Why is Yaya Toure playing for Barcelona?
There’s not much going on today apart from a pretty funny rant from Jens Lehmann about the Arsenal goalkeeping situation, so I thought I’d turn my attention to an issue that has had me perplexed for some time now; Yaya Toure joining Barcelona. As many readers will know, Yaya is the younger brother of Arsenal defender Kolo Toure and he recently joined Spanish side Barcelona for a fee worth €10m. Surprisingly, Yaya slipped straight into the starting team at Barcelona for their first game of the season against Athletic Bilbao and scored an absolute thunderbolt of a goal in the Catalans 3-1 win.
But why is Yaya playing for Barcelona and not Arsenal? Back when the Ivorian was plying his trade in Greece with Olympiakos, older brother Kolo was quite vocal about the obvious talent his younger brother possessed and encouraged the Arsenal Football Club to make a bid for Yaya.
“He has great ability. When I watch him he looks like Patrick [Vieira]. He is a tall player, has great ability and he can help the club. He is a better player [than me], he is a midfielder and has great ability. He is fantastic. It would be fantastic, my brother and me.”
Sure enough, reports soon filtered through that Arsenal had put in a €7m bid for Yaya in January 2006 transfer window. Somewhat surprisingly, the offer was knocked back by Olympiakos, with the Greek club stating that they wanted to wait until the off-season before considering selling the Ivorian. Astonishingly, he was then offloaded to French side AS Monaco for a €4.5m, a figure well below what was offered by Arsenal. He played with Monaco for one season which saw his value increase substantially before being transferred to Barcelona.
A confusing sequence of events
The thing that confuses me about this sequence of events is that no other offer was made by Arsenal apart from the inital bid in January 2006. It was quite obvious from the performances he produced with Monaco and the positive words from brother Kolo that Yaya was a player with an abundance of potential. What’s more, he was not an established star, something that manager Arsene Wenger tends to avoid, and the cost it would have taken to bring him to the club was anything but unreasonable.
Despite the abundance of midfielders at the club there was a distinct lack of defensive midfield options. You only have to look at Arsenal’s recent signing of Lassana Diarra to realise that Wenger shared this point of view. Whilst Diarra will surely prove to be an excellent purchase for Arsenal the indications are already there that Yaya is already well on his way to becoming a world-class player. Yaya’s manager Frank Rijkaard is not the only one to have seen the ability that the younger Toure possesses, with teammate Andres Iniesta also singing his praises of late.
“He helps at the back and also joins in up front. His ball control is especially good, and that’s important in a position like his.”
The successor that never was
So why wasn’t Yaya snapped up by Arsenal? He fit the billing as a perfect signing for the club; young, technically gifted and relatively inexpensive. There seems no logical reason as to why a second bid was not made. Maybe, despite Kolo’s claims that the two brothers would work well together in the same team, Wenger believed there was a conflict of interest in bringing two players of the same family into the same club. Maybe he has a policy against it. Who knows.
The fact is that while Arsenal possess a wealth of talented midfielders in their that will serve the club for years to come, Wenger has missed out on a player who appears to have abilities that none of his current squad possess. Much has been said about Abou Diaby’s potential to replace Patrick Vieira as the club’s premier battling midfielder, But as great as Diaby proves to be, I just wonder whether Vieira’s real successor is playing in Spain rather than London.
What do you think?
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