Manchester City’s history was forever changed following a billionaire takeover several seasons ago, the club becoming the most successful in English football over the course of the past decade as a succession of stars have headed to the Etihad.
The names of Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero will forever be cherished as players to have made an indelible mark on City’s proud history, but perhaps no man had a greater influence on the club’s early successes than Yaya Toure.
It was the Ivorian who scored the goal that ended City’s long wait for a major trophy in 2011, scoring winners in the semi-final and final of the FA Cup to end a 35-year wait for silverware on the blue half of Manchester.
Eight memorable seasons in English football should rightfully see Toure remembered as one of the most influential players of the Premier League era, the powerhouse of an emerging force and a player capable of special moments.
The latest in our Golazo Merchants series revisits the story of Manchester City icon Yaya Toure, a midfielder with a stunning highlight reel of spectacular strikes:
Toure’s journey began in modest circumstances as the second born of nine children, before his passion for football – where he followed in the footsteps of older brother Kolo and often played without shoes – handed the youngster an opportunity to rise from his humble beginnings in Bouake.
Toure joined Ivorian side ASEC Mimosas – who also produced Premier League players like Emmanuel Eboue, Gervinho, Didier Zokora and Salomon Kalou – honing his talents and gaining notoriety before the inevitable interest from Europe came.
Belgian side Beveren, who had an affiliation with ASEC that saw the best Ivorian prospects head to the club, gave Toure an opportunity and his time with the club proved fruitful, making 70 appearances over two seasons.
That period also saw the midfielder enjoy a trial period at Arsenal, though he failed to join brother Kolo – who had signed in similar circumstances the previous year – in securing a permanent contract with the north London side following a ‘completely average‘ trial performance during a friendly with Barnet.
Arsene Wenger, despite being unsure of a young Toure’s best position, had retained an interest in his services, though work permit issues saw the move collapse and he instead began a nomadic existence, enjoying short spells in Ukraine, Greece and France.
Impressive stints at Olympiakos and Monaco led to the first major move of Toure’s career, with Spanish giants Barcelona securing the signing of a player who was beginning to make a major impression on European football.
Toure played much of his football as a defensive midfielder in Catalonia during a hugely successful period for Barcelona, winning back-to-back league titles including forming part of the side which won a continental treble under the guidance of Pep Guardiola in 2009.
The plethora of attacking talent at Barcelona – in addition to the emergence of Sergio Busquests as the club’s deepest-lying midfielder – saw Toure shifted into a centre-back role and whilst he played his part in a trophy-laden period, it would be the midfielder’s move to Manchester that truly unlocked the talents of a devastating and dynamic presence.
The big-spending blue half of Manchester made a statement of intent by signing the Ivorian in a £24m deal, a fee which would prove a bargain buy following eight years of stellar service at the Etihad.
Toure’s debut season saw him score ten goals in all competitions, the shackles which had restricted him at Barcelona lifted as he established himself as the main man in a new-look City side. That campaign saw Roberto Mancini’s side end the club’s long wait for silverware with Toure at the centre of their success, producing dominant displays and scoring vital winners in the semi-final and final during City’s run to FA Cup success.
Mancini recognised that Toure was much, much more than a water-carrier for his side, utilising the dynamism his star signing could bring and extracting the most from the midfielder’s ability to make an impact in both boxes.
The following season saw Toure prove influential once more as a maiden Premier League title arrived at the Etihad, his goal tally dropping by just one in another productive campaign for the powerful number 42.
A new wave of success was briefly halted by a trophy-less season in 2013 despite Toure scoring nine goals, before a managerial change truly unlocked the best of what the City star had to offer. Manuel Pellegrini’s arrival as manager – alongside the summer signing of holding midfielder Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donestsk – provided Toure with an even greater licence to attack, one which saw City reap the full benefits of a magnificent footballer at the peak of his powers.
Toure enjoyed one of the greatest individual seasons the Premier League has seen to become just the second midfielder – after Chelsea’s Frank Lampard – to reach 20 league goals, scoring 24 goals in all competitions including this classic Champions League effort against Viktoria Plzeň.
It’s a strike for which Toure would become synonymous with throughout his peak years, a quick inter-change of passes to open up space before unleashing a curling, postage-stamp effort into the top corner.
Yaya Toure was something else 😍pic.twitter.com/bNeD7GaglR
— Goal (@goal) May 10, 2020
Toure’s incredible goalscoring exploits left many scratching their heads as to just how the star had been deployed at centre-back earlier in his career, the midfielder providing a series of magical moments as the driving force of a City side gunning for success.
Their first trophy of the season came after lifting the League Cup, coming from behind to seal a 3-1 victory over underdogs Sunderland in the Wembley final. It was Toure who characteristically provided a moment of inspiration to draw the sides level, scoring one of the great cup final goals, an audacious effort from distance that was whipped into the far corner to level the scores.
Samir Nasri scored just a minute later before Jesus Navas sealed the win late on, but it is Toure’s sublime intervention that many still saviour.
We could watch this @YayaToure
screamer vs Sunderland all day long 🚀
— City Chief (@City_Chief) April 16, 2020
Less than three weeks later and the Ivorian icon added another goal to his ever-growing Golazo collection, another beautiful effort of powerful precision the highlight of a 5-0 destruction of Fulham at the Etihad.
The midfielder had already scored 13 league goals for the season heading into the late-March fixture in Manchester, whilst the west London visitors were victim to Toure’s clinical finishing as the City talisman made it 15 for the campaign with a well-taken brace from the penalty spot.
The best was yet to come, however, as Toure claimed the match ball in stunning style, curling home this long-range effort following a well worked free-kick to seal the first hat-trick of his professional career.
Yaya Toure was just majestic 😍pic.twitter.com/Bm1tSXEgkn
— Goal (@goal) June 28, 2020
Toure’s dynamism had kept City in a tight title race with a free-scoring Liverpool side charging towards a maiden success, and with just two games of the season remaining the title momentum had swung back from Merseyside down the opposite end of the East Lancs Road.
City knew victory in their final two fixtures would seal a second Premier League title and their first assignment was the visit of Aston Villa, a potential banana skin that was navigated in flawless fashion by Pellegrini’s men.
A formidable second half display saw City three goals to the good heading into stoppage time, but a determined Toure was keen to put his own stamp on the final result. The midfielder’s drives from deep had been a trademark of his season but none demonstrated the skill and running power of Toure better than this strike.
Picking up the ball inside his own half and sensing the opportunity of a counter-attack, the long strides of the Ivorian began to gather unstoppable momentum as he heads into enemy territory. In images that evoked memories of the biggest kid in the playground bulldozing his way through in school-yard football, Toure surges forward with a trail of Villa defenders in his wake before finishing with aplomb.
Pace, power and punishment on the break.
There are few players, if any, who have looked quite as unstoppable when carrying the ball throughout the Premier League era, Toure capable of shifting quickly from a languid-looking style into a devastating juggernaught.
Victory over West Ham on the final day of the season sealed the Premier League title and it is difficult to think of a better individual campaign which has failed to result in the Player of the Year accolades, an equally sensational Luis Suarez season ultimately preventing the midfielder from a richly deserved crowning glory.
The following season saw Toure score double figures for the second successive campaign despite City’s failure to defend their crown, including this effort against West Brom which showcases the very best of one of Africa’s all-time greats.
Picking the ball up in space Toure charges forward once more, playing a beautiful outside of the foot pass into the path of compatriot Wilfried Bony. Surging forward for the return, he fails to break stride before unleashing a thunderous side-footed effort into the top corner.
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 15, 2020
Toure’s influence diminished during his latter years as he was fazed out of the side following the arrival of former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, whilst a series of off-field incidents – including a memorable sulk over a lack of a birthday cake on his 31st birthday – perhaps dented his everlasting reputation in the eyes of many.
What is undisputed, however, is his impact on the recent history of a modern Manchester City, a player who scored goals of both great beauty and importance. The rampaging Toure in full flight was one of the most feared sights in English football over the past decade, an improbably complete midfield talent who at his peak ranks amongst the very finest of the Premier League era.
Few have contributed as much to a notable power shift in Manchester, arguably the first world-class arrival at the Etihad and one of the Premier League’s great Golazo Merchants.