Speaking in an exclusive interview with France Football, Manchester City midfielder Yaya Touré launched an extraordinary tirade against Pep Guardiola. Here is an initial part of it.
You only started one game this season in the Premier League. Was this the most relaxing season of your career?
It’s actually very tiring to rest when you’re a professional. You use up a lot of energy, especially when you are questioning yourself. But because I’m experienced, I’ve made the most of that time to rest up. What could I do seeing as the coach didn’t play me more? I tried to cope with this frustration weekly.
How did you control yourself & prevent yourself from not packing your bags and leaving?
I know how the group works, and that everything is observed. I had to watch my behaviour in order to not let go. That was the fight I was faced with every week. Fighting to never give the impression that I gave up. Sometimes, I ask how I held up for so long, and kept my head.
Why didn’t you leave during the winter transfer window?
If I went to China where I would have earned astronomical sums, Guardiola would have been right. I even argued with my agent (Dimitri Seluk) who wanted to send me there. But that didn’t really interest me.
Is it really out of the ordinary to play less when you’re a 35 year old midfielder?
The coach knows me very well seeing as I played under him at Barcelona (2008-2010) for two seasons, followed by two more seasons at City (2016-2018). I know how he works. He also knows that I’m not some amateur and that I represent something for City, after playing here for eight years. I don’t think Ibrahimovic had the same treatment at Manchester United.
The worst was that the few times I played during the season, they were tricky matches, where I had everything to lose in makeshift teams. Everytime I would play, around once every two months, Benjamin Mendy would tease me saying, “You dinosaur, you’re still stuck in preseason, huh? How was the preparation game?” I saw the weeks go by and I felt like I was only getting started. Despite that, I showed exemplary behaviour in training and never tried to turn the dressing room against the coach.
Did you see this lousy season coming?
No. I had a few difficulties with Pep in Barcelona. But he told me it was down to his agent, who had supposedly not spoken respectfully to him. Consequently, this became a sort of fixation for him. Like all players, I would joke with my coaches. With Banide, Boloni, Mancini,Ppellegrini. But eventually, you reach a common ground and reconcile. With Pep, it’s impossible because he’s so rigid. The other players won’t publically say it, but some have grown to hate him. He’s manipulative and messes with players’ heads.
What if there were also his biggest strength?
Probably. I remember when I left Barcelona against his will, I told him, “I’m leaving to City, but I bet that someday, you’ll be reunited with me there.” When he arrived to City, he told me right from the beginning that he needed someone to guide the younger ones. Even though there were chances for me to leave, I told myself that I could become a City legend. The same thing happened last summer when he asked me to stay. Maybe he was scared of losing the dressing room if I left, because he knew what I meant to the group. But after deadline day, I saw that he was not including me in the squad.
What did Guardiola criticise you for? A physical decline?
Nothing really… I think I was just faced with someone who wanted to take his revenge on me.
I don’t know actually. Maybe he was jealous and thought I was his rival. That’s probably it. We gave weird looks to each other. He would observe and gauge me without saying anything. I speak Catalan, Spanish and English. That should be enough to communicate with me. I guess not… Everytime we ran into each other, he seemed uncomfortable. As if I blocked the light on him. As if he understood how to read me perfectly.
Why didn’t you try to clarify things together?
I tried to understand. I discreetly asked about my statistics and performance results with the sports doctors. And when I saw that they were excellent in training and games, and even better than those who younger playing over me, I understood it wasn’t about my physical contribution and results. I could have posted them on Twitter or Facebook. But what good would that have done? Unsettling my own team? I didn’t want to do that.