As the possibility of Yaya Toure exiting Manchester City continues to drag on, the club are thought to be weighing up possible replacements should the Ivorian move elsewhere. It’s a difficult task. Toure is a truly unique player, whose transformation from a holding midfielder into one of the most feared attacking talents in world football has been remarkable.
The man most capable of filling Toure’s boots is Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba. Since his move to the Serie A giants from Manchester United in 2012, Pogba has developed into one the finest young talents in Europe, with his performances for France at this summer’s World Cup only serving to underline his quality.
And according to a report in French newspaper L'Equipe (h/t Charles Reynolds in the Independent), City have set in motion plans to sign Pogba should Toure push for a transfer away from the Etihad. Reynolds suggests Paris-Saint Germain are the most likely destination for Toure, with the big-spending French side one of the few clubs capable of paying his wages.
His future at City is shrouded in doubt after a series of bizarre, often agent-led statements this summer suggesting his relationship with the club has deteriorated.
A week after City secured their second league title in three years, when everyone connected with the club should have been celebrating, Toure and his agent, Dimitri Seluk, began berating the lack of attention paid to the midfielder’s birthday. When a video emerged showing Toure being presented with a cake on a flight to Abu Dhabi, the goalposts were suddenly moved, with Toure telling beIN Sports that a return to Barcelona was an enticing option (via the Daily Mail)
Then Toure, writing in France Football (per the Daily Telegraph) the club weren’t accommodating enough when Toure’s younger brother became ill. Ibrahim Toure passed away during the World Cup, and Yaya was, understandably, distraught, and accused the club of failing to offer him time to spend with his brother as the season drew to a close.
Whether Toure and the club can reconcile their differences remains to be seen, but at 31 and with his stock higher than ever, it would hardly be a disaster if Txiki Begiristain and Manuel Pellegrini decided to sell. Toure may well have been their most effective player last season, scoring 20 goals from midfield, but it’s unlikely he can repeat that again, and the club would get more for him this summer than they ever will do again.
However, City’s transfers this summer are hamstrung by home-grown quota rules and a restriction on net spending after FFP sanctions.
With the imminent arrival of Willy Caballero, which the club announced Tuesday morning, City would only just comply with the home-grown rules laid out by the Premier League which state clubs must name eight home-grown players out of a squad of 25. They would have 17 first-team players not considered home-grown vying for places, with the distinct possibility of a centre-back arriving.
If one of Mehdi Benatia or Eliaquim Mangala, the two who appear the most likely defensive recruits, were to arrive, City would have too many players who fall outside of the home-grown criteria. Many felt the club would sign a home-grown goalkeeper to replace Costel Pantilimon, but with Caballero’s arrival, it now looks like there will be at least one enforced departure during this transfer window.
And with City’s net spend capped at £49 million this summer as a result of their failure to comply with UEFA’s FFP rules, they will need to negotiate the best possible fee for both incoming and outgoing transfers, something that has been far from a problem in the recent past.
It would seem, despite that, the club are considering Pogba, and it’s easy to see why. He is arguably the only other midfielder in the world who possesses the same mix of pace, power and technical brilliance as Toure. The thought of attempting to replace the City man has long been seen as the impossible task, yet Pogba suggests it can be done.
With Pogba expected to cost in excess of £50 million, though, it seems like a deal full of potential difficulties. Selling Alvaro Negredo, who is said to be unhappy in England after his family’s failure to settle according to Adam Crafton of the Daily Mail, is one possible source of income, and much would depend on the fee PSG or any other side interested were prepared to pay for Toure.
One complaint Manchester United fans had during the end of the Alex Ferguson era was the lack of quality in their midfield, with the baffling decision to let Pogba leave after consistently denying him first-team opportunities seen as a real error by the former manager. It’s an error they regret more and more with each passing game Pogba plays in.
If City can do a deal to bring him back to English football and sell the unhappy Toure in the process, it’s one which would make a lot of sense.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.