Yaya Toure retires: Ivory Coast great's best moments at Manchester City

By Dom Farrell 10 May 2019 42
Yaya Toure retires: Ivory Coast great's best moments at Manchester City

Yaya Toure is set to be remembered as one of Manchester City's greatest players after the former Ivory Coast international confirmed his retirement.

An underwhelming final chapter in a second spell at Olympaicos was not the ending Toure deserved, but it should not cloud judgment of one of African's finest ever footballers.

Toure's £24million move to City from Barcelona in 2010 raised many eyebrows but he quickly proved a pivotal figure in Roberto Mancini's side, inspiring City to the FA Cup and Premier League title in consecutive seasons.

City bid for another top-flight crown this weekend, with Pep Guardiola's side aiming to retain the trophy they won in Toure's final campaign at the club.

Earlier in his career, Toure famously won the Champions League playing as an emergency centre-back for Barca, but here we look at some midfield powerhouse's finest moments in sky blue.

Wembley hero

Mancini's decision to deploy Toure as a marauding attacking midfielder was initially mocked, given he predominantly operated in a holding role for Barcelona, but it proved a masterstroke as defences were scattered by those trademark driving runs. Timely goals were also a factor, never more so than on two unforgettable Wembley outings towards the end of the 2010-11 season. Toure sunk rivals Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup semi-final before he lashed in a left-footed strike to dispatch Stoke City by the same scoreline and secure City's first major trophy for 35 years.

Premier League champion

Sergio Aguero's arrival meant a switch to 4-4-2 as City stormed out of the blocks in 2011-12, Toure dropping back alongside Gareth Barry to control games with his exquisite passing range. Unleashing the big man became Mancini's "plan B" during the closing weeks of a tense Premier League tussle with United and it worked like a charm in the penultimate round at Newcastle United. With the game locked at 0-0, Nigel de Jong was introduced and Toure roamed free. He exchanged passes with Aguero to dispatch a dead-eyed finish from 25 yards and added a late second to put City on the brink with a 2-0 triumph.

City's driving force

Aguero's feat of improbable final-day escapology meant it was his goal and not Toure's the weekend before that remained as the indelible image of City's first league title for 44 years. But when they repeated the feat under Pellegrini in 2013-14, there was no doubt over the main man. Freed up by the tenacious, relentless Fernandinho alongside him, Toure set about dominating opponents, entire games and the division at large.

He scored 20 goals and supplied nine assists in 35 top-flight appearances, including strikes in each Manchester derby victory and four precise direct free-kicks from seven attempts. On the day Steven Gerrard infamously slipped up against Chelsea to hand City the title initiative, Toure scored a rampaging solo goal in a crucial win at Crystal Palace. Another to round off a 4-0 thumping of Aston Villa brought the house down at the Etihad Stadium and demonstrated an unstoppable force in full flight.

Wembley hero (again)

Before bringing his best form to bear down the closing stretch of that title race, Wembley beckoned once more in 2014. City were abject in the first half of the EFL Cup final against Sunderland and trailed to a Fabio Borini goal. They were little better after the break until Toure whipped an incredible 35-yarder into the top corner. Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas completed a 3-1 win. Two years later at the same ground, Liverpool took City's bid to regain the cup to a penalty shoot-out. It was little surprise to see Toure stroking home the decisive spot-kick.

In from the cold with Guardiola

Toure's race appeared to be run at City as his reunion with Guardiola got off to a rocky start. Deemed to be out of shape when the team returned for pre-season, the Ivorian was frozen out – a state of affairs prolonged by a public spat between Guardiola and Toure's outspoken agent Dimitri Seluk. His return back at Selhurst Park against Palace in November 2016 came as a surprise but the lay-off had done nothing to temper the City hero's sense of occasion. He opened the scoring and snaffled a late winner in a 2-1 victory before a jubilant travelling support. It was a timely reminder of better days and paved the way for a fittingly celebratory farewell at the Etihad last May.

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Dom Farrell