Pep chal­lenges Toure to win back City place

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - SPORT -

MANCH­ESTER (United King­dom): Pep Guardiola has chal­lenged Yaya Toure to win back his place in the Manch­ester City team af­ter the vet­eran mid­fielder’s re­cent ab­sence from the squad.

The Ivo­rian has not fea­tured this sea­son and was left out of the party that trav­elled to Rot­ter­dam for the club’s im­pres­sive 4-0 win over Feyeno­ord in their open­ing Cham­pi­ons League group game on Wed­nes­day.

He also failed to make the bench for City’s 5-0 thump­ing of Liver­pool last week­end.

But Guardiola is urg­ing the 34-year-old to knuckle down and prove he is wor­thy of a place in the team.

“We need him. I need him and the team needs him. He was so im­por­tant last sea­son. He’ll be so im­por­tant this sea­son,” Guardiola told re­porters in Manch­ester on Fri­day.

Spec­u­la­tion about the mid­fielder’s fu­ture has been rife at the Eti­had ever since Guardiola’s ar­rival, es­pe­cially as the Cata­lan man­ager had al­lowed Toure to leave for City in 2010 while in charge of Barcelona.

It looked like the same might hap­pen at the be­gin­ning of Guardiola’s City ten­ure when Toure was frozen out of the first team as the re­la­tion­ship be­tween man­ager and player soured over the out­spo­ken com­ments of the mid­fielder’s con­tro­ver­sial agent Dim­itri Seluk.

But de­spite the off-field drama, Toure made an im­pres­sive re­turn, play­ing 31 times for City last sea­son de­spite only re­turn­ing to the team in mid-Novem­ber.

He was the only player out of con­tract in July to be given a new deal as a raft of se­nior squad mem­bers were re­leased to spark a sum­mer re-build.

But af­ter be­ing left out of the past two squads, ques­tions have again been asked about Toure’s fu­ture.

But Guardiola, whose side travel to Wat­ford on Satur­day, has been quick to knock back any idea of a fall­out and says the Ivo­rian will be a key fig­ure for his team this sea­son.

“He’s a part of the group,” he said. “He’s a guy who I ad­mire. What he’s done in his ca­reer, he’s an ex­cep­tional player.”

Guardiola hinted ahead of Wed­nes­day’s win in the Nether­lands that he had spo­ken to Toure about why he had been omit­ted from the squad, blam­ing “sport­ing rea­sons” and in­sist­ing there had been no per­sonal dis­agree­ment.

With Ilkay Gun­do­gan still re­cov­er­ing from a torn cru­ci­ate knee lig­a­ment, City’s only other fit cen­tral mid­field­ers are Fer­nand­inho and Fabian Delph.

Guardiola is aware he will have to use the full ex­tent of his squad as fix­tures come thick and fast.

“All the teams that play in Europe have a lot of games,” he said. “Ev­ery three days un­til the next in­ter­na­tional break -- there are many, many games to play.

“There are many games and I think ev­ery­body will be in­volved. It is so im­por­tant, but I’m think­ing of what is the best team to play for ev­ery game.” - AFP

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