There are few things better in football than watching Yaya Toure in full flow. The human steam train is almost unstoppable when he bursts forward from midfield and he possesses an enviable combination of grace, power, speed and composure. Though his performances for the Ivory Coast have come under scrutiny, there is little doubt that he is one of the greatest players ever to have emerged from African football.
A graduate of the Mimosas youth team in the Ivory Coast, Toure joined Belgian side Beveren before moving to Metalurg Donetsk, Olympiakos, Monaco, and then Barca.
His versatility should not be underestimated. That he can play effectively in defence is well known after his performance in the 2009 Champions League final against Manchester United, but he also operated as an attacking midfielder for Monaco.
One of the less celebrated members of Barcelona’s all-conquering 2009 side, Yaya Toure was the defensive midfield lynchpin and played a key role in their success.
Yet despite his impressive performances at Camp Nou, he struggled for first-team football in the 2009-10 season following the emergence of Sergio Busquets and, at the end of the campaign, he made a big-money move to the Premier League with Manchester City where he was reunited with his brother, Kolo.
The two were almost reunited at Arsenal in 2003 when Yaya Toure played a preseason friendly for the Gunners against Beveren. However, work permit issues prevented the player from permanently joining Arsene Wenger’s side — a decision which has forever haunted and frustrated the Arsenal coach.
In fact, Toure’s impact on English football over the past four seasons has been nothing short of devastating. The midfield powerhouse immediately endeared himself to the Etihad faithful by scoring the only goal in Manchester City’s FA Cup triumph in 2011 — their first major trophy in 35 years. Toure’s efforts did not go unnoticed as he was named the African Player of the Year for the first of three consecutive seasons.
It would prove to be a sign of things to come as the Premier League big spenders secured their first top flight title for 44 years just one season later — with Toure netting both goals in a 2-0 win at Newcastle in the penultimate fixture to take City above Manchester United.
Though the 2012-13 season proved to be a rare trophyless campaign for Toure, he produced arguably the best form of his career a season later — as his 20 league goals propelled Manchester City back to the perch of English football, where they beat Liverpool to the title. Toure has been heralded as one of the finest midfielders ever to grace the Premier League and he narrowly missed out on being named the PFA Player of the Year.
At international level, Toure has earned over 80 caps for Ivory Coast but he has not been able to motivate this golden generation of Elephants to international success, missing out on the Africa Cup of Nations on five occasions and going out at the group stage — albeit in difficult groups — at the 2006 and 2010 World Cup.
At 31 years of age, the 2014 World Cup could represent Yaya Toure’s last chance to light up the world stage and join the likes of Roger Milla, Jay-Jay Okocha and George Weah in African folklore. If he can transfer his club form into the famous orange shirt — in a favourable group containing the likes of Colombia, Greece and Japan — then he could well inspire Ivory Coast into the knockout stages for the first time in their history.
Strengths: He combines strength, poise on the ball and skill. He may be known as a defensive midfielder but he is no slouch when it comes to going on the offensive.
Weaknesses: Considering his lofty stature, Toure is not as impressive in the air as might be expected.
Career High: Treble triumph with Barcelona in 2009 — collecting winners’ medals for the Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey.
Career Low: Being passed up by Arsenal. Yaya wanted to join his brother Kolo at the Gunners, his brother wanted him there, but Arsene Wenger had an initial bid rejected by Olympiakos and never returned with a second offer.
Style: A powerful midfield general with the ball-playing ability necessary to be part of a free-flowing side.
Quotes: “Yaya is one of the best midfielders in the world. He is the complete player. He can defend, attack, score, dribble, he has great skills and he’s so tall and powerful. It is so difficult to defend against him.” Spain midfielder Juan Mata lauds Yaya Toure as the complete midfielder.
Trivia: Yaya and Kolo’s younger brother Ibrahim also plays professional football, as a striker for Smouha Sporting Club in Egypt, though he has never been capped by Ivory Coast.
Credit – www.espnfc.com