The Mirror’s Brian Reade knew the score. In a piece entitled “How Barca Reserve Yaya Toure Was Seduced By The Whore of World Football”, Brian skilfully set the record straight in the autumn of 2010. In a piece of news that he called the scariest he had ever seen, he commented that Manchester City’s new signing Yaya Toure would be paid £220,000 a week (though not for a year). In total, he could earn £79.6m – where would that leave everyone’s season ticket prices in five years he asked??
(Well I can’t comment on Brian Reade’s beloved Liverpool, but my season ticket this year was £460 – but that’s another matter.)
But anyway, Brian knows his stuff. He continued:
“Toure is not actually that great. He’s not a creative genius who will get backsides off seats but a defensive midfielder who stops players who can.”
“He wasn’t even a regular at Barcelona. He may not even get a game at City (stop laughing at the back), who already have four highly-rated players to fill that role.”
But how do outsiders begin to describe how depressing the implications of this transfer are? I can understand luring the sought-after David Silva to Eastlands for £140,000-a-week, but giving a quarter-of-a-million quid every seven days to a defensive squad player who no other club would have touched for that kind of money and whose name won’t sell shirts, is insanity on a previously unimagined scale.
See the shaking of parents’ heads when City scouts ask to let their little fella join their academy. See the disillusion on the faces of the City youngsters who won the Youth Cup two years ago.
Spot the link with England’s woeful performances which showed the lack of quality throughout the squad. We just don’t have the players. Mainly because they’ve had their way blocked by average, over-paid foreign mercenaries.
An objective outsider would look at the obscene amount paid to seduce Toure to England, look at the country’s lamentable showing in the World Cup, and conclude we deserve our misery because we’ve become the whores of world football.” (Mirror)
Now it would be easy to mock this appalling excuse for journalism, so that’s what I’m going to do. After all, the player that Brian Reade didn’t think was “that great” won African Footballer of the Year soon after in 2011, ending a run of 12 forwards winning the award. This was the Barca reserve that made 117 appearances for Barcelona in three seasons. This is the man as important to Manchester City as Vincent Kompany, Joe Hart or David Silva.
It’s fine to bemoan the wages of a modern (Premiership) footballer, in the same way that you could recoil at the earnings of a rock or film star, but they all generate huge returns, and it’s the world of supply and demand. And let’s leave the mock outrage at the wages City offer – something they of course had to do to attract players, because they weren’t a “big” name playing at the highest levels. Now, the ball is in their court, and wage agreements can be reconciled much more in City’s favour.
City inevitably wasted money (who doesn’t?), but Toure doesn’t fall under that bracket. The man has showed what an unbelievable footballer he really is. The type who can switch to central defence in a Champions League final and cope comfortably. A man comfortable staying deep, but really at his peak when the turbo button has been pressed, and he is marauding forward, swatting away opposition players like flies. A beast of a player, he dominates midfield, and in the crucial Manchester Derby, Phil Jones and Paul Scholes couldn’t get near him.
Brian Reade might not know anything football-related outside his cosy bubble of Premiership football, but the big wages transformed Manchester City. Yaya Toure’s wages brought a player that proves that the top, top players deliver at the crucial moments. That’s what the money gets you – the winning goal in an FA Cup semi-final against your biggest rivals, a winning goal in the FA Cup Final to deliver the first trophy in 35 years, the crucial goals to see off an excellent Newcastle United and get one hand on the Premiership trophy. This was the player whose absence in January whilst away at the African Cup of Nations almost derailed City’s entire season. Not bad for an average defensive midfielder squad player. And what’s more, that’s what high wages get you. Because more than transfer fee spend, there is a huge correlation between wage bills and levels of success.
So which equally proficient English player has Yaya Toure blocked developing at City? If only we had someone remotely of his standard, then perhaps I’d have the slightest hope of England getting to at least the quarter-finals of the Euros in the summer. Swathes of average foreigners have “graced” the Premiership, perhaps blocking English talent, but Yaya Toure isn’t one of them, and the average players were cheaper than their English counterparts, so their proliferation in the English game is predictable. And as Brian Marwood commented in 2010, frustrated at the constant accusation of City killing the England team:
“When the England team finished the last game against Switzerland, six City players were in it. That was a big jolt to a lot of people.”
As for Yaya, he added: “ Yaya can play centre-midfield, centre-half, attacking midfield, defensive midfield – he’s a quality player. When we knew he was available, it was a no-brainer.” He added that his winning mentality, which would also involve being a role model to the younger players, would be invaluable.
And as Joleon Lescott commented this week, “Nothing he does surprises me because big players do important things at vital times. When you get players like that you also believe in yourself.”
Yaya Toure could have cost £2m or £40m. He could be on £20 a week or £400,000 a week. I doubt there’s a City fan that could give a damn. If City can finish the job and beat QPR on Sunday to win their first Premiership title, their first top-level title for 44 years, then Yaya Toure will go down in the Hall of Fame as the man who made it all possible as much as any other person, the man who broke the trophy duck too, the man who helped fire City forward over the past 15 months or so. He’ll remain in that Hall however much silverware is won in the coming years. He has earned it, and you’ve got to admit, it’s been money well spent.