“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”
– JRR Tolkien.
It looked as though Yaya Toure’s career at Manchester City had come to an abrupt, acrimonious and unsavoury end following Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad this summer.
Bridges had been burnt to the ground after a series of outbursts from his agent, Dimitri Seluk, and, in spite of the pivotal role he had played in the transformation of the club, so many happy memories had burst into flames.
A club once resigned to suffering and heartache, that is now hungrier than ever before for glory, looked set to be without its African idol.
The Ivorian, a shadow of his former self in Manuel Pellegrini’s final season at the helm, was very much on the periphery and was excluded from the first team before issuing an apology to the manager in November.
His exile from first team action didn’t appear to have any effect in the opening stages of the season as City swept aside all before them, winning 10 games on the bounce as Pep Guardiola kicked off his tenure in Manchester in emphatic style.
But the wheels soon came off. A dip in form, plus injuries to key personnel – in particular Ilkay Gundogan – presented the perfect opportunity for the midfielder to renew his cult hero status. To regain the faith of those once loyal to him.
And so a sleeping giant was woken. From rubble the bridges were rebuilt – the king had his crown back and could reign supreme once again.
He dusted ash off his boots and announced his return to the first team in typical Toure fashion as his two goals helped the Blues see off Crystal Palace 2-1 at Selhurst Park. Since then, he has been an integral part of Guardiola’s plans and City’s bid to claim silverware this campaign.
Toure is shining like a beacon at the heart of the Blues’ midfield, keeping the team ticking over as he implements Guardiola’s methodical possession game with incredible simplicity. He slotted back seamlessly, as though he had never been omitted from the side, and has revived that desire to help the club challenge on all fronts.
The 33-year-old’s presence in the engine room has given Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva more licence to roam, while his passing has been exemplary. Toure averages 65 passes per game with 90 per cent finding their intended target.
In fact, of first team regulars, only John Stones has a better pass completion percentage than City’s talismanic Ivorian powerhouse, who has rolled back the years and become a key component in Guardiola’s well-oiled machine.
The former Barcelona man has rediscovered his swagger and commands authority in the centre of the park. This season has seen almost a resurrection as Toure has rediscovered the style of play that made City one of the most formidable teams in the Premier League when he was at the peak of his powers.
The fire that burnt bridges to the ground earlier in the campaign still rages white hot, but it serves a different purpose now. It burns in the belly of City’s iconic midfielder, hungry for success before he leaves the throne.
Written by Chris Wildgoose
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