Yaya Toure discusses Raheem Sterling, racism and possible Premier League return

Toure discusses Southgate's treatment of Sterling, finding a solution to the rise of racism in football and his potential return to the English top flight

Yaya Toure and Raheem Sterling during their time together at Manchester City 1:40
Yaya Toure says Pep Guardiola may be unhappy with the way Gareth Southgate has treated Raheem Sterling following his row with Joe Gomez

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News, former Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure explains why he is unhappy with the treatment of Raheem Sterling and why footballers should walk off the field if they are racially abused.

Toure's continued appetite for the game is unquestionable. Even at 36 years old - having already won 16 major honours with the likes of Man City and Barcelona - he was helping China League One side Qingdao Huanghai earn promotion to the Super League as recently as October.

His focus has now switched to a potential return to England, where his children are based, as player or even a coach.

Sky Sports News sat down with the four-time African Player of the Year to discuss a range of topics surrounding the game.

'Pep can be disappointed with Southgate'

Toure's former Man City team-mate Sterling has been dropped for England's European Qualifier against Montenegro after an altercation with Liverpool's Joe Gomez.

Toure feels Sterling has been harshly treated by Gareth Southgate over the issue and even suggested Pep Guardiola would be disappointed with how the saga has played out.

Raheem Sterling and manager Gareth Southgate after the final whistle in Sofia
Image: Southgate banned Sterling for England's game against Montenegro on Thursday

"I think people are overreacting because in training this can happen. In the game (on Sunday) they were face to face and then straight to the international team," he said.

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"It can happen, me and brother we fight, we argue, we smash each other. The manager should just take him away. It's not good for the player's mentality.

"Raheem is one of the best players in England at the moment. I think Harry Kane is not in his best moment, Raheem is the best player for England.

"For him to be in this kind of situation, with all the pressure around him and on his shoulders, he has to deal with racism, plus the fact he was playing at Anfield where the fans are booing him - it can affect him. The manager does not have to be involved.

"Pep Guardiola could be a little bit disappointed with him [Southgate]. Raheem is still young and learning. If my player acted like that, being angry and showing himself like this, I would be very happy. This means he wants to win and achieve - that is important. A player without this character, for me, is nonsense."

'Footballers should walk off if racially abused'

Toure revealed how he had suffered targeted racist abuse during his spell playing in Ukraine for Metalurh Donetsk and insisted the only way to send a message to football's rule-makers is to leave the field of play - something he regrets he did not do himself in the circumstances.

England players talk amongst themselves during a temporary break in play following racist chanting from a section of the home support
Image: England players talk among themselves during a temporary break in play following racist chanting from a section of the Bulgaria support

"There needs to be a solution, FIFA needs people who will work on this case especially," he argued.

"I think what players need to do now is just go out and [walk off]. Leaving the pitch will send a big message to FIFA and UEFA and show them these footballers are more important.

"I would have loved [to see England leave the pitch against Bulgaria]. I would be happy, it would deliver the biggest message.

"That's what I want. Things can only become more equal and better controlled (with representation), We have to have people there who will do things right. We can go on TV and say these things but that does not mean that people at the high roles in football are going to react on it. FIFA should be looking at this.

"I would do it because if they asked me what is needed, I would tell them."

'I would love a Premier League return'

Toure spent a short stint at Olympiacos following his City exit in 2018 and most recently helped Qingdao Huanghai back into the Chinese Super League.

The 36-year-old still feels, however, that he has one or two years to offer in England's top flight - even as a player-coach.

 during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Huddersfield Town at Etihad Stadium on May 6, 2018 in Manchester, England.
Image: Toure was named the PFA Player of the Year in 2015

"I would love it but it depends on which kind of team. We will see because sometimes in Europe people look at ages in a different way - it's not about that. It depends on the club and what they want to achieve.

"I don't want to go too far and propose myself but I just want them to give me a chance, we will see.

"In my mind I give myself one or maybe two years maximum playing football, after that I want to enjoy myself with my family and try to work in other ways.

"I want to be proud of myself. As a footballer sometimes when you stop it early it is because people are trying to stop you, it's not coming from your heart, it's complicated.

"I remember when I was in Greece and people were speculating about my career - I was not happy. Something was missing. I want to be in control.

"I think I have to start to do my [coaching] badges. Football has been all my life from when I was a kid until now. Football is part of me and I can stop watching football or being part of it."

'Take VAR off red cards and pens'

Cesar Azpilicueta's 'goal' was ruled out by VAR due to a handball
Image: Toure believes VAR should not rule on penalties and red card decisions

"People have been talking a lot about this, there is a lot of confusion. The only good thing I like about VAR is the offside line. Red cards and penalties should be left to the referee. For me it is killing the game, we need to take it out and leave it to the referee.

"When I was watching the Liverpool vs Manchester City game I was telling my friends 'he's not going to give a penalty against Trent Alexander-Arnold' because it was Liverpool and Anfield and it is too difficult. I've experienced it myself and it is very difficult.

"When we talk about the game on Sunday, it was a clear penalty. If he doesn't touch the ball it is going to Raheem and he can score. It's complicated but we have to move forward."

'City will buy a defender in January'

Yaya Toure is convinced Manchester City will sign a centre-back in the January transfer window to help their faltering Premier League title defence

A long-term injury to Aymeric Laporte and the departure of Vincent Kompany has seen defending champions Manchester City fall away in the Premier League title race.

Toure is certain the club will spend money on a centre-back in the winter window and says it's not too late for Guardiola's men to claw back Liverpool's nine-point lead.

"I think it is going to be hard but in January City have to get a defender. It is never too late," he said.

"I don't want to blame Rodrigo, but if Fernandinho was in the middle it would be really important. City miss him in there, he is strong, sharp, clever and anticipates and tackles. I respect the decision of the manager but I don't like him in defence."

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