x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Manchester City swansong not the end for Kolo Toure

Manchester City defender has struggled to replicate the form he showed early in his career that had him earmarked for great things, writes Jonathan Wilson.

Kolo Toure wants to lift the FA Cup for a fourth time before he leaves Manchester City. Richard Heathcote / Getty Images
Kolo Toure wants to lift the FA Cup for a fourth time before he leaves Manchester City. Richard Heathcote / Getty Images

Kolo Toure knows he will almost certainly leave Manchester City in the summer. He is 31 and, although he can cover at either right-back or centre-back, there have been too many disappointing displays, too many gaffes and, surprisingly, too much scandal for him to realistically expect to stay.

"My agent is working on that but at the moment I'm playing at City and doing everything I can do to help City win trophies –that's important," he said last week.

For many players that would be paying lip service to the situation, talking a good game while waiting for a move.

The recognition he is on his way out of Manchester seems to have relieved the pressure on Toure. With Vincent Kompany injured, he has played at centre-back in City's last two games, keeping clean sheets in each, against Chelsea and then Aston Villa. At Villa Park he was named man of the match.

"I'm doing my best for me, I love football and every time I have the chance I will give 100 per cent," he said.

It is a welcome return for a player whose form had disintegrated, a player whose recent career has been more notable for a drugs ban and allegations of infidelity.

The strange thing is, you can pinpoint almost to the second where it went wrong. By 2007/08, he was Arsenal's longest-serving player, respected for his reading of the game and had captained them on a number of occasions.

He went to the African Cup of Nations in Ghana as part of an Ivory Coast side favoured to win the competition after losing in the final on penalties to Egypt two years earlier.

In first-half injury time in their second group game, against Benin, he was carried off with a groin injury. It did not seem too serious and he returned for the semi-final, against Egypt.

Amr Zaki destroyed him. The defining image of the game was Toure suddenly running back and to his right, anticipating Zaki cutting in to his left, when the Egyptian stumbled slightly.

Recovering his balance, Zaki was suddenly in yards of space, Toure having effectively run away from him. He ran unchallenged into the box and scored. Toure was left looking silly.

Quite what Toure had been doing was a mystery. Yes, Zaki's slip had been a moment of fortune for the Egyptian, but why set off running at all when the man you were marking was standing still?

The only explanation was that he was protecting the injured groin but even then it seemed weird. The incident seemed to hit his confidence and he was shaky when he returned to England - before picking up a further injury.

He requested a transfer that December after falling out with his defensive partner William Gallas and, although he later retracted that, he moved to Manchester City the following summer.

Despite the presence of his brother Yaya in the side, he has never seemed to settle, a process not helped by a six-month ban after he failed a drug test, seemingly after naively taking one of his wife's diet pills. Last year there was further embarrassment as newspapers reported he had conducted a two-year affair while pretending to be a car salesman.

"Kolo is Kolo," said Joe Hart with one of those compliments that seems to damn with faint praise. "You know what you are going to get with him because he gives everything he's got."

Two decent games in a row do not mark a return to form, of course, but it at least it suggests he could end his time at City on a high.

The Premier League may be beyond them, but City face Barnsley in the FA Cup quarter-final on Saturday and it might be fitting were he to lift the trophy for a fourth time.

After that, who knows? "I have always liked the Premier League," he said, "and I want to stay in the top leagues but time goes and if there is no chance I have to go where they want me. Didier Drogba is in Turkey – but it's difficult to talk about that now – there's no chance of staying here but the Premier League is my first option for sure."

He may be around a little longer.


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