Manchester City confirmed that Yaya Toure has signed a new one-year contract extension to remain at the Etihad Stadium beyond the summer, and it’s a deal that should ensure the midfield powerhouse gets the departure his service deserves.
It also completes a remarkable turnaround for the 34-year-old, who has appeared destined for the exit door on several occasions—not when his agent Dimitri Seluk so publically fell out with Pep Guardiola earlier this season.
Yet Toure bounced back from the ostracising that followed that particular dispute, despite not featuring in the Premier League for the first 11 matches of City’s campaign.
In the same way that Antonio Conte had apparently excluded John Obi Mikel from his plans as a precursor to a move away from Chelsea, it looked likely that Guardiola’s decision to so decisively build a City without Toure spelled the end for the West African.
He returned in eye-catching form—with a double in the Sky Blues’ 2-1 victory away at Crystal Palace in late November—and proceeded to establish himself as a key member of Guardiola’s starting XI.
The Spanish coach made a few notable decisions upon his arrival at the Etihad Stadium, and it’s to his credit as well that, as with the choice to promote Willy Caballero when Claudio Bravo floundered, he realised the error of his ways and reacted.
It was a bold—and somewhat reckless—move to drop Toure, and a wise decision to restore him to the starting XI when other options failed.
Toure responded with an excellent campaign in the heart of the park.
It wasn’t his best season—nothing could realistically match the 20 goals he struck as City romped to the title in the 2013-14 campaign—but he weighed in with five goals in the league and offered a point of consistency while some of his teammates floundered.
In the end, Toure registered a pass success rate of 89.8 percent—placing him among the division’s top four accurate passers—while only two players (Jordan Henderson and Paul Pogba) averaged more than Toure’s 71.9 passes per match.
After initially appearing to be a player who didn’t fit into Guardiola’s vision for the new City, Toure ended up being the former champions’ chief orchestrator and their primary midfield conduit.
There aren’t too many 34-year-olds in the world game who can match that.
The West African’s renaissance ensured that while the other players out of contract this summer—Caballero, Gael Clichy, Pablo Zabaleta, Jesus Navas and Bacary Sagna—were all dispatched following the end of the season, Toure has had his deal extended.
Guardiola’s flexibility—not one of his most recognisable attributes—must be acknowledged, while Toure also deserves credit for opting to pursue serious silverware for one more season rather than depart to more lucrative shores overseas.
While the evidence of this season suggests that barring a significant decline, Toure can be a considerable asset for City again next term, the new deal also offers him a chance to go out on his own terms, rather than slink out through the backdoor.
It’s hard to pick too many players—if any—who have had more of an influence in building the modern City than Toure.
The former Barcelona man scored the winning goal in the 2011 FA Cup final—beating Thomas Sorensen in the 74th minute—as City ended their 35-year wait for major silverware.
A year later, he was influential as Roberto Mancini’s side won their first Premier League—with Toure scoring six along the way—while he became the second central midfielder after Frank Lampard to score 20 in one campaign two years later.
Perhaps he hasn’t yet transformed City into a true Champions League contender—although that could change next term—but the 2015 Nations Cup winner now has the opportunity to ensure that there can be one final glistening chapter to Toure’s career at the Etihad.