's not going to offer a resale value, he's not going to be a part of the building for three or four years and he's not going to improve technically, tactically or physically from his current point.

A free transfer is all well and good, but Toure is likely on very good wages at Manchester City. He will almost certainly have to take a hefty pay cut to join Liverpool, and even then it might be a high cost, low benefit scenario to consider.

It is probable that the Reds will want to sign another first-choice central defender as well, leaving Toure as a backup option, so getting in an experienced player on a free deal makes sense for Liverpool, considering that is effectively what they are losing with Carragher's retirement.

Toure-plus-one means that Liverpool will have too many central defenders at the club next season considering no continental involvement; that points to exits for Sebastian Coates (almost certainly) and Martin Skrtel (quite possibly).


Good Call by Rodgers?

As a first-choice partner for Daniel Agger in Liverpool's defence, it is likely that Liverpool could do far better than signing Kolo Toure on a free transfer. While he is far from his prime, he's also far from completely washed up and would still offer depth to the squad and a presence in the dressing room.

Arguably the most important aspect might turn out to be the fact that he can offer the guidance and experience that this young team needs, which is that he has been at top clubs battling at the top of the Premier League. Liverpool need players like this to get themselves back there.

The wage bill might take a bit of a hit, though it is likely to be an incentivised contract if any move does materialise, and the capture of a free transfer nice and early in the summer provides emphasis and optimism that Liverpool have already identified their targets and are prepared to go and get them this summer.

Signing a player from a rival Premier League team always provides a bit of a boost too, so while Toure isn't at his peak it is still an indication that as a club, the Reds have plenty to offer players of all types.

This could turn out to be a bit of a steal for Rodgers, even if the Ivorian doesn't make himself an undroppable first-team player.