Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure is enjoying a tremendous campaign but believes he doesn't get the proper credit because he's from Africa. He thinks it's a long-standing problem that also impacted the likes of Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o.
Leon Mann of BBC Sport passed along the remarks from Toure. He was asked about the issue acknowledging African players after City teammate Samir Nasri stated he would be viewed among the best players in the world if he came from another region.
I think what Samir was saying was definitely true.
To be honest, proper recognition has only come from the fans. I don't want to be hard and I don't want to be negative, but I want to be honest.
Toure went on to talk about how people around the world know Lionel Messi and would be able to identify him. He doesn't believe the same is true for him or other African stars, even in Europe, despite his success over the years:
If you go to any part of Africa now, people will say, 'yes, we know him [Messi]', but when you come to Europe and say 'Yaya Toure' people will say, 'who is that?' Some will say they know my name but not know my face. But they will know Messi's face.
Mann later noted he asked Toure about the subject of where he stands on the world stage, providing a little more context to his remarks:
For greater context on Yaya Toure comments, I asked him if he felt he was seen as being up there with Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Ribery etc...— Leon Mann (@Leon_Mann) April 18, 2014
The comments also circle back around to the original statements from Nasri in early March. He said Toure should be widely viewed as one of the top three midfielders in the world but that isn't the case because he hails from the Ivory Coast.
Luke Edwards of The Telegraph provided Nasri's take:
If he wasn't African everyone will say he's the best midfielder in the world.
He can do everything, he can score goals, he can defend, he can attack.
When he gets the ball he is so powerful. You should just admire the way he plays because he's a great player.
I might be a bit biased because he's my friend, but for me he's in the top three midfielders in the world.
At the very least, it's an interesting topic of discussion. There's no doubt Toure is having the most complete season of his career with 22 goals across all competitions while also continuing to provide strong defensive support.
How big of a factor is Toure being from Africa when it comes to how he's viewed?
He should be rewarded for that effort with some awards following the season, including potentially the the Professional Footballers' Association's Player of the Year honor. It will be difficult to overcome Liverpool striker Luis Suarez, however, given his goal-scoring bonanza.
The question should his success not get recognized in any manner becomes whether his African heritage has anything to do with it. Toure and Nasri clearly believe it's a factor, which is enough to bring the conversation into the mainstream spotlight.
For now, Toure and City have to focus on winning the rest of their Premier League matches and hope Liverpool and Chelsea slip up under the pressure of the title chase.