Why Keeping Yaya Toure Was So Vital for Manchester City

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Why Keeping Yaya Toure Was So Vital for Manchester City
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At times this summer, it looked like Yaya Toure’s prosperous relationship with Manchester City would be coming to an end.

The Ivory Coast international’s agent, Dimitri Seluk, indicated that the midfielder’s time at the club could be concluding due to a perceived lack of respect on the part of the club’s owners.

Initially, Toure denied the rumours, writing on Twitter, via BBC Sport: "Don't take words that do not come from my mouth seriously." 

Later, however, he was to tacitly support Seluk’s comments, noting, on social media, again via BBC Sport: "Everything Dimitri said is true. He speaks for me. I will explain after the World Cup." 

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Finally, however, in July, the Ivorian completed a U-turn, instead revealing that he never had any intention of leaving City and was committed to the club.

As reported by Chris Wheeler of The Daily Mail, Toure said:

It was not a case of me wanting to leave the club. I stayed quiet and at the end of the day it’s my decision. I will stay at Manchester City for as long as possible.

The matter is closed now. The most important thing was to try to focus again. Now I’m very happy to join the team and the manager. Everyone is very positive.

This year is going to be fantastic. We’ve got some fantastic players coming in and important players are staying. If you want to be the best you need to win every trophy possible, and the Champions League is a target this year.

We know we are the team to beat. This year will be amazing because I’m expecting something – I’m expecting trophies this year.

Manuel Pellegrini, for his part, dismissed suggestions that there was any body to the rumours of disenchantment between player and club.

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

As reported by Alex Richards of The Daily Mirror

There were a lot of different reports about a lot of things but Yaya doesn't have any problems.

He works normally here, he wants to stay here, he is very happy here.

With most things that everyone talked about during the summer, I never heard Yaya talking about them - other people yes, but not Yaya.

So Yaya remains, and the Citizens can begin to look forward to another campaign with the Ivorian powerhouse in the heart of their midfield. Toure’s sustained presence in the side will ensure that the club are once again among the EPL’s principal contenders.

But why is the midfielder so important for City?

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

A quote from Samir Nasri, as reported by the Telegraph, introduces Toure's recent impact at the club:

He's been amazing. He is the best midfielder in the Premier League, top three in the world.

You could see how important he is the way he came back [from injury] at Palace – one assist, one goal.

I'm biased because he's my good friend, but he has everything – power, technique and he even scores free-kicks now.

It's hard to compare players through different times, but surely he's one of the best since the Premier League began. You can put him in that bracket. 

This is a convenient starting point for our discussion.

Last season the Ivorian bagged 20 goals; only one fewer than Daniel Sturridge and third overall in the top flight.

There was no other midfielder in the division’s top-10 goal-scorers, and indeed, the last time a central midfielder broke the 20-goal mark was Frank Lampard back in 2010.

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Putting Toure’s achievement into context, his campaign last term and Lampard’s in 2010 are the only two occasions in the history of the EPL when a central attacking midfielder has scored twenty goals or more.

And yet, City fans will assure you, Toure is no one-hit wonder. He scored 28 goals in all competitions for the Citizens in his first three campaigns.

Last year’s 24-goal haul indicates that there is more to come, despite being 31.

Intriguingly, last season revealed a fine efficiency to Toure’s shooting.

Impressively, of the Premier League’s top-20 goal-scorers last season, no one managed fewer shots per goal than Toure. For every 1.8 strikes, the West African found the net.

Former City player Patrick Vieira summed up what Toure’s goal-scoring contributions from midfield mean for the club, via The Telegraph:

He has absolutely everything. Who else is there who has his strength, his technique and his ability to score goals?

The last player I remember with the ability to score more than 20 goals from midfield was Paul Scholes. He is the complete footballer. The perfect No 6 that every club in Europe is looking for.

As an all-round midfield player, I don't see anyone in the world who is as good as Yaya and the frightening thing is that I think he can become even better.

I honestly don't think he realises quite how good he is and how important he is to the team.

Indeed, the Ivorian brings so much more to Manchester City than goals.

Last season he contributed nine assists, placing him joint-fifth in the Premier League hierarchy. He achieved this even though Kun Aguero, the club’s best striker, made only 20 EPL starts (15 less than Toure).

Beyond offering efficiency in the final third, both as a creator and a finisher, Toure also influences the action deeper in the midfield. Watching the former Barcelona man power through the middle of the park with the ball at his feet is a joy to behold, but he is also the conduit through which most of City’s play goes.

No player in the Premier League managed a better pass-per-game ratio than Toure last season. The midfielder averaged 71.5 passes per game.

There wasn’t just quantity, but there was quality and precision, as well. The Ivorian completed 90.1 percent of his attempted passes, putting him firmly in the league’s top 15.

These are the tangible contributions, but there are also the intangibles.

Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News reported back in May that Manuel Pellegrini is targeting the Champions League this season. 

In recent seasons, the Citizens have struggled in Europe both due to their low coefficient ranking and their lack of Champions League experience. Should City finally make the latter stages of the tournament this season, then Toure’s experience will be invaluable.

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

Beyond his recent showings in the tournament with the Premier League side over the last two seasons, the Ivorian also has extensive Champions League experience with Barcelona.

Toure actually won the tournament with Barcelona in 2009, featuring against Manchester United in the final.

Martin Demichelis was a runner-up with Bayern Munich in 2010, while Gael Clichy suffered a similar fate as an unused substitute with Arsenal in 2006. Frank Lampard, victorious with Chelsea in 2012, is the only other squad player to have won Europe’s premier club competition, and he will have returned to New York by the time the business end of the tournament rolls around in 2015.

City may be a squad packed with former league winners (in England and elsewhere), but very few can boast of Toure’s elite-end experience.

Not only does the Ivorian contribute nous, he also has a winner’s mentality.

City’s squad are a decorated bunch, but few can compete with Toure’s six league titles, six domestic cups and three continental/international crowns. Here is a player who is a three-time African footballer of the Year and has twice featured in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Toure has an aura, developed over time, that can distinguish great players from good ones. He is a match winner and, ever since his priceless contribution to City’s 2012 title win away at St. James’ Park, has made a habit of rising to the occasion when his teammates need him most.

On that day, Toure’s two goals in the last 20 minutes secured a huge point for the visitors and pushed them closer to their first title for 50 years.

City, despite their riches, in light of their underwhelming summer in the transfer market, could have ill afforded to have lost such a valuable player and one so integral to their style, identity and play.

 

All Stats via WhoScored.com

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