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Column: Poor Yaya Toure, the wrong kind of blue

AP - Sports
Yaya Toure Could Leave Manchester City After Birthday Snub, Says Agent
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Yaya Toure Could Leave Manchester City After Birthday Snub, Says Agent

Yaya Toure, you prankster.

It is just a cheeky joke, right? Surely you and your agent are simply pulling our legs, making pre-World Cup mischief, with all his silly talk of you feeling unloved and blue?

Not Manchester City blue. Not even the most naive fan will be buying that threadbare line for much longer. Because the more Dimitry Seluk speaks, the more he makes his player look a fool and a vulture whose respect for the club that pays his handsome wage only stretches so far. Say it ain't so, Yaya.

''Upset'' is the word Seluk used this week to describe the mindset of the best midfielder in the Premier League.

But what has Toure got to be blue about?

In a word, nothing.

He surely can't feel that he's had a poor season. With 20 goals in the Premier League, Toure was magnificent, at times unstoppable with his rare combination of Fred Astaire feet, a wrestler's strength and sprinter's speed all packed into an imposing 6-foot-2 frame.

His strike against Aston Villa on May 7 was truly a thing of wonder. In the 93rd minute, when players without his power and stamina are on their last legs, Toure careened bull-like across half the pitch, with four Villa hangers-on in his wake, to score one of the best goals anywhere in Europe. So nothing to make him miserable there.

Neither can Toure be feeling sad about winning the Premier League again with City, for the second time in just three years. Winning trophies, making history, turning City into the new force of English football. Isn't that the sort of glory young boys with heads full of football dream of when they look up at posters of Toure on their bedroom walls?

Well, that and Toure's money, of course. Leaving Barcelona in 2010 to play for Abu Dhabi owners willing to pay whatever it takes to make City the next master of the universe was the smart business move. Forbes magazine ranks Toure among the world's 100 best-paid athletes, with his current four-year deal worth up to $20 million annually in salary and performance bonuses. In short, a bulging wallet is no reason for Toure to feel sorry for himself, either.

And yet, on British radio and television, Seluk has been spouting all sorts of nonsense.

Stuff about how City supposedly neglected to congratulate Toure and no one from the club shook his hand when he turned 31 last week.

''Yaya (is) upset about this. This is not normal,'' Seluk told TV broadcaster Sky.

Surely that can't be right? The club did tweet birthday wishes to Toure on May 13 and the BBC showed footage from the club of Toure getting a cake decorated with the City crest and being serenaded.

But this isn't about cake, it's about respect, Seluk insisted. Toure apparently feels he isn't getting enough of it. Other clubs send players' families flowers on their birthday, he griped. Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala even gave Brazilian star Roberto Carlos a sports car, he said.

''For Yaya, it's not necessary a car. For Yaya, not necessary money. Only attention. This (is) the main thing,'' said Seluk. In another interview, Seluk said Toure has fought for the club, but ''Manchester City forget about him.''

Cake? Cars? Attention? Is Seluk talking about a hormonal 15-year-old or a man-mountain who'll soon carry the Ivory Coast team at the World Cup?

This must be a practical joke because the alternative - that Toure's ego really is so easily bruised or, worse, that he is this spoiled and manipulative - would simply be sad.

How sad it would be if Toure is simply another millionaire football brat with a super-sensitive ego.

How sad it would be if a player so brilliant on the pitch turns out to be so shallow off it.

How sad it would be if a player with the talent to be a standout star in Brazil next month is distracted by such absurdities.

How sad it would be if Toure is allowing his representative to trot out paper-thin gripes simply to pressure City into giving him yet more money or to get him out of his contract so he can move elsewhere. Seluk claimed there's a ''50-50'' chance Toure will go to another club, although City must have other ideas and would have the final word.

The latest message on Toure's verified Twitter account simply says: ''Everything dimitry said is true. He speaks for me. I will give an interview after world cup to explain.''

That, one can only hope, will be where Toure says: ''Ho, ho. Did you like our joke?''

No, not really. But the alternative would be even less funny.

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John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at http://twitter.com/johnleicester

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