EXCLUSIVE: The Ivory Coast midfielder says the Premier League champions need to progress further in the UEFA Champions League to take the next step in their growth as a club
Nobody will be more disappointed than Yaya Toure if Manchester City fail to beat CSKA Moscow.
Another bad result would effectively put an early end to City’s UEFA Champions League hopes for the third time in four seasons.
Toure won the trophy with Barcelona in 2009, when he was called into the starting line-up for the final in Rome as an emergency central defender. He was so impressive in helping to shut out Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo in Barca’s 2-0 win that he was given a higher mark than any of United’s defenders in the Goal player ratings.
The midfield powerhouse – man of the match in City’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United on Sunday – now wants his current club to start showing their true form in Europe in their three remaining group games at home to CSKA and Bayern Munich, and away to Roma.
Talking exclusively to Goal, Toure said: “It’s the most beautiful competition in Europe. All the big clubs go until the semi-final of the Champions League, and if we want to compete at that level we need to go this year.
“We’ve been struggling for two years now and this year we want to make our chance. We are in a difficult group but we need to do a job. We have got the squad.”
City have made it beyond the group stages only once in their first three years of Champions League football.
They lost both knockout games to Barcelona in the last 16 last season after going out at the group stage in 2011, behind Bayern Munich and Napoli, and in 2012 when they mustered only three points and no wins.
They have been desperately unlucky with the draw, being pitted against Bayern Munich three times and Real Madrid once – a point that Toure made in criticising the seeding system, which will be changed from next season.
City have made giant strides in English football in recent years, said Toure – but they need to make their mark in Europe as well as in the Premier League.
“The club is growing very well, and is on target to grow [further],” he said. “Four or five years ago it was a small team but now it’s a big team. The new training centre is unbelievable.”
Toure, 31, shrugged off recent criticism of his performances, most notably after the 1-0 defeat at Bayern Munich and the 2-2 draw in Moscow. He did his talking on the pitch in the Manchester derby at the weekend.
“I’m a guy who wants more,” he said. “I always want to be at a higher level. I want to achieve important things and at the moment it’s pretty good with Manchester City.”
While Toure – who has made more than 50 Champions League appearances for Olympiakos, Barcelona and City – admitted that some of his teammates lacked experience in the competition, he still believes in the squad going into tonight’s big game.
“Some of them are young,” he said. “Every player wants to be able to play well and it can bring a lot of stress. Some of them haven’t had the chance to play in the semi-final or quarter-final of the Champions League. When you don’t have the experience it can sometimes lead to a lack of confidence.
“We need to go far in the Champions League. We have got the squad. I’m totally positive.”