Would Yaya Touré be more celebrated a soccer player if he were European?
Over the last three seasons, the Manchester City midfielder and Ivory Coast international, has been one of the main reasons to spend weekends watching the English Premier League. There are not that many players in the world that can do this on a wintry Wednesday evening in Manchester:
He also just won African footballer of the year for the fourth time in a row—the first to ever achieve this honor—and he is about to captain his national team in the African Cup of Nations, the region’s elite tournament.
And yet, Touré does not seem to get the recognition he deserves. He didn’t even make the shortlist for this year’s Ballon d’Or, being out-ranked this year even by a goalkeeper. The award was won on Monday by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Numerous colleagues have said that Touré is overlooked, with one saying “if he was white, 100% he would have won one of those top awards.” Touré himself has spoken out that he isn’t appreciated because of where he comes from, especially as compared to someone like Lionel Messi:
If you go to any part of Africa now, people will say, ‘yes, we know him [Messi]’, but when you come to Europe and say ‘Yaya Toure’ people will say, ‘who is that?’ Some will say they know my name but not know my face. But they will know Messi’s face.
A recent list of the top 100 players in the world by The Guardian ranked Touré at 18th, despite calling him “one of the most dominant midfielders in the world.” Yet he found himself trailing the likes of Eden Hazard of Chelsea (16) and Toni Kroos of Real Madrid (11). The latter’s case is interesting as a point of comparison, as both he and Touré play almost the exact same position. So, is Kroos really better than Touré?
Touré has won league titles in England, Greece, and Spain and a Champions League trophy with Barcelona in 2009. Last season, he scored 20 goals in the Premier League, helping Manchester City win their second league title in three years. On the other hand, Kroos has won two Bundesliga titles and a Champions League while at Bayern Munich—and last summer, he lifted the biggest prize of all: the World Cup.
And therein lies the rub. Kroos has been successful at both club and international level. Meanwhile, Touré has yet to win a trophy with his country. This may explain why he is still not yet rated as highly as he think he should be. But Touré has a chance to rectify that at Africa’s premier soccer tournament, which starts Jan. 17 in Equatorial Guinea.
Can Yaya Touré and his so-called golden generation finally deliver a trophy for the Ivory Coast? Over the last few years, despite possessing great talents such as Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, and Yaya’s brother, Kolo, they have failed to deliver at tournament level.
The team got knocked out in the group stages in the last three World Cups. At the African Cup of Nations, they managed to get to the final in 2006 and 2012, but lost both times—including once against unheralded Zambia:
For Touré, at 31, this is probably his last opportunity to prove that he can excel at the international level and cement his legacy as one of the best to have ever played the game.