Yaya Touré has accused Pep Guardiola of seeking “revenge” against him, claiming the Manchester City manager’s coaching reputation is “a myth” and that he did “everything to spoil” the Ivory Coast midfielder’s last season at the club.
Touré left City in May after eight seasons at the club but became increasingly marginalised as they claimed the Premier League title with a record number of points. It was not the first time that he had found himself surplus to requirements under Guardiola, having left Barcelona in 2010 to move to the Premier League.
But despite being assured that their previous issues would not have an impact on their relationship at City, Touré believes he was unfairly singled out and alleged that the manager refused to select him for matches out of spite.
“Pep likes to dominate and wants to have obedient players who lick his hands. I do not like this kind of relationship. I respect my coach but I am not his thing,” he told France Football. “Like all players, I have bickered with my coaches. But at a certain point, men who do not understand each other reconcile. This is not possible with Pep, who is very rigid. The other players will never admit it publicly but some have already told me that they ended up hating him. Because he manipulates and plays a lot with your head.”
Touré added: “When he arrived at City, he told me right away that he needed me to coach the youth. Even if I had some options to leave, I thought that I would be able to enter the legend of the Citizens. The same thing last summer when he asked me to stay. Maybe he was afraid of losing control of the dressing room if I left because he knew what I was representing for the group? But after the transfer window closed, I saw that I was removed from the team.”
Having previously been a crucial member of the City side since his move from Barcelona, Touré had to wait until the final home match against Brighton last month for his first Premier League start of the season. In total he played just 228 minutes in the league and was left out of the EFL Cup final victory over Arsenal despite having played in four of the previous ties in the competition.
“I think I was dealing with someone who just wanted revenge on me,” is Touré’s explanation for his treatment. “I do not know why but I have the impression that he was jealous of me, that he took me for a rival. There you have it. We always looked at each other weirdly. He was spinning around me without saying anything, watching me, gauging me, but not talking to me. Yet he knows that I speak Catalan, Spanish and English. It should be enough to communicate both. But apparently no … Every time we passed each other, he seemed embarrassed. As if I made him a little self-conscious. As if, also, he had understood that I knew him perfectly.”
The 35-year-old also stated that he considered posting his training statistics from the club’s physical trainers on social media in a bid to vent his frustration before deciding against it because he did not want to “hurt the team”.
“As someone proud, he wants to succeed with his players, those he has chosen and not those who have been chosen by others. This is his project. And woe to him who does not belong to it,” Touré added. “Actually, I want to be the one who breaks the Guardiola myth a bit. Barcelona, he did not invent it. He just had the intelligence to adapt what Cruyff had set up. Then, at Bayern and City, he tried to reproduce the same patterns but with this requirement: working with ‘his’ players and with almost unlimited means. It would not work at Crystal Palace or Watford. For me, Zidane is bigger because he has fewer requirements and shows great respect for all his players. Pep, he wants to be considered a genius. He loves it. But there is a lot of comedy behind all this, it’s a bit of anything. He creates a character. When I see him scratching his head in full match to show that he thinks thoroughly, it makes me laugh. It’s comedy.”
To mark his departure last month, City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak arranged for the club’s main training pitch to be named after Touré in recognition of contribution to the club. A tiled mural of the midfielder celebrating his winning goal against Stoke City in the 2011 FA Cup final also stands as a permanent memorial, although the man who won seven trophies in his spell in Manchester admitted his memories will always be marred by the circumstances of his departure.
“He was a hypocrite praising me but I let him do it,” Touré explained. “I would have preferred to have no ceremony and leave with my head higher. I have the impression that Pep, without acknowledgment or respect, did everything to spoil my last season. It hurts when you spent eight years in a club. He stole my farewells with City, a club where the fans are beautiful. I would have liked to leave with emotion of this club as could [Andrés] Iniesta or [Gianluigi] Buffon. But Pep prevented me. The worst part is that at the end I was happy to leave this club that yet I loved so much. I was frustrated and so I felt neglected, neglected. If I did not shed tears at the time of the goodbyes with the supporters, it’s because there was a break and I could not see this guy anymore.”