Yaya Toure was already a top-class international quality midfielder when he signed for Manchester City from Barcelona for £24 million in the summer of 2010. At the Etihad, he stepped up a gear to become a genuinely world-class midfielder, cementing his place as one of the finest playmaking midfielders of all time.
All-Action, All The Time
Toure began life as a striker before dropping deeper, initially as a deep-lying holding midfielder in the mould of Claude Makelele. However, in later years, particularly at Manchester City, he became a box-to-box midfielder, equally comfortable performing defensive or attacking roles. Indeed, he became so proficient in the final third that he was sometimes deployed as a “number 10” at the Etihad to significant effect.
Technically outstanding, Toure often wrong-footed goalkeepers with his technique of striking the ball with the instep of his foot, close to the heel, sending the ball on a straight trajectory that often wrong-footed goalkeepers.
Toure was mistaken mainly as a “destroyer” in midfield during his early days before his move to Barcelona in 2007. At the Nou Camp, his more creative elements were allowed to flourish, and he linked up to significant effect with Xavi and Andres Iniesta before Sergio Busquests took his place a couple of years later.
Pundits and experts often overlooked Toure’s technical and tactical attributes, favouring his immense athleticism. His ability to surge from box to box, arrive late in the opponent’s penalty area to score crucial goals, and carry the ball through midfield was among the most impressive of the era.
However, a great deal of skill and subtlety in Toure’s football made him a hugely creative element in the midfield of Barcelona, Manchester City and, notably, at international level with Cote d’Ivoire. He was sadly often overshadowed creatively by the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne at club level.
Yet, his impact creatively can be measured by an excellent haul of 32 assists in his time at the Etihad, including a remarkable effect on 2013/14, where he combined twenty league goals with no fewer than 13 assists for his teammates.
Toure is one of the most decorated footballers of the 21st Century. He won the Greek 1st Division and Greek Cup with Olympiacos before enjoying massive success in Spain with Barcelona.
As well as being part of Barca’s 2009 Champions League success, he won La Liga twice, the Copa del Rey and FIFA Club World Cup.
That success continued at Manchester City, where he won three Premier League titles, the FA Cup in 2011 and the Football League Cup twice.
At international level, Toure was at the forefront of Cote d’Ivoire’s regular success at continental level. He was a two-time runner-up of the African Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2012 before winning the title in 2015.
Toure’s quality was recognised individually with a stream of personal awards. He won the African Footballer of the Year four years running between 2011 and 2014, won the BBC African Footballer of the Year award twice, the PFA Premier League Team of the Year twice and capped his career in 2021 by being named in the all-time Africa Men’s Dream Team by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics in 2021.