Guardiola 'would like' Toure return – but won't make it happen

The Manchester City boss says he would like to call upon the Ivory Coast international for Wednesday’s EFL Cup game at Old Trafford, but will not make it happen

Pep Guardiola says he “would like” to call upon Yaya Toure for Manchester City’s EFL Cup clash with Manchester United, but does not appear prepared to make it happen.

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Toure has played just one match for City this season – the second leg of the Champions League qualifier with Steaua Bucharest – and has been told he has no way back into the team until he apologises for comments made to the press by his agent.

Goal understands City were keen to sell Toure throughout the summer but could not find a suitable buyer.

Guardiola says he will make a number of changes for Wednesday’s game at Old Trafford, although he is reluctant to play some of his youngsters due to the fact his side have hit a bad run of results.

He does, however, want to rest certain senior players like Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva who have played against both Barcelona and Southampton, and Kevin De Bruyne is injured.

But when asked if he would like to have Toure available, he replied: “You know the situation from Yaya.

Guardiola had demanded an apology from the agent of the midfielder, Dimitri Seluk, following disparaging comments made against the manager in the summer.

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However, asked if he had received it yet, he added: “You know the situation, I would like to count [on] Yaya, believe me, I would like to, but you know the situation.”

Guardiola also says his players are happy to continue playing his brand of football despite a run of five matches without a victory.

City have committed a number of game-changing individual errors during that run, and Guardiola kept his players in the dressing room for over 45 minutes after Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Southampton.

But he believes the performances have provided vindication for his tactical approach and that the players understand his decisions.

“When I spoke with the players individually, my feeling is they are happy,” he added. “I could consider the way we are going to play if we hadn’t played well, but I think that’s not the case. 

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“The first part of the season I tried to be honest with you, we played at a high level in a good way. I think people enjoyed the way we play and the players too.

“So of course we have to improve when we give the opponent the ball on the penalty spot. That happened and it’s difficult to react to that. 

“But I think they are happy. If I didn’t have that feeling, of course I’d speak to them. There’s no sense playing that way if so. But I think they believe it’s good – so I have to insist.

“It’s not like we are going to play another way and maybe we win or maybe not. The most important thing is to make what you believe. 

“When we make a plan for one game, always there is a reason and we show them why we’ve taken that decision. That’s why we are going to continue to play in that way.

“I am convinced it’s a good way to try to win the games.”

Can Mahrez beat Aubameyang to African POTY award?

The Confederation of African Football has released a 30-man shortlist of players who could be named the continent’s top player, but who is most likely to claim the award?


The time has come to take stock of Africa’s top footballing talents once again, with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) unveiling a 30-man shortlist for the award given to the continent’s best player over the last year.

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The sheer number of nominees suggests Africa has a wealth of top-performing players spanning the globe, but a great deal of the inclusions are unnecessary and others are just risible. The build-up to the award always opens with 30 possible winners, as all of Africa’s key footballing nations invariably get at least one nominee.

The shortlist makes for curious reading. Medhi Benatia, for example, continues to struggle for form and fitness for Juventus and Morocco and can barely string five straight games together. His reputation, it seems, has seen him named among Africa’s best. Wahbi Khazri and Aymen Abdennour make the shortlist as the Tunisian representation, and it is hard to decide which inclusion is more incredulous.

The deadweight on the list is plentiful and by the time it is whittled down to five, and then three, the usual favourites will emerge.

What makes the shortlist for 2016 interesting, though, is that despite those nominated through prestige and reputation Yaya Toure is conspicuously missing. The last time this happened was in 2010, when Samuel Eto’o won the last of his four gongs, a record Toure equalled in 2014.

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His hopes of moving clear on his own in the history books were dashed last year, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won for the first time. The Borussia Dortmund forward is favourite to make it a double this year and, ironically, Eto’o has made the shortlist once again.

It is however interesting that Toure’s exclusion comes following his ill-advised outburst after last year’s award. He infamously branded the choice of Aubameyang as “pathetic”, and may well be paying the price for his faux pas with this snub.

It has been a season of impolitic media outbursts from the camp of the Ivorian midfielder, with his agent Dimitri Seluk’s comments contributing to his current pariah status at Manchester City. That said, Toure was still an important part of the side that reached the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, where they lost to eventual winners Real Madrid.

While it is unlikely he would have been as important a factor in this year’s running, on the strength of that alone, it is hard to argue there are 30 African footballers who have had a better year.

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In any case, his place in last year’s top three will almost certainly be taken by Algeria winger Riyad Mahrez. The 25-year-old was one of the cornerstones of Leicester City’s improbable title win in England, and will push Aubameyang just as hard as Toure did last year. In his favour is not just his displays, but the fairytale nature of the Foxes’ triumph.

Aubameyang’s Dortmund, however, had to settle for second place in the Bundesliga, and exited the Europa League at the quarter-final stage after losing to beaten finalists Liverpool in dramatic fashion. But the Gabon international did score 39 goals in 49 club appearances in all competitions last term and is eight for eight this term across the Bundesliga and Champions League.

Andre Ayew placed third last time out and on the evidence of his debut season in the Premier League, he is another who is among the favourites. His case is, however, harmed by the injury he picked up early in the first half of his Premier League debut with West Ham which will keep him out of action for at least another month.

Islam Slimani’s goalscoring prowess earned him a move away from the relatively quiet Portuguese Primeira Liga. The switch to Leicester City may be a catalyst to a serious challenge next year but comes too soon for this one, as the method of selection makes it unlikely his exploits in Portugal will gain enough traction.

The trend has shifted in African football – a lack of era-defining players has led to more equal opportunities. It is unlikely that any one player will dominate the award for an extended period like Toure, Didier Drogba or Eto’o.

Aubameyang and Mahrez are clear frontrunners, but with the likes of Slimani and Sadio Mane breathing down their necks, there is no room for complacency at the top. The duopoly of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s dominance of the Ballon d’Or seems unlikely to spread to the African award… for now.

Mahrez and Bailly included in African Player of the Year award shortlist as Toure misses out

The out-of-favour Manchester City midfielder will not win a record fifth African Footballer of the Year award in 2016, but several other Premier League stars are in the running

Riyad Mahrez and Eric Bailly are among several Premier League stars in the running for the African Player of the Year award, but four-time winner Yaya Toure has not been shortlisted.

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Andre Ayew, Islam Slimani, Mohamed Elneny, Victor Wanyama, John Obi Mikel, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ahmed Musa, Yannick Bolasie, Sadio Mane and Wahbi Khazri are also up for the gong from English clubs.

Borussia Dortmund striker Aubameyang won the accolade, conferred by the Confederation of African Football (CAF), for 2015 after a scorching start to the previous season for the Bundesliga club.

The Gabon international beat off competition from Ayew and Toure, who made headlines with his bitter reaction.

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Toure had captained Ivory Coast to victory in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations and, upon being overlooked, branded the decision to honour Aubameyang as “pathetic”.

Having been frozen out at Manchester City since the arrival of Pep Guardiola, the 33-year-old has not made the 30-man shortlist for the next edition of the continental award, denying him the chance of winning for a record fifth time.

Samuel Eto’o has been included and will be aiming to achieve that feat himself, while other notable names include Serge Aurier, Gervinho, Medhi Benatia and Kalidou Koulibaly.

No problems between Toure and Guardiola, insists agent

The Ivorian midfielder remains on the fringes of the Citizens team but his representatives has denied there is a rift with the manager at the Etihad Stadium

There are no lingering problems between Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Yaya Toure, according to the midfielder’s agent, Dimitri Seluk.

Toure has started just one competitive match under the former Bayern Munich head coach, and was left out of City’s squad for the Champions League group stage.

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Seluk triggered something of a war of words with Guardiola when he accused the 45-year-old of “humiliating” his client, prompting the City manager to demand an apology from Toure.

But Seluk has now stressed that there is no animosity between Guardiola and the Ivorian and says he is likely to stay at the Etihad Stadium until the end of the season.

“Problems between Yaya and Pep? No, absolutely not. I can deny those claims,” he told Tuttomercatoweb.

“Yaya will stay at Manchester City. He has a valid contract until the end of the season. After that, we’ll see what the best solution is for his future.”

Inter were heavily linked with a move for Toure in the previous transfer window, though a concrete proposal from Serie A failed to materialise.

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Seluk claims that Toure still has plenty of admirers, but says that City’s asking price is the reason that a switch to San Siro fell through.

“There are many teams who would like Yaya, not only in Italy,” he said.

When asked why a deal with Inter could not be reached, he added: “The problem was with Manchester City, who asked for a lot of money to let him go.”

How Yaya Toure's Champions League legacy unravelled at Man City

The Ivorian lifted the trophy under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona in 2009, but he has struggled in the competition with the Blues and his downfall over the last few months is stark


Yaya Toure will have once again waved goodbye to his Manchester City team-mates on Tuesday as they departed for Glasgow without him ahead of their Champions League game with Celtic.

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It is the second time in a week that Toure has been left behind, and Wednesday’s game at Celtic Park will be the third time in the last seven days that he has not been within 200 miles of the stadium in which City are playing.

It is a sad decline for a player who lifted the Champions League trophy during his time with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, but it is of his own making.

Toure returned to social media on Tuesday to lament his exclusion from City’s European squad and wish his team-mates well, and he will have to get used to his status as an outcast whether the Blues are playing in Swansea, Glasgow or at home in Manchester.

Good training session this morning. Difficult not being involved in Champions League, but I wish my team mates good luck for tomorrow!

— Yaya Touré (@YayaToure) September 27, 2016

He will have known for some time, though, that his days at City are numbered, and his token inclusion in the play-off dead rubber against Steaua Bucharest could well be his final Champions League appearance.

Even though Joe Hart was the focus of attention on an evening when the Etihad crowd showed their support for the ousted No.1 and barely registered Toure’s presence, at least it means the Ivorian’s send-off was not last season’s semi-final at the Santiago Bernabeu.

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In between the threats and the insults last week, Dmitri Seluk told Guardiola that Toure deserves a place in Manchester City’s Champions League squad for, among other things, helping the club reach the last four.

Seluk, clearly, has never been too concerned with choosing his words carefully, but he could have used a better example than to highlight Toure’s role in City’s best ever Champions League campaign.

He did impress at times last season – most notably in Kiev – but over the years he, like the majority of his team-mates, has been found wanting on the European stage. And with Guardiola already planning for his time in Manchester while still in charge of Bayern Munich, the performance in Madrid could well have been the final nail in the coffin.

There is a video doing the rounds on Twitter that shows Toure ambling around the pitch, seemingly with no particular objective, as the Real Madrid players simply pass the ball around him.

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It was embarrassing, so much so that it would be harsh on the rest of his team-mates to say that his approach summed up City’s night, even if they did drop out of the competition with barely a whimper.

Few coaches would accept such a basic lack of effort in such a huge game, but you can imagine Guardiola’s reaction.

He has already asked Sergio Aguero to do far more, and his approach to pressing, as he described last week, is damning for Toure: “Always the word pressure, high ­pressing, these kind of things, the real word I like to use with my players and the people is ‘win the ball’. We go there to win the ball. That’s where we go to make the pressure. But we prefer to have the ball. We believe that if we have the ball we can create more chances and that is the reason why. When I see one player that doesn’t go to the press, what I feel, they don’t want to play.”

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In one fell swoop Guardiola ‘explained’ Toure’s ongoing absence and made the issue about Seluk, who has been tolerated for too long, while his declaration last week that the midfielder will not play again until his agent apologises was a shrewd move. In reality, manager and club had agreed during the summer that they wanted Toure gone, but they could not find a suitable buyer.

No matter how it is painted in public, though, the stance could not be clearer: Toure is finished at City. His failure to distance himself from Seluk has done him no favours, either, and gives the impression he endorses the Ukrainian’s statements.

But it is curious to note that he has been in and out of training over the past fortnight.

Having returned to training for two days at the start of last week, it was decided Toure would not be taken to Wales with the rest of the squad for their five-day stay at Celtic Manor either side of the two matches with Swansea.

Yet he was back with his team-mates this week and on Tuesday he trotted out for City’s training session ahead of the Celtic game. The first 15 minutes of pre-match sessions are accessible to the media per UEFA regulations, so perhaps Toure’s presence, as in China this summer, was more an effort to present a united front in public.

After all, both Toure and Samir Nasri trained in front of journalists and photographers during pre-season, despite Gael Clichy letting on that some of his team-mates had been made to train on their own back in the more private surroundings of the club’s training ground in Manchester.

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But, while Guardiola managed to offload Nasri, Hart, Wilfried Bony and Eliaquim Mangala, Toure dug his heels in, keen to keep collecting a salary which totals roughly £1 million per month.

The pay-off, however, is that he must get used to the fact that when he leaves training on Friday afternoon he’ll have to find a way to keep busy at the weekends.

And every fortnight from now until Christmas – and most likely beyond – he will, presumably, watch on TV as Guardiola tries to establish Manchester City as a European force. That, though, is as close as he will come.