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.”
Best soccer tifos from around the world
Galatasaray fans display a sensational "Rocky" tifo ahead of their clash against rival Fenerbahce. It didn't inspire a victory, though. The Turkish rivals played to a 0-0 draw.
Borussia Dortmund fans channel their 1963 cup triumph over Benfica ahead of the teams' second leg in the Champions League round of 16 at Signal Iduna Park.
Hapoel Be'er Sheva fans turn to Moses for tifo inspiration, with his splitting the Red Sea illustrating how "impossible is nothing" in their Europa League series against Besiktas.
Fans of Tunisia's Club Africain display this pointed tifo at a friendly against PSG, whose Qatari owners have pumped millions and millions into the club.
U.S. fans in Columbus, Ohio, make a "One Nation, One Team" statement ahead of the USMNT's World Cup qualifying match against Mexico on November 11, 2016.
Germany fans display their heart for the team colors ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Czech Republic in October 2016.
Italy fans spell out their support for the Azzurri ahead of a massive World Cup qualifier vs. Spain in October 2018.
Iceland fans keep up their world-famous passion for the national team during a World Cup qualifier against Turkey in October 2016.
Fans in the United Arab Emirates set their sights on reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia during a qualifying match vs. Australia in September 2016.
Colombia fans send a massive jersey around the stadium during a World Cup qualifier vs. Venezuela in September 2016.
Seattle Sounders fans turn to Game Of Thrones for inspiration in a game against the Cascadia rival Vancouver Whitecaps in September 2016.
Djurgardens fans go all out in Sweden for a match against AIK in September 2016.
Zulte Waregem fans prepare Kortrijk for the absolute worst in this Belgian top-flight match in September 2016.
Seattle Sounders fans turn their pop culture reference to Poltergeist in March 2016 ahead of the season home opener against Sporting Kansas City.
The Timbers Army doubles down on their Eastbound and Down theme, adding another wrinkle during the club's MLS Western Conference final first leg vs. FC Dallas on November 22, 2015 at Providence Park.
Fans make a French flag tifo at Wembley Stadium during the singing of Le Marseillaise ahead of England's friendly vs. France, which took place days after the terrorist attacks in Paris.
The Timbers Army referenced Eastbound & Down's Kenny Powers with their "Cup Bound and Down" tifo for the Portland Timbers' MLS playoff elimination game against Sporting Kansas City on October 29, 2015.
Brondby IF fans display a gladiator holding up a lion's head during the team's Danish Alka Superliga match against FC Copenhagen, whose logo is a lion's head, on September 27, 2015.
New England Revolution fans equate Jermaine Jones to Indiana Jones on their quest to capture the 2015 MLS Cup on September 26, 2015.
New England Revolution fans display a Lion King theme in honor of Orlando City FC's first visit to Gillette Stadium on September 5, 2015.
Red Bulls fans take a shot at NYCFC's two summer arrivals, 37-year-old Frank Lampard and 36-year-old Andrea Pirlo, ahead of their third MLS meeting of 2015.
Germany fans in Cologne salute their World Cup champions ahead of a friendly against the United States in June, 2015.
Real Madrid fans went all out prior to the second leg of the 2014-15 Champions League semifinal vs. Juventus.
Lazio fans display a stunning eagle tifo ahead of the Rome derby against AS Roma in their penultimate Serie A match of the 2014-15 season.
Barcelona fans bid farewell to veteran midfielder Xavi with this banner at his last league game at Camp Nou before he departs for Qatari club Al Sadd.
Fans at Anfield pay tribute to Steven Gerrard in his final home match as a Liverpool player in May 2015.
Juventus fans state their case to beat Real Madrid in the 2014-15 Champions League semifinals and reach the final in Berlin.
Fans at Benfica's Estadio da Luz remind rival Porto who the Primeira Liga reigning champion is during an April 2015 match in Portugal.
New York Red Bulls fans send a pointed message to their NYCFC counterparts prior to the teams' first MLS meeting in May, 2015.
Inter Milan's Curva Nord announces its presence ahead of the April 2015 Derby della Madonnina–the annual clashes between city rivals Inter and AC Milan.
Bayern Munich fans implore their club to (translated) "Never give up" in the Champions League quarterfinal second leg vs. Porto. Bayern then turned a 3-1 first-leg deficit into a 7-4 aggregate win and a place in the semifinals.
Dortmund fans commemorate their 1997 Champions League trophy in the club's clash vs. Juventus–the opponent on the wrong side of that title bout.
Portland Timbers fans speak out against homophobia with this tifo in a 2013 match against Chivas USA
Atletico's supporters display a banner reading "Atleti crushes" before the Spanish league match between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid,
Borussia Dortmund fans put on a remarkable display ahead of a UEFA Champions League quarterfinal second leg match.
Brondby IF fans unveil a tifo ahead of a match in Denmark against Randers FC.
FC Barcelona fans display a huge banner in memory of former head coach Tito Vilanova.
Galatasaray fans support their team during the UEFA Champions League Group D match between Borussia Dortmund and Galatasaray at the Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul.
The American Outlaws unveil a huge tifo ahead of a 2014 World Cup send-off match between the USA and Turkey at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
Marseille's supporters use paper sheets to create an "OM" (Olympique de Marseille) tifo at the beginning of the French L1 football match between Marseille and Genoble.
Seattle Sounders fans display their tifo that shows coach Sigi Schmid playing cards and holding a Royal Flush before a match against the Portland Timbers.
Panathinaikos Athens fans display a banner during the UEFA Europa League match against Dynamo Moscow.
Fans of the Saudi Al-Hilal team celebrate after the scoring of a goal against Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor.
Seattle Sounders fans unveil a tifo inspired from the “Build a Bonfire” chant, featuring Sounder players holding torches on horseback ahead of a game against the Portland Timbers.
Fans of Hertha BSC before the Bundesliga match between Hertha BSC and Werder Bremen in Berlin.
Sporting Kansas City fans channel their inner Mario ahead of the 2013 MLS Cup final vs. Real Salt Lake.
Brondby IF fans.
Thousands of Barcelona fans hold up cards to spell out "Barca! Orgull," which translates to "Barcelona pride" ahead of a Champions League clash with Bayern Munich at Camp Nou.
Fans raise a tifo celebrating “Community, Club and Country” ahead of a CONCACAF Gold Cup match between the USA and Belize in Portland, Oregon.
Vitesse fans unfurl a massive Eagle banner at the Dutch Eredivisie match against Ajax at the GelreDome.
Valencia fans drape a banner featuring a king for a Copa del Rey ("The King's Cup) match against Atletico Madrid.
Juventus fans make a statement in Turin in a match vs. Inter Milan.
Dortmund fans put on another strong display at a Bundesliga match against Mainz 05.
German fans boast the newest star earned by the national team, symbolizing its 2014 World Cup triumph, at a Euro 2016 qualifying match in Dortmund.
Real Madrid fans make a point to display the club's 10 European championships ahead of the October 2014 clash against rival Barcelona at the Bernabeu.
San Jose Earthquakes fans unleash a massive tifo to mark the opening of Avaya Stadium, MLS's newest soccer-specific venue, in March 2015.
Barcelona fans show all who the real 12th man is ahead of the March 2015 Clásico vs. Real Madrid.
Ahead of a clash with Mexican foe Monterrey, Tigres players are treated by this message by its fervent supporters.
Standard Liege fans have a pointed message for Steven Defour, who departed the club for Belgian rival Anderlecht.
Orlando City fans mark their club's inaugural MLS game vs. fellow expansion side New York City FC with a statement that the Lions' "reign begins now."
Real Madrid fans salute Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo after he captured the most prestigious individual prize in world soccer again.
Vitesse fans pay homage to Operation Market Garden ahead of an Eredivisie match against SC Heerenveen.
Sevilla's fans deploy a giant banner in the stands before the UEFA Europa league final match between Benfica and Sevilla.
Fans in Liverpool’s Kop End at Anfield commemorate those lost in the Hillsborough disaster.
Lyon fans during a game against Saint Etienne.