Sorry seems to be the hardest word

There’s a passage early on in the 2014 book Pep Confidential in which author Martí Perarnau recounts the way Pep Guardiola laid down the law in one of his first meetings with his new Bayern Munich players.

“We must all show respect to each other,” he told them. “I know that you all want to play but that just isn’t possible and I have to choose the players I think are most suitable. It doesn’t mean that those of you who don’t get a game and end up sitting on the bench are less able. It just means I haven’t picked you this time. But if you run off to the press or your agents saying that you should have played, you will be showing a lack of respect – not for me, but for the guy who did get a game, your teammate.”

It isn’t difficult to imagine the Catalan having a similarly frank discussion with his new Manchester City players upon taking the reins at the Etihad Stadium this summer. Unfortunately, when it comes to one individual in particular, his words appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Much like on 1st February 2016, the journalists attending Guardiola’s pre-match press conference ahead of the EFL Cup tie at Swansea City in mid-week probably weren’t expecting anything particularly revelatory.

But then this happened…

Yaya Touré has only made one competitive appearance under Guardiola so far, a dead rubber at home to Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League qualifying round, and was left out of the 25-man squad for the Group Stage of the same competition. At 33, he’s hardly an integral member of City’s squad anymore, but his absence this season has still been puzzling. Now we know why.

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The official line from the club on the morning of Pep’s pre-Swansea press conference was that Touré had been left out of the squad which beat Bournemouth at the weekend as he was suffering from “a migraine” and maybe that’s true. After all, if your agent’s mouth was as big as Dimitri Seluk’s, you’d probably have a headache by now too.

Not for the first time in his career, Yaya’s Ukrainian representative has talked his client into a spot of bother. The comments which Guardiola has demanded an apology from Seluk for were made following the announcement of his exclusion from City’s Champions League squad just over a fortnight ago.

“If he wins the Champions League for City this season then I will travel to England and I will say on television that Pep Guardiola is the best manager in the world,” he said.

“But if City don’t win the Champions League then I hope that Pep has got the balls to say that he was wrong to humiliate a great player like Yaya.

“This is Pep’s decision and we must respect it.

“Yaya is a professional and so he will do everything he is asked to do.

“Perhaps Pep will think he is good enough to play in the final 10 minutes of a League Cup game against a third division team – and, yes, I am joking.

“But what I can tell you is that Yaya will spend the season at City. He will not be leaving in January. He hopes that he will get the chance to prove himself.”

Seluk is, to put it kindly, an extremely outspoken individual who’s been far from shy in airing his views in the media throughout Touré’s time at City. The outburst above pales in comparison to “birthday-cake-gate” – the most famous and most tedious example of all – and if you were the agent of a footballer who hoped to “get the chance to prove himself” and all you had to do for him to get that chance was say sorry, you’d do it, wouldn’t you?

If you answered yes to that question, you are nothing like Dimitri Seluk. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Within moments of Guardiola’s public demand for an apology, Seluk spoke to Sky Sports News.

“Guardiola wins a few games and thinks he is king,” he said.

“I live in Europe so I can say whatever I like and Guardiola can’t stop me. I will apologise to Guardiola if he will apologise to Manuel Pellegrini for what he did to him.”

Whether Guardiola owes Pellegrini an apology or not (editor’s note: he doesn’t), it isn’t difficult to imagine why Seluk might have preferred the mild-mannered Chilean who picked Touré no matter how poorly he played or how much rubbish his agent talked over a manager who sold his client once at Barcelona and (if Seluk’s comments to The Mirror’s Simon Mullock are to be believed) tried to do so again this summer.

Perhaps it’s just bluster and braggadocio, but his declaration of war with his client’s new boss suggests he seems to be under the illusion that he holds all the cards in this situation when in actual fact, he’s probably given Guardiola the perfect excuse to never select Touré ever again.

The big Ivorian’s powers have been on the wane for some time now and though his last couple of seasons were nowhere near as bad as some City fans would have you believe, he hasn’t even come close to hitting the heights of 2013/14, when his magnificent goals and performances helped his team to the Capital One Cup and the Premier League title.

One suspects Pep’s stance on the matter might’ve been somewhat softer were Touré not such a fading star nowadays, but his attitude towards Seluk represents something of a seismic shift in City’s stature as a club. No longer will players and agents be allowed to ride roughshod over the name of Manchester City and not suffer consequences for their actions. No one is bigger than the club, and only the club is bigger than Pep Guardiola.

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Make no mistake about it, none of City’s achievements in recent years would have been possible were it not for Gnégnéri Yaya Touré. It was he who scored the winning goal at Wembley when City beat Manchester United in the 2011 FA Cup semi-final and it was his smashing goal which won the club its first trophy for 35 years in the final a few weeks later.

Had he not grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and fired his team to victory at St James’ Park in the penultimate game of the 2011/12 season, City might not have won the Premier League title in such dramatic fashion on the final day against QPR. He stepped up again when his team needed him most in the 2014 Capital One Cup final and he did the same on many other occasions en route to City lifting the title again that season.

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There now seems to be a general acceptance, especially in light of his agent’s stubbornness, that Yaya has already pulled on the sky blue shirt for the final time and many City fans are keen to not let a messy divorce overshadow what was, oftentimes, a beautiful marriage.

Of course we should always remember the good times and remain forever grateful for the memories, but ask yourself what Yaya’s role in all this unpleasantness has been? Dimitri Seluk works for Yaya, it isn’t the other way around, and at any point he could have told his agent to stand down and keep his mouth shut, but he didn’t. He could have even got himself another agent, but he didn’t do that either. Whether he orchestrated Seluk or merely stood idly by, he’s as guilty as anyone here and we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to that.

Yaya Touré has been an incredible footballer who’s had a remarkable career, but if he’s truly honest with himself, he’ll realise one day that were it not for his agent, he could have had an even better one. We’ll never forget what he did for us but his legacy at City has been irrevocably tarnished and that’s one hell of a shame.

Written by Dan Burke

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6 comments on “Sorry seems to be the hardest word
  1. Pep – is so right about this, and so right not to compromise. The Pep book you refer to is also insightful in indicating why Joe had to go, as he wont compromise on his footballing principles after learning some bitter lessons at Bayen

  2. Oh dear Yaya what have you become. A tarnished image to be sure. You have thrilled us many times when you rescued games to give us victory. Now you seem a sad version of yourself with a gobby agent to makes matters even worse. Viva Pep and let’s salute him for laying down the law in a very grand style.

  3. ” it begins ” ….the club motto launched this summer seems ever more apt by the day . The success city have enjoyed in the past five years has come at a price imho – certain players have been allowed to rule the roost often to the detriment of team performance. Mancini tolerated it to an extent as the results were far more important than how they were achieved ( and he was right at the time ) but it probably eventually cost him his job. Pellegrini was a gent of course but being nice is unfortunately seen by some as a weakness to be exploited, and some players most certainly did as he looked after the shop for 3 seasons . And now to pep – a coach who has won 21 trophies in only 7 full seasons by playing superb innovative football and also having a ruthless no nonsense style of management. He builds teams in his own image , he was always the model professional footballer and he expects the very same at least from his players . Yaya is a depreciating asset whose value is going down by the day , an apology is probably too little too late anyway and potential suitors for the Ivorian becoming as rare as a ” Jose is god ” banner on Stretford end presently!! Fantastic isn’t it ?

  4. Guardiola doesn’t like Yaya’s style. You say it is a mystery that Yaya has not figured more – have you not been watching? Have you not seen Silva, Stirling, KdB, Fernandinho, Nolito, now Gundogan, the promise from Sane ? Compare and contrast with the past-his-best, overweight and lumbering figure that Yaya has become. Where does Yaya fit in to a 4-1-4-1 formation that relies on blistering speed? It is not a mystery at all.

    Yaya (& Yaya’s agent) are living on past glories and reputations when there is a real here and now. The behaviour of Yaya and his agent is not becoming of a dignified figure.

    The nett effect of all of this is zero. Yaya was always going to park his rather large behind at the Etihad this year and collect his million a month salary, and City are prepared to let him do it. God knows he tried to sell himself to PSG, Juventus etc but has realised that he would only get close to that salary in the footballing outpost of China.

    It’s a very undignified end to an outstanding career, A shame it should end like this.

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