Win-win for Pep, Touré

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LON­DON — “I’m here to take de­ci­sions,” Pep Guardi­ola said on Satur­day evening, re­mind­ing ev­ery­one of what was never in doubt in the first place. “Maybe I make mis­takes, but I have to take de­ci­sions and I re­spect the fact some peo­ple won’t agree with me.”

Af­ter three months in which it seemed the only way Yaya Touré might get on the pitch for Manch­ester City was as part of an elab­o­rate man­nequin chal­lenge, Guardi­ola took the de­ci­sion to re­store the mid­fielder to the first team on Satur­day.

It was a re­call that sur­prised ev­ery­one at Sel­hurst Park, Crys­tal Palace’s de­fend­ers first and fore­most.

They failed to give the tow­er­ing Ivo­rian nearly enough at­ten­tion as he scored two goals, each char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally dif­fi­dent fin­ishes of the high­est qual­ity, to win the match.

Be­fore his re­turn, Touré’s main con­tri­bu­tion to City’s sea­son has been as the ap­par­ently non­plussed sub­ject of a spat be­tween the man­ager and his own agent, Dim­itri Seluk.

For his part, Guardi­ola wanted the mid­fielder, whom he sold while man­ager of Barcelona but was cen­tral to City’s two ti­tle wins, to lose weight and work harder with­out the ball.

Seluk, mean­while, wanted to tell any­one who would lis­ten that Guardi­ola’s ac­tions, which in­cluded drop­ping Touré from City’s Cham­pi­ons League squad, had amounted to the “hu­mil­i­a­tion” of his client.

This month Touré took it upon him­self to break the im­passe and apol­o­gise to the club for any “mis­un­der­stand­ings” that had oc­curred.

Now, af­ter the mid­fielder’s twogoal re­turn, Guardi­ola says he is will­ing to con­sider restor­ing Touré to Euro­pean ac­tion in the new year. At last, ev­ery­one is happy. Bar Seluk, per­haps.

“If we are able to qual­ify in the Cham­pi­ons League, I will sit with my staff and we will de­cide who are the best play­ers to help us to achieve what we want in the Cham­pi­ons League,” Guardi­ola said af­ter this win.

“I’ve spo­ken many times in the last month with Yaya be­cause he was my player with Barcelona, I know him very well. I know how he is as a player. As a player there is no doubt, if there was a doubt he would not be here. He is an­other guy to com­pete with our mid­field play­ers and in­crease our level.”

Touré, for his part, said he was “de­lighted” to re­turn to the first team and gave thanks for the sup­port of his team-mates. “They are very im­por­tant to me,” he said. “They have al­ways been bril­liant with me, al­ways sup­port­ive. I al­ways want to be there to help them.”

From the way the City play­ers cel­e­brated Touré’s goals, to the round of ap­plause he re­ceived while walk­ing down the tun­nel, and the im­pres­sive bear lift ap­plied by a de­lighted Willy Ca­ballero, it was clear any re­spect was mu­tual.

In fact, Touré’s per­for­mance on Satur­day was fit­ful. He was off the pace in the open­ing ex­changes. In the clos­ing mo­ments, when play­ing as an aux­il­iary for­ward, his sole in­tent (and an ef­fec­tive tac­tic) was to seek con­tact from an op­po­nent and buckle quickly to the floor.

In the mid­dle of the match he was hardly more dy­namic, largely con­tent­ing him­self with knit­ting the play to­gether.

Touré knows how to win league ti­tles and re­tains an abil­ity to make de­ci­sive in­ter­ven­tions. Fur-

ther­more, his skills are dis­tinct from the tricky, mo­bile for­wards Guardi­ola favours.

There will be times, like a cold, wet af­ter­noon in south-east Lon­don

against assertive op­po­si­tion, when Touré’s power will prove in­valu­able to a side chas­ing the ti­tle in this most open of Premier League sea­sons.

It would be stat­ing the ob­vi­ous again to point out that Guardi­ola must know this. The man­ager has won his bat­tle of wills with Touré and now has an­other tool in his al-

ready well-stocked kit.

No won­der then, when asked whether he re­gret­ted the last three months of ac­ri­mony, the Spa­niard an­swered sim­ply “no”. — Guardian

MANCH­ESTER City’s yaya Toure, right, cel­e­brates scor­ing his side’s se­cond goal dur­ing the English Premier league soc­cer match against Crys­tal Palace on Satur­day.

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