Pep Guardiola has confirmed Yaya Toure will leave Manchester City at the end of the season after eight eventful years at the Etihad Stadium. There have been tantrums as well as trophies, but how will the Ivorian be remembered?
There has been no let up from Manchester City since they clinched the title earlier this month. Their thumping victories over Swansea and West Ham have put them on the brink Premier League records for goals scored and points won. The big prize is already theirs but Pep Guardiola's side are relentless in their pursuit of history.
Pep confirms Toure's City exit
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has confirmed Yaya Toure will leave the club over the summer
The last two games have provided much to enjoy. Kevin De Bruyne's stunning strike against Swansea was a highlight and so too was Benjamin Mendy's long-awaited return from injury, but what of Yaya Toure's cameos from the bench? The 34-year-old, a peripheral figure in what's now known to be his final season at City, has offered reminders of his class.
Toure's physical powers are diminished, the barn-storming runs through midfield a thing of the past, but the talent is still there. Against Swansea, it was his vision and delivery which allowed Gabriel Jesus to head home City's fifth goal. In just 19 minutes on the pitch against West Ham, he made more passes than any of his opponents managed in the full 90.
It comes after what has been a frustrating season overall. Toure has secured a Premier League winners' medal - the third of his career - having featured in nine games over the course of the campaign, but those appearances amount to just 142 minutes in total. His only starts have come for City's second-string in low-stakes cup games.
It's not what was expected when he signed a new one-year contract at the end of last season. Toure had come in from the cold to become a key figure for Guardiola, finishing the campaign with five goals in 22 Premier League starts. Director of football Txiki Begiristain insisted he still had a "vital part to play" when his new deal was confirmed in June.
Instead, he has been something of a bystander in City's success. Off-the-ball intensity has never been his strong point, and Guardiola has implied on more than one occasion that he wasn't working hard enough to merit more playing time. He said he "wanted more" from him in September, adding: "It depends on him," when he was quizzed again on the subject in February.
It is not the first time Toure's temperament and work-rate have been questioned. Off the pitch, there have been strops over individual awards and birthday cakes. On it, his languid style has split opinions. In the second half of his eight-year stay in England, top sides were able to expose a lack of defensive discipline.
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His recent involvement suggests he could yet finish on a high, however, and looking at his City career as a whole, you would be hard-pushed to argue that he doesn't deserve it. Vincent Kompany is City's longest-serving player, but in the period between 2010 and 2014 during which the club became established as a domestic force, no one was more influential than Toure.
The Ivorian started all but three Premier League games in his opening season at City having fallen out of favour with Guardiola at Barcelona, but it was in the FA Cup that he made his most important contributions. With his goals against Manchester United in the semis and Stoke in the final, Toure clinched City's first trophy since the 1976 League Cup.
The infamous '35 Years' banner hanging at Old Trafford came down and City's FA Cup triumph became a turning point. Sergio Aguero's goal against QPR would prove to be the defining moment of their historic 2011/12 Premier League title success, but it wouldn't have counted for much if it wasn't for Toure's late double away to Newcastle a week earlier.
Toure put his stamp on City's 2013/14 success too, scoring 20 Premier League goals and providing nine assists from midfield, with only Liverpool's Luis Suarez posting a higher combined total. Toure's extraordinary campaign also included a stunning long-range equaliser against Sunderland during City's League Cup final win at Wembley.
City had gone from no trophies in 34 seasons to four in four under their new owners, and out on the pitch, Toure was the inspiration. At his best, he was unplayable, a force of nature capable of winning games on his own, either by bursting through the lines with the ball at his feet or by finding the top corner from 25 yards out, but consistency began to elude him as he moved further into his 30s.
There were still moments to savour, not least the winning penalty in City's League Cup final shootout win over Liverpool in 2016, but an overall drop in his performance levels highlighted not only that he had passed his peak, but also the extent to which City had come to depend on him in the years before. Toure was, in that sense, a victim of his own high standards.
His relationship with Guardiola has been fraught at times and he has not always been the easiest of characters, but that will all fade away when he is gone. Toure will be remembered for the trophies and the match-winning moments. Recent evidence suggests there might even be a few more reminders of his class in the weeks ahead.
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