The cat is out of the bag. Manchester City have always insisted they will make decisions on the futures of their out-of-contract players in the summer, but as revealed by Goal earlier this week they have already made their minds up in several cases.
Jesus Navas has been offered a one-year extension, and if all goes to plan he will be back-up to Kyle Walker at right-back.
It seems others are still waiting for news. Goal understands Willy Caballero is yet to hear either way, even if the Argentine wants to stay and City’s coaching staff appreciate his contribution this season.
A wall of silence has been erected around Toure’s contract situation, however. Those close to the player insist they do not know what is happening. Dimitry Seluk has largely kept quiet and even privately he has given little away about the chances of a new deal, if he knows anything at all.
Top-level City sources say they know nothing, either, stressing that it is entirely up to Guardiola. Those close to the Catalan have nothing to say - there is a reason they are on the inside of a very close circle of trust.
Toure says he would like to stay but has dared not let on any more than that. He’s already discovered it doesn’t take much to get on the wrong side of his manager and, with his future at stake, he’s taking no chances.
Not that he has shied away from media duties. In years gone by journalists, in the search for post-match interviews, would go months without hearing any more from Toure than a friendly but ultimately disingenuous ‘next time’. Since Christmas he’s done basically every interview possible. Footballers go through all sorts of charades to avoid reporters after matches, but Toure has gone out of his way to talk - at one point corralling journalists who were ready to give him an afternoon off.
But his extra efforts off the pitch are not what will earn him a new deal. For this to be up for discussion at all is testament to both his character and his ability. It seemed to all the world that his future had been decided months ago, that his last game in a City shirt had already been played. Steaua Bucharest’s visit to the Etihad Stadium in August seemed to serve as much as a farewell party as a Champions League qualifier, given Joe Hart and Toure were afforded rare run-outs in a dead rubber.
But while City managed to find a temporary home for Hart and their other outcasts, they could not get rid of Toure, who had no interest in leaving despite the door being left wide.
As City’s season unfolded without him, he was quietly hard at work, soaking up Guardiola’s methods in training and losing 8kg in weight in the process. Though it was Seluk that Guardiola wanted an apology from, it was Toure who said sorry. Even then, club officials did not expect it to be enough to save him.
Yet two weeks later Toure was indeed back. Neither the Manchester journalists nor the City media staff could believe their eyes when they saw the starting XI for the game Selhurst Park in mid-November. Inevitably, he scored both goals in a hard-fought 2-1 win. Just like old times.
Well, not quite: he hasn’t scored too many since then but he can still make a contribution that few of his team-mates can match. There’s an argument to be made that he has been City’s best player since his return.
He has reinvented himself as a footballer. Part of the reason nobody expected him to feature for Guardiola was because he had looked past his best so often during Manuel Pellegrini’s final season. His struggles in a two-man central midfield were all too common, and it got to the stage where a number of City fans were lambasting the man who has delivered more pivotal moments than perhaps any other in the club’s history.
Even those who weren’t calling him lazy had come to the conclusion that his legs had gone. He may still be caught out in the fastest games, which may be why he struggled in, or was left out of, games against Monaco, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea recently, but he certainly has plenty to offer, and when he hasn’t played he has been missed.
He has accepted that he can no longer beat several players in one powerful burst, and has instead dropped back to dictate play from deep. That is no easy task, and while his physical attributes have been rightly celebrated during his time in England perhaps his game intelligence has been taken for granted. And do not forget his composure, the “personality to play”, as Guardiola terms it, which this City team needs as much as anything right now.
City hope to keep Navas partly because they cannot sign all the players they need this summer, but also because he has proven, in the space of around three weeks, that he can still offer something, even if as a reserve.
Toure has been demonstrating all season that he has the ability and the mentality to play the Guardiola way - the first three months on the training ground, the next six on the pitch.
With the Catalan insisting he wants leadership and personality, it would make no sense to get rid of the Ivorian. And if City are to trim down their squad, Fabian Delph and Fernando would surely be for the chop before Toure, given their respective contributions this season.
He may no longer be the game-changer he once was, but Toure has proven he still has a role to play at City. Guardiola must know it, even if few know for sure.