AGONA Profile: The glorious return of Yaya Toure
In one of the standout transfers this summer, Olympiacos pinched well-known midfielder Yaya Toure after the Ivorian was released by Manchester City. AGONAsport takes a look at his glittering career to date.
EARLY STEPS, TRANSFER TO BELGIUM
Born in Buoake, Toure endured a traditionally testing childhood in a desperately poor family, but at 10 years old he tried on a pair of football boots and joined the Abidjan academy. After catching the eye in his home country, Beveren came calling in 2001, taking the budding midfielder to Belgium. Displaying his obvious talent, Toure impressed with excellent performances for Beveren, contributing with three goals and two assists in 75 appearances with the first team.
ARSENAL TRIAL, EXPERIENCE OF UKRAINIAN FOOTBALL
Just two years later, English giants Arsenal knocked on his door, offering Toure a trial in London. Interestingly, his brother Kolo was on the Gunners’ books at the time, something which helped convince boss Arsene Wenger to give Yaya a chance. However, much to his dismay, a potential transfer to a top European club fell through.
Following a pre-season friendly with Arsenal, the Londoners were reportedly willing to sign him on a permanent basis, but problems acquiring a work permit arose and instead of waiting for the situation to clear itself up, Toure opted to travel to Ukraine and pen a contract with Metalurh Donetsk. Beveren received two million euros for the transfer
OLYMPIACOS COME CALLING
Olympiacos snapped Toure up for 2.7 million in 2005 and gave him a perfect platform on which to show his capabilities. Toure only played for the Thrylos during the 2005/2006 campaign, but he immediately became a leading figure, playing with real authority in midfield and proving that he has what it takes to compete at the highest level on a regular basis. Toure won the Greek double in Piraeus while playing in 29 matches and netting three markers.
Let’s take a look at his best Olympiacos goals:
12/08/2005, Valencia - Olympiacos - 1:3, friendly
It all started in a friendly fixture against Valencia in Spain, when Toure hit the jackpot with a fantastic effort to give Olympiacos the lead. Capping off a brilliant showing, he then supplied the assist for the third goal, in turn handing Olympiacos a 3:1 victory.
16/10/2005, Olympiacos - PAOK - 1:2, Super League
Olympiacos may have lost against PAOK 1:2 inside an empty Karaiskakis Stadium, but the game was lit up by Toure’s superb free-kick which sailed into the top left corner to open the scoring. The Ivorian came close to a late equaliser when a long range drive clattered wide.
03/12/2005, Aigaleo - Olympiacos - 1:3, Super League
In terms of goalscoring, this was Toure’s best match in an Olympiacos shirt. Away to Aigaleo, he broke the deadlock with a neat finish inside penalty area after 14 minutes, before doubling Olympiacos’ advantage in the second half with a pinpoint free-kick. The Thrylos ran out 3:1 winners.
Toure was subsequently picked for the Ivory Coast’s 2006 FIFA World Cup squad and earned a lucrative move to Monaco as the French side paid Olympiacos 5.5 million. Initially, Toure had a difficult relationship with manager Laszlo Boloni concerning his role on the pitch, however the coach was soon sacked and he was moved back into his natural position. With a reinvigorated Toure on their books, Monaco managed to stave off relegation fears with a solid end to the season and the midfielder netted five goals and registered seven assists to boot.
FIRST TASTE OF STARDOM IN CATALONIA
By this time, Europe’s best were forming a queue for Toure. The winners? Barcelona. On July 1, the Catalans secured Toure’s signature, a defining point in the Ivorian’s career. Toure only played with Barcelona for a matter of three years, but in that period, he tasted glory in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, Copa del Rey, Spanish Super League and La Liga (twice). In 2010, Yaya transferred to Manchester City for a huge 30 million,
teaming up with his brother Kolo in the process.
SUCCESS IN ENGLAND
Toure transformed into the English Premier League’s ultimate all-round midfielder. He could do anything - score headline goals, travel the entire length of the pitch with the ball at his feet, track back in defence to deny the opponents a clear opportunity and dish out accurate passes. His stunning eight-year stay in England was rewarded with three league trophies, one FA Cup and one League Cup as Manchester City began to dominate on all fronts. This summer, he was released from the club after his contract expired.
Is Toure the best African player of his generation? Receiving the title of the continent’s top player on four occasions (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) certainly suggests so. On the international stage, the Ivory Coast have often struggled to live up to the hype, but they did win the 2015 African Cup of Nations with Toure a part of the triumphant squad.
Sitting in the centre of midfield, the 35-year old likes to control proceedings with cutting, attack-minded passes and galloping runs forward. Regarded as a perfect example of a complete midfielder, Toure is versatile and can win the ball back with forceful tackles while at the same time scoring jaw dropping goals. Over the years, he’s been compared to the legendary Patrick Vieira, and the two do have stark similarities. Toure also has a knack of popping up with decisive markers.
RETURN TO OLYMPIACOS
Still loved by the Olympiacos fan-base, Toure was given a hero’s welcome when his free transfer back to the Thrylos was sealed. In an interview, he revealed that he rejected a massive contract proposal from a Chinese club and stated his love for the game: “A Chinese team offered me 12 million a year? I wouldn’t be happy there. For me, football is the priority, everything else is just a bonus. I play this sport because I simply enjoy it. I want to play in Europe, continue competing against the best and be competitive. I don’t want to go to China.”
In Piraeus, Toure will battle for a place in central midfield with Andreas Bouchalakis, Mohamed Camara and Guilherme while the likes of Konstantinos Fortounis play further forward. You can be sure Toure won’t be content with sitting on the bench - he’s returned to Greece to continue from where he left off in 2006.