It’s wretchedly sad but we all have our own best before date, don’t we? Hand on heart it’s been downhill all the way since 1996 for me.
*Stares wistfully into the distance*
At 31 has Yaya Toure also begun to slide down that slippery, inevitable and dastardly depressing slope?
Based on what we’ve seen of the Manchester City man this summer it does look and feel that way. Something’s not quite right with the Ivorian that’s for sure…
His performance at the Allianz Arena last night was actually quite painful to watch. Seeing a player of his indisputable class lope around the pitch, not one, not two, but three yards off the pace against Bayern Munich, was a sight that jumped right off the TV screen.
This is a bulldozer of a footballer; a man that thrives on doing the jobs of two men rolled into one, shrugging off opponents like an Under 15 in an Under-10s match; this is a player that scored 20 league goals from midfield last season.
Yet there he was in Munich, playing like a trialist out of his depth and out of shape.
The touch was off, his special awareness non-existent, his decision-making ponderous - and most noticeably of all he closed Bayern’s midfielders down with all the energy of a man who’d spent the day stuffing his face with bratwursts in the city centre.
Xabi Alonso, 18 months his senior and a player who looked finished at the highest level during the World Cup, must have needed introducing to Toure at full-time for the African Footballer of the Year didn’t get within five yards of him all night. The Spaniard’s sharpness was embarrassingly superior.
Spare a thought for poor old Fernandinho. The Brazilian alongside Toure in City’s central midfield was on his knees, exhausted at having to compensate for his partner’s lethargy.
As it’s been in most matches since collecting his second Premier League winner’s medal, Toure’s physical condition and influence was deathly pale in comparison to what we’re accustomed to seeing.
The conspiracy theorists may suggest it’s something different.
Rather than viewing this as the beginning of Toure’s decline at elite level (after all, he was immense last season) they’ll claim the Ivorian’s head and heart are no longer with the club.
Snubbed on his birthday, frustrated at a lack of appreciation, agitated by the sight of teammates’ contracts being negotiated long before his, and openly eager to land one last colossal payday – perhaps with suitors PSG – you could make a case for suggesting he’s harbouring a grudge.
His off the ball work has certainly been poor. The big man has won just two tackles so far this season, and failed to make a single interception in the Premier League. Perhaps frustrated, maybe just a touch slow, he’s also picked up two yellow cards as well, compared to four from 35 matches last term.
Those unstoppable trademark bursts have also been conspicuous by their absence - he’s successfully beaten an opponent with a dribble just twice - and in three Premier League contests City’s talisman has teed up just one solitary opportunity for a teammate.
To the naked eye and in black and white, his performance levels have been startlingly flat.
Is he just off colour? Has he got the hump? Might he have hit a proverbial brick wall?
Only Toure himself knows if it’s his legs or his love that’s gone. Or neither.
In the short term Manuel Pellegrini has a big decision to make ahead of Sunday’s humdinger at home to Chelsea.
Can he afford to risk Toure in a two-man midfield against Mourinho’s slick and dynamic engine room? If I were in The Engineer’s shoes I’d add a third body rather than gamble on being over-run.
Long term, Manchester City’s board also has a major dilemma. Do they improve on Toure’s £220,000 a week contract with three years of it still left to run?
Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, I can’t see them banging his agent’s door down.
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