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Three men, a feud and a victim. Yaya Toure’s international career ends but an escalating feud is affecting his club career

Every time Yaya Toure’s name comes up in the media, it is either the trophy-winning footballer’s career appears to be at a near end or in a controversy. Well this time, the Ivorian took the first step at retirement after quitting international football. In a public note, the midfielder made the announcement after fourteen years playing for Ivory Coast, earning him four African footballer of the year awards.

Writing this note was probably “the most difficult match of my life” Toure declared on Tuesday. “After 14 years playing for Les Elephants I have decided to end my adventure playing for the Ivory Coast. Some decisions are difficult to take but it is time to pass things on to other players. I thank all my supporters and my fans.”

But is Toure staying ahead as a way of retiring honorably? The decision follows a career-disruptive season at Manchester City after the club signed Pep Guardiola as its new manager.

Now what follows is the player’s uncertainty at City after Guardiola came out in a statement on Tuesday, strongly urging Toure’s agent, Dimitri Seluk to apologize for his remarks lest his client (Toure) will not return to the squad.


Pep Guardiola will play Yaya Toure on condition that his (Toure) agent apologizes to Manchester City. (REX FEATURE)

The unhappy City boss admitted in a news conference, [perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It was so difficult for me to put (Toure) out in the Champions League — so difficult. I know him, I know he is a good guy…. But the day after his manager spoke — in that moment — Yaya is out. Until Mr. Dmitri Seluk comes back in the press conference or his friends in the media, he has the courage to call me, go to the media and say an apology to Manchester City, the first one, the second one is his teammates and after the trainer.[/perfectpullquote]

Seluk had previously lashed out at Guardiola for leaving Toure out of his squad, for majority of the games. The 33-year-old midfielder has played only once for his club this season against Steaua Bucharest, in the second leg of Champions League playoff.

Seluk in a comment to the Sunday Mirror, accused Guardiola of disrespecting Toure and said, “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.”

However, Guardiola is keen on putting the feud past him and get on with football business as usual as long as Seluk apologizes first. “If he has a problem, call the club, and they can talk. Until he speaks, Yaya is not going to play.

“When that happens Yaya will be part of the group and he will have the same chance to play all the games. Because I cannot accept as a coach, every manager when his player doesn’t play goes to the media and speak and speak and speak. It depends.”

Instead Seluk isn’t making it any easier. While his client’s reputation and career hangs in the balance, the outspoken Ukrainian agent responded in a warning, “If Pep Guardiola wants a war, then he can have one.

“Pep didn’t like my opinion? But what does he expect me to say when he does this to Yaya?

“I spoke out because I felt that Pep was being vindictive to Yaya.

“He has reacted to what I have said about him by punishing Yaya again. But I’m not surprised.”

Some feel that the Seluk is out of his depth and disrespectful to the club along with Guardiola who has stood his ground on the matter and insisted that he (Seluk), draws a line.

“I cannot imagine in my period when I was a football player, my manager going to the media and speaking against Johan Cruyff, about this and about that.

“Maybe it’s a new era now, the new period changing, but I’m an old guy. I am old generation, and old generation managers has to make his players his job and trainers his job, and today the managers believe they are more than they are.”

Same song, different tune

This is not the first time Toure has had problems in his football career. It seems as though the outspoken Ukrainian who the City star calls ‘Papushka’ and treats like a father, is always stirring up trouble.

Isn’t Toure’s career always suffering the consequences? In 2009, Toure struggled for regular playing time in Barcelona, under Guardiola’s management at the time.


The outspoken Dmitri Seluk, Yaya Toure’s long time agent and father-figure (FACEBOOK)

But Seluk and Toure’s strong relationship has always been a thorn in Guardiola’s side. The Ukranian keenly expressed the player’s desire to leave in search of a better future elsewhere after claims that his client (Toure), was undervalued at the Nou Camp and paid far less than his contemporaries.

Seluk’s constant money-conscious demands agitated Guardiola causing the former Barcelona manager to deal with the issue upfront, querying Toure: ‘Are you a man? Who is in charge? You or the agent?’

Three years and a transfer later, Toure helped City win their first English Premier League (EPL) title in 2012 after 44 years, but Seluk still felt his player needed a change and new motivation. One year later in March, Seluk said Toure would bid farewell to the Etihad stadium, unless the club was quick on offering his client a new deal. Eventually Toure committed four more years to the club in a deal that would see him play until 2017.

But his four-year deal seemed in jeopardy after Seluk told The Sun that Toure felt he was unfairly treated at the club after no one had wished him Happy Birthday when he turned 31 during a club event in Abu Dhabi, where they celebrated a second EPL title. Roberto Mancini was manager at the time.

And now the Ukrainian agent is caught up in a feud with Guardiola, again, causing more problems for Toure’s football career.

It is evident that Toure has been an instrumental force behind City’s success but his agent is a questionable figure in the player’s career. Seluk has spoken on more than one occasion without restraint, affecting the player’s status quo.

Is Seluk a controversial role model? Toure has also had a few controversial outbursts in the past, that aroused strong feelings and received much attention. But the player was merely outlining the value of African athletes on the international scene.

The Ivorian claimed, African players were not fully rewarded and recognized as well as their European counterparts despite achieving much for their clubs. In 2014 during an interview with Football Focus on BBC Toure said, “To be honest, proper recognition has only come from the fans. I don’t want to be hard and I don’t want to be negative, but I want to be honest.”

This year, the Ivorian’s attitude escalated with comments that sullied the awards ceremony in honor of the Africans players and teams that had excelled in 2015.

To the surprise of many, Toure lost the African Footballer of the year award to Pierre-Emerick Aunameyang. But it’s how the Ivorian responded in his post-event interview that irked everyone after the midfield star was clearly dismayed by the results, labeling CAF awards ‘pathetic and shameful’.

What next?

Will an unapologetic agent and a defiant manager affect Toure’s future? Greatly. The timing couldn’t have been worse, after the Ivorian announced his retirement from international football.

Little is known, but Toure could have first gotten wind of his manager’s decision not to play him after he (Guardiola), made the announcement on Tuesday at a news conference.

Now the player has no role in a team that is progressing well without him. But that may also prove costly. According to Seluk, the unfair treatment of Toure will cost City millions of supporters in Africa.

“They will lose a lot of millions of supporters from Africa because of this decision from Guardiola,” Seluk said, in an interview with the Daily Mail.

The Ukrainian said a lot of support will be lost to Manchester United because a lot of people in Africa he claims, say they will never watch any more matches of City.

On Toure’s future, the agent has not elaborated on his client’s career path. Nevertheless, Seluk is optimistic Toure can sign a pre-contract agreement with a club abroad before running down the remainder of his £200,000-a-week contract at Etihad.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”He will have many offers from clubs. China and America of course they want him but we will have a lot of offers from England and Europe.”[/perfectpullquote]

In 2014, Toure expressed his desire to end his career at Barcelona. But the ensuing feud surrounding his career, leaves a red flag many top clubs might question highly despite the midfielder’s talents and experience in top flight football.


Illustration by Wendo Abuto

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