This summer, perhaps more so than ever, the world’s biggest and richest teams will be in the market for a player who can influence and alter the complexion of football’s elite matches and major contests. Few such players exist and with more teams scrabbling around to secure such elusive talents, the value of such stars naturally increases.
Manchester City’s Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure is one such player.
The question presented in the title of this article is largely hypothetical; to whom would City sell one of their prized assets? However, this piece celebrates the former Barcelona man’s talents and also imagines who would pay what to acquire his talents.
The list of potential suitors would surely be long, but would be tempered by the fiscal realities of trying to secure a player who is under contract, at one of the world’s wealthiest clubs, until 2017.
Who would be interested in him and who could buy him?
Despite his recent sparring matches with Jose Mourinho, Chelsea could be a feasible destination. The Portuguese manager has long been a fan of powerful, versatile midfielders and could see in Toure some of the energy and poise that was lost in Michael Essien following the Ghanaian’s numerous crippling injuries.
Similarly, Mourinho has never been adverse to doing deals, buying or selling, with his closest rivals in order to gain an advantage in the league table. The likes of Scott Parker and Juan Mata have arrived at or departed Chelsea to nominal rivals in moves that Mourinho has viewed as addition by subtraction, or vice versa.
A move to Manchester United might, in principle, seem unlikely, due to the fierce rivalry between the city’s two clubs. However, the Red Devils have a pot of money to spend and, as has been well-documented, require great reinforcement in central midfield. David Moyes is also a manager, perhaps more so than any other in the Premier League, who requires a statement, signature signing to prove a point to a meandering fanbase and twittering critics.
For a moment it appeared as though Juan Mata would be that recruit, but the Spaniard arrived at Old Trafford having been largely discarded at Stamford Bridge and has wholly struggled to rise above the mediocrity endemic under Moyes.
In Italy, both Milan and Juventus have, in recent windows, turned to Manchester City to purchase disaffected players who have been outgrown by the Citizens’ growing eminence.
Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli both had their day at Eastlands, and each, like Toure, made unforgettable contributions, but as the club sought younger, less controversial options, both were discarded. Each have found, for a time at least in Balotelli’s case, a certain lustre in Serie A, and this is a path that may well appeal to Toure should he decide to seek a future away from the Etihad Stadium.
Toure left Barcelona after being squeezed out both for stylistic reasons and due to the emergence of Sergio Busquets.
A return to the Nou Camp may well seem unlikely, but Barca are a different animal these days. They are no longer the all-conquering beast they were during the Guardiola Years (a fact that Pellegrini seemed largely unaware of during his cautious Champions League display against the Catalans) and will surely be further weakened by the imminent departures of Victor Valdes and Carles Puyol this summer.
Toure has the force of personality and the strength of character to help a club in transition, as Barcelona will soon be (if they are not already). He has proved himself to be a player who understands the club and enjoyed the greatest successes of his career in Catalonia—two La Liga titles, the Champions League title, a UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Ahead of the Champions League battle between City and Barca, Toure spoke fondly of his former club (via TotalBarca): “It’s difficult because I don’t really want to play Barcelona. It’s a club I have a lot of respect for, a club which taught me a lot and where I have many friends who helped me.”
A more intriguing option may come in the form of Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain, the pair of French clubs that have altered the landscape of European football and injected Ligue 1 with the starpower it was previously lacking.
The money and the glamour of Paris Saint-Germain and the backing and favourable tax conditions of Monaco have made both clubs genuine players among the elite circles of the European game. PSG are already legitimate contenders for the Champions League, while Monaco, at an earlier stage of their development, have already attracted some world-class players—they should only get better and better.
The presence of these two increases the potential value of a possible transfer move for Yaya Toure. As PSG proved in their pursuit of Lucas Moura, and as Monaco did in their relentless quest for Radamel Falcao’s signature, the pair are prepared to exceed the spending capabilities of some of Europe’s traditional giants in order to acquire their targets.
Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with a number of central midfielders, including the likes of Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Alex Song—despite the January addition of Yohan Cabaye, this appears to be an area they are keen to improve. Toure, therefore, would be the kind of addition that could contribute both experience and ability—he has the kind of profile that would appeal to the Parisian backers and would help further increase the club’s legitimacy.
Toure, as reported by Sky Sports in January, has already admitted that he would be interested by the prospect of turning out for the Parisians.
Monaco do not yet have the same kind of infrastructure as Paris, but as the former employers of Toure, they may hold some emotional value in the player’s eyes.
In terms of putting a value on Toure, the potential buyers and the potential demand that exists for a player, as explored above, is obviously the key factor.
His recent form has only reminded the world of what an extraordinarily complete and well-rounded player he is. The value of goals from midfield cannot be overstated, and Toure has already bagged six since the turn of the year.
Beyond this, he has also claimed three Man of the Match awards and provided an assist for four further goals.
He remains a player for the big occasion, as was evidenced in his stunning, game-changing goal against Sunderland in Manchester City’s League Cup Final triumph at Wembley. The Citizens may have come unstuck against Barcelona, but for long portions of the first leg, while the sides were still level, he demonstrated his defensive proficiencies by protecting the defensive pairing of Martin Demichelis and Vincent Kompany and helping the Sky Blues retain their shape and their resolve.
The only mitigating factor against Toure and an astronomical transfer fee is his age. The midfielder will turn 31 this May and while, to date, he has shown little sign of slowing down, time waits for no man.
Before too long, the years may begin to creep up on the three-time African Footballer of the Year.
His passing ability, his technique and his creativity are unlikely to be affected, but as Toure slows, he will likely need to adapt to a more static and less of a box-to-box role for his club side. Might this take the edge off his game? Toure will likely struggle to affect games and influence contests at the same level as he does at the moment, but that may not, necessarily, affect his value to some of the clubs, listed above, who require the kind of midfield qualities that few can offer.
If Manchester City ever decide to sell, and if they can instigate a bidding war between any number of the wealthy clubs listed above, then the Citizens can expect a premium fee for one of the world’s true elite midfielders.