19th March – Kolo Toure

Kolo Toure may have been overshadowed by his younger brother Yaya in recent seasons but he has had an amazing career himself and is proving that on his day he can still be one of the best defenders in the Premier League.

At the age of 34 it is understandable that he is not a guaranteed first choice for Liverpool but as he proved away to Real Madrid earlier this season he can produce some immense performances. After winning the African Cup of Nations earlier this year he can finish his career knowing that he has accomplished almost everything in the game, as well as being a part of one of the best teams ever seen in England.

Toure started his career in his homeland with ASEC Mimosas before going on trial with Arsenal in 2002 and was signed by the club on the 14th February for £150,000. During his first season he didn’t play for the club but did start the Community Shield against Liverpool at the start of the following campaign. He was initially seen as a versatile player who could fit in either at right back or in the centre of midfield and he would go on to score his first goal in England in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Toure Arsenal

The 2003-04 season saw Toure become first choice at centre back alongside Sol Campbell and they were phenomenal as the club went unbeaten in the Premier League and gained the nickname ‘The Invincibles’. He was obviously a fan favourite because of his performances and he played 50 times in the 2004-05 season and pick up an FA Cup winners medal. By this point he was known as one of the best centre backs in England but in the following Champions League campaign he proved his ability in Europe as he helped Arsenal reach the final and keep 10 consecutive clean sheets in the competition and would even get the honour of scoring the final European goal at Highbury.

He stayed at Arsenal for a further three seasons but they were not having the same success and on the 29th July 2009 he signed for Manchester City for £14 million. He was quickly named club captain by Mark Hughes and helped the club finish fifth place in the Premier League. But after Roberto Mancini took charge he lost the armband to Carlos Tevez but was still a regular in the squad and would help the club lift the FA Cup. However, he was banned on the 3rd March 2011 for six months after failing a drugs test.

Toure MCFC

After returning he couldn’t break into the first team regularly but did make enough appearances to pick up another Premier League winners medal. In his final season at the club he would play more league games but this didn’t guarantee him a new contract and he left the club on a free transfer in the summer. On the 2nd July 2013 he joined Liverpool and made his debut in a 1-0 win over Stoke City but he once again struggled to become a regular in the first team. Even with Liverpool opting to play with centre backs he still cannot get in the team for a prolonged period and that is why it looks likely that he will leave the club in the summer.

Soccer - Pre-Season Friendly - Preston North End v Liverpool - Deepdale

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “He is strong, quick, reads the game well and will be an influential figure in the dressing room. Kolo has been a central figure in a strong Arsenal team for many years, and I have been an admirer of him for a long time.

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13th May – Yaya Toure

He might have just won the Premier League for the second time but this time it is more special because he beat his older brother to the title.

Yaya Toure’s Manchester City were behind Kolo’s Liverpool until the last few weeks of the season but Liverpool let it slip and City were there to take advantage. The younger Toure brother has had a very interesting career which has seen him play in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece, France, Spain and England.

After joining the ASEC Mimosas youth team in 1996 in his home country of Ivory Coast he showed a lot of potential and was one of a number of Ivorian players to join Belgian club Beveren in 2001. In his time at the Belgian club he played 70 times and scored three goals and he thought his big moment was coming when he had a trial at Arsenal in 2003. He played in a pre-season friendly against Barnet and missed a good chance and then had his performance described as ‘completely average’ by manager Arsene Wenger. However, Arsenal did try and sign him but were unable to get a work permit and Toure decided to join Ukrainian club Metalurh Donetsk where he stayed for a year and a half before being watched by bigger clubs.
Toure Beveren
Greek side Olympiakos took a chance on him and he was quickly dubbed ‘the new Patrick Vieira’. The club won the double and Toure was one of their best players which meant he was linked with a move away from the club and after a good 2006 World Cup he did get a move to French side Monaco. It was not until new manager Laurent Banide came in that the fans got to see the best of him and in the second half of the season he scored five times and was crucial in pulling the club away from the relegation zone. Banide said of him: “Yaya has got terrific technique and uses his body strength to effect. He can do just about anything.”

Once again he only stayed for a season and moved onto bigger things. This time to Spanish giants Barcelona for £6.7 million. He played in the defensive midfield role for the team and his attacking runs were limited and after being forced out of the team by Sergio Busquets he started playing as a centre back and this is where he played in the 2009 Champions League final. After staying for three seasons he was on his way to England.
Toure Barca
It cost Manchester City £24 million to sign him but nobody can argue that he isn’t worth every penny. In his first season he saved his best performances for the FA Cup as he ran the midfield and scored the only goal of the game in the semi final against Manchester United and then repeating it in the final against Stoke City securing the club’s first major trophy for 35 years.

The Premier League title would follow the next season and in the match that was billed as the title decider Toure’s performance against rivals Manchester United was dominant and magnificent. As for much of the season they could not handle his power and he ran the midfield in the 1-0 victory. But he then went on and performed even better when the pressure was higher against Newcastle United by scoring twice in a game that would mean they only needed to win their last game to clinch the title.

Although the 2012-13 season did not go as well for the team, Toure kept his performances as consistent as ever. But in the 2013-14 season he went on to a whole new level, he scored 20 Premier League goals including his first professional hatrick, as well as scoring the equaliser in the League Cup final against Sunderland which they went on to win 3-1. Manuel Pellegrini knw how important he was to the side. “If the team did a good performance it was because of the individual high level from players like Yaya.”
Toure City
The final word can go the manager that brought him to England Roberto Mancini. “It is clear he has class – if he didn’t we wouldn’t have bought him. When you are a top player you can play in every position, and for me Yaya is one of the best players in Europe. But he is also a good guy, which is another important asset.”