How Can Manchester City Repeat Their Title Efforts? Fix Their Yaya Problem Now

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How Can Manchester City Repeat Their Title Efforts? Fix Their Yaya Problem Now
Jon Super/Associated Press
You'd think he'd look happier, right?

Manchester City must either placate Yaya Toure or sell him. There is no future in the in-between.

City will defend their second Premier League title in three years in 2014-15. They hope to build on last season's unprecedented Champions League success by actually advancing beyond the first knockout round. And another stray piece of silver (an FA Cup, another League Cup) would be welcome.

Achieving such goals will depend as much on maintaining City's present level of excellence as it will on acquiring more talent, particularly for a squad with Financial Fair Play restraints to consider.

Yes, City can still afford to add a Fernando here and perhaps a Bruno Zuculini there, but the days of the £100 million summer transfer window are, for now, probably in the past.

That means City must wring all they can from the high-priced talent already on the roster. The talent does not get much more high-priced than Toure.

Toure's current contract has him in sky blue through the spring of 2017 with wages that could range as high as £240,000 per week, per Mark Ogden of the Telegraph. That kind of scratch would be plenty to satisfy most people, especially if that pay came for playing with a championship side like City.

But seemingly from the moment Vincent Kompany lifted the Premier League trophy in May, Toure has been a squeaky door hinge in need of grease.

Jon Super/Associated Press
Toure is generally worth the headaches because he is a uniquely gifted player.

First came the birthday fiasco, where Toure complained through his agent that City failed to properly observe the big Ivorian's 31st.

“He got a cake but when it was Roberto Carlos’s birthday, the president of Anzhi gave him a Bugatti,” said Toure's agent, Dmitry Seluk, according to Chris Bevan of BBC Sport (per a Guardian report). “I don’t expect City to present Yaya with a Bugatti, we only asked that they shook his hand and said: ‘We congratulate you.’"

More recently, Toure leveled a much more serious grievance against his employer, alleging that City denied him compassionate leave to be with his ill brother Ibrahim in May. Ibrahim Toure recently succumbed to cancer.

"Toure claims City would not allow him to miss the club's prestigious end-of-season trip to Abu Dhabi last month to help nurse his younger brother," wrote David Anderson for the Mirror.

Anderson subsequently reported that City brass denied those claims, and in fact "have been supporting Yaya and his older brother and former City defender Kolo for the past few months, offering extensive pastoral care to them and the rest of the family."

Unfortunately for City, whether they are right or wrong about their dealings with their star midfielder, it sort of does not matter. If Toure really feels that City mistreated him while his brother was dying, defensive words probably will not do much to heal the player's relationship with the club.

It is impossible to view these issues in a vacuum, either. Toure has often hinted at wanting to return to Barcelona to finish his career, as he did in May per a Jack Gaughan report in the Daily Mail.

Jon Super/Associated Press
Players past age 30 do not generally get healthier.

Connecting the dots, Toure is an absurdly expensive player playing for a club with FFP-related budgetary concerns. He does not seem all that happy to be a City player these days and has even named a preferred future destination.

The time to figure out what to do with Toure is now.

Preferably, City would fix their relationship with Toure as soon as possible. He is only 31 and was the third-leading scorer in the Premier League last season. He probably cannot play at this level for three more seasons, but he projects to be great in 2014-15 at a minimum.

If Toure is really unhappy, though, City must sell him.

Where will Yaya Toure be playing at the start of the 2014-15 season?

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City could pry significant money from Barcelona or any number of other clubs for Toure's services—and they could easily move him out of the Premier League in so doing.

Toure would be difficult to replace, yes, but the tens of millions of pounds they would receive in selling him can buy younger talent.

So City can repair the relationship with Toure now, or they can move him and spend at least some of what he sells for on a replacement.

What City cannot do is start a new season with redundant negative messages coming from arguably their best player.

Let that continue to be Liverpool's problem.

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