Manchester City will use their final home match of the season at the Etihad Stadium today to pay fond tribute to the departing Yaya Toure, a player hailed by Manager Pep Guardiola as “one of the most important” in the club’s history.
The newly-crowned Premier League champions’ match against Brighton & Hove Albion this afternoon will be the Ivorian’s Etihad swansong.
“On Wednesday, we are going to play for Yaya.” Guardiola told reporters yesterday.
The Spaniard also said he believed the 34-year-old midfielder was capable of extending his distinguished career at another Premier League club if he had the inclination.
Toure was left in no doubt of the Etihad’s affection for him as he was mobbed by his teammates and received the most resounding cheers of all during City’s trophy-hoisting celebrations on Sunday.
Now, even though Toure has effectively been a bit-part player this season, the club is determined to give him one more memorable night after playing such a major role in them winning eight trophies in eight years since moving from Barcelona.
“There will obviously be somebody that doesn’t play and he will play. Well, he’s not a bad player to bring in, is he, with what he’s done?” Guardiola said.
“He hasn’t figured as much as he would have liked but when he leaves and individuals look back at the great players of Manchester City then I think he has certainly been one of them.
“It’s a big occasion. Without doubt, he was one of the most important players in our history.”
Toure’s family is settled in England and, although his name has been linked with a move to lucrative new pastures in China, media reports have suggested Everton and Burnley were among top-flight English clubs interested in snapping up his signature.
Guardiola, for one, would not be surprised to see his barnstorming presence flourishing elsewhere in the Premier League next season.
“I wish him well. His desire is to stay playing and he can do a job in the Premier League for another club next season,” Guardiola said.
“He will decide what is best for him. He still has the desire to play. If he still has the desire he should continue.”