Yaya missing in European football action

Manchester City's Yaya Touré. (Clive Brunskill, Getty)

Manchester City's Yaya Touré. (Clive Brunskill, Getty)

This was an evening primed perfectly for the Ivorian to prove at last that he can shine under the continental lights for City against elite opposition. But for a player who has been the driving force behind two Premier League titles and an FA Cup triumph, Touré has been strangely muted when the European Cup comes around.

With a Champions League winners medal on his Barcelona résumé from the all-conquering 2009 side, this strange anomaly could be addressed against a Bayern Munich outfit boasting Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mario Gotze and Philipp Lahm from Germany’s triumphant Brazil 2014 quest.

In this golden chance to address the glaring hole on a glittering City CV, Touré would also use Manuel Pellegrini’s decision to place Sergio Aguero on the bench for tactical reasons as further incentive to become the team’s lead actor and finally wrest a contest his way.

Instead, Touré went missing in action yet again when really required, offering another anonymous performance against a European aristocrat.

Going into this opening Champions League group match, Touré‘s total of five goals in 18 appearances for the English champions did not at first glance appear too shabby for a midfielder.

Solitary finish
Yet three of those strikes came in the 2011-12 campaign. Since then, only two.
Last term’s solitary finish came against Viktoria Plzen – a return of one a 556 minutes – whereas the goal the previous season, against Ajax, was from 450 minutes of play. In 11 Champions League matches for City against the heavyweight opposition of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Napoli and Bayern, only one strike marks Touré‘s resume, against the German giants in City’s 2-0 win in December 2011.

For Olympiakos, Barcelona and City, Touré‘s overall tally stands at six in 51 appearances, which can be filed under “paltry” for a performer of his talent. If creation is another string to an all-action midfielder’s bow, then the 16 chances fashioned in City’s trio of European Cup seasons – last year there were only three – again disappoints.

When the sides walked off here, Touré‘s display had been of the not bad, not good ilk that has marked his time at the club in the competition. Mediocrity is not how star turns measure out a career.

Positioned in that familiar area ahead of Fernandinho in Pellegrini’s 4-5-1, Touré‘s mission was to replicate the scintillating domestic form that can have him punching holes in defences on a weekly basis.

Yet what the Allianz Arena witnessed was the plodding, slumbering Touré who looks – and is – only half-interested.

Sleepwalker
So far, even on the domestic stage, there has been scant sign of the performer of last year’s memorable season, who registered 24 goals in 49 appearances for City to make him the box-office attraction in a City squad packed with A-listers. In four outings there have been no goals and there is a growing sense that Touré is back to the sleepwalker of two campaigns ago when his failure to contribute consistently was a prime factor in City’s dismal title defence under Roberto Mancini.

Last season ended in the farce of Touré and cake-gate. Precisely what the end-game was in the claims that City had not celebrated his birthday enough has never been explained. One theory ran that Touré simply wanted more money. City are insistent this will not happen. He is already the club’s highest earner on around £220 000 a week. The salary is paid for him to come to the backyards of teams like Bayern and show precisely why he draws such a handsome paycheck.

These are the occasions for big-time players to seal a big-game reputation. The return against Bayern comes on November 25 at the Etihad: another opportunity for him to prove the doubters wrong. – © Guardian News & Media 2014

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