NEW YORK – Over the past five years, Manchester City and Yaya Toure have simultaneously risen into the elite ranks of world football. During the current transfer window, whispers of his departure from the team have been heard from all corners of the Internet. But according to the Ivory Coast midfielder, it isn’t pedigree or money that fuels his desire to stick around the Etihad; it is loyalty. He says he hopes to remain there for the rest of his playing career.
“I have my contract, and there’s no feeling for me to get out from City. For me, there’s no other place I want to go,” Toure told SI.com prior to the summer transfer window opening. “The team has been brilliant to me over these years. I have nothing more to ask. I just want to play football in this shirt, for this club and for these fans.”
Toure, 32, joined Manchester City in 2010 after three seasons at FC Barcelona. Since then, City has finished two of Toure’s five seasons with the team as champion of the English Premier League, runner up in another two and FA Cup champion in another. Toure won a Champions League and two Spanish League titles as a fringe player at Camp Nou, but he feels like he became the player he is–the player being courted by teams all over the globe–at City.
“Everything I’ve achieved, the best of my career has all been for Manchester City,” Toure said. “I could go play at the biggest clubs in the world, but I want to stay to try to help at City as long as possible.”
In the last calendar year, Toure, who is under contract through 2017, has played in the World Cup and won the African Cup of Nations for the Ivory Coast. Manchester City made it to the Champions League knockout stage and unsuccessfully defended the EPL title. Throughout, Toure battled lower body injuries to his groin, hamstring and Achilles tendon. Toure called it the most difficult year of football he can remember.
In all, Toure tallied 10 goals and an assist for second-place City during the 2014-15 season. Toure was far from the form he had during 2013-14 campaign when he scored 20 goals and City ended the season as EPL champion.
“Physically, it was very, very difficult for me, to be honest. Before the World Cup, I was injured and I had to fight back to try to play because I know I am an important player for my country,” Toure said. “I missed part of the [Manchester City] preseason, which is very important for every player because the Premier League is so physically demanding. At the end of the season, I was not in good form.”
During transfer windows, loyalty among athletes and the sports teams that employ them can be a funny thing. From the team’s perspective, any player, no matter how highly regarded, is a dispensable asset once production begins to decline. Players know this, and so job security and the largest possible payday often override allegiance. Legacy is a luxury afforded to only the elite, those select few who spend their careers in demand by the team for which they want to play.
Manchester City is retooling to take back the league title from rival Chelsea. It wouldn’t be outside of the realm of possibility for the two parties, Toure and City, to go separate ways. But Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini stated his desire to keep Toure at Manchester City in April. Toure’s agent Dimitri Seluk–who started a bizarre sequence of events last year by claiming Toure was hurt by the club not acknowledging his birthday–declared Toure’s intention to stay in May. Neither comment kept Toure out of the rumor mill.
"I will definitely stay," Toure told the Manchester Evening News in early June. "The fans don't have to be worried. My target this year is to try to do everything possible to make this team improve.”
The rumors kept on flowing. Many teams–Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Liverpool among them–were and still are said to be hot on his trail. Toure says while he is aware of his name being in multiple rumors, he pays little attention to them.
He knows firsthand that there isn’t much he can do to quell the rumor mill, but also says there is little the rumor mill can do to change his perspective.
“It’s always flattering when you are courted by the biggest teams. It means that you are doing your job well and people are noticing. But nothing outside of the field is going to bother me because Manchester City is very strong in my heart and I have to be focused and fully committed for this club,” Toure said. “What Sheikh Mansour [Owner of City Football Group], Manuel Pellegrini and the blue people of Manchester have done for me is massive. My family is totally grateful to Manchester City. That’s why I want to stay.”
Toure said that he would prefer to finish he career out at Manchester City, but did take a moment to consider playing for the other teams under the City Football Group umbrella if he ever fell out of his position with Man City’s first team.
“My target is clear. I’m the kind of person that when I set a target, I do it,” said Toure of his desire to finish his career in Manchester. “Manchester City is the right club for me to go out on top [with], but if I’m asked to come to New York City to continue to help City grow, I would do that for them.”
For now, Toure is fully focused on helping Manchester City return to the top of the Premier League table.
“This coming season, we want to return the trophy [to Manchester City] and we will do whatever we can to do it.”