Former Leeds United ace Danny Mills talks football
I’d have loved it if any of my professional clubs had bought me a cake for my birthday but when I was playing, convention was very different.
On your birthday it was your responsibility to get down to the local bakers and turn up for training with enough pastry to keep the dressing room happy. With 30-odd lads in a squad, you had a birthday almost every week. Let’s just say that diets then weren’t quite as strict as they are now.
Yaya Toure is rich enough to buy himself a cake. He’s rich enough to buy the bakers. So don’t be fooled into thinking that his weird argument with Manchester City only arose because the club failed to acknowledge his birthday properly.
The comments from Toure’s agent this week are some of the most farcical I can remember. Straight away, you’re reading between the lines and ignoring the nonsense. Does Toure want a pay rise? Does he want to leave City altogether? Or is he trying to make sure that he’s top dog at the club – the main man for everyone to see?
Whatever he wants, he’d be better off coming out and saying it. It’s almost funny to think that by moaning about his birthday rather than asking for a transfer or a new contract, Toure’s agent believed he was giving Toure more respectability – or that he’d come in for less criticism.
Players never like to be seen demanding cash because in the eyes of the public they earn enough already. But the way the media have reacted to his agent’s remarks, I bet Toure wishes he’d cut to the chase and said exactly what’s in his head. Ultimately, he’s going to have to clarify his position anyway.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen problems with him. There was speculation a while back that he was unhappy about the number of pictures of him – or lack of them – on the walls of City’s stadium and training ground. More recently, I read an interview where he said that African players don’t get enough respect or recognition; or not as much as they would if they were English, European or South American.
In Toure’s case, I’d dispute that. His reputation in this country is virtually second to none. Okay, Luis Suarez took all the player-of-the-year awards this season but I’d argue that Toure was the Premier League’s most influential footballer. City missed him more than Liverpool missed Suarez. And now they’re talking about Barcelona coming in for him. Honestly, he’s right up there. Someone should tell him.
The irony of Toure asking for more respect is that his agent is now using birthday cake to make a song and dance about his future. It’s not particularly mature and it’s not very responsible or professional. I always fight against the idea that footballers are role models but this mess isn’t setting a good example to anyone. Nor is it doing the reputation of players in general any good.
We’ll only know what the crux of the argument is when something happens. If Toure is sold, you’ll know that he wanted to go. If he signs a new contract, his intentions will be just as clear. There’s a bit of talk about him looking for some coaching duties at City which, frankly, City might be happy to give him. All in all, it makes you wonder why he didn’t just sit someone down in a private room and get it all out in the open.
This saga lends itself to the debate about player power and understandably so. It’s quite sobering to realise that even Manchester City – the richest team on the planet, a club with infinite wealth – are as prone to that power as anyone. The one thing City have is enough money to sort just about anything out, unless of course Toure is so unsettled that he feels he can’t stick around. But this trend at the very top level is rapidly developing and I expect to see much more of it.
For now, the whole thing will be a blur and a mess for as long as it takes Toure to speak for himself and answers some searching questions.
He owes it to a lot of people to make himself clear – and not least Manchester City’s supporters.
I don’t hold with the claim that fans pay a player’s wages. TV money pays a player’s wages.
But supporters are unbelievably loyal, more loyal than your average footballer, and you can’t ever fool them. Toure’s agent can talk about birthday cake as much as he likes.
All people want to know is the real story.