Two powerhouse performances from the Ivorian midfielder upon his return from international duty have sent his side to the Europa League last 16 and now focus turns to the title
By Matt Scott
After Manchester City's 4-0 win over Porto in the Europa League, Roberto Mancini revealed that Carlos Tevez is on the brink of returning to the club's starting XI for the first time since shunning his manager at the Allianz Arena in September.
The Argentine's return from his South American golfing trip will no doubt attract the headlines, but it is Yaya Toure who is more likely to be the man to lead the Etihad Stadium outfit to silverware come May.
Toure spent six weeks of January and February at the Africa Cup of Nations; a month and-a-half which saw City knocked out of the FA and League Cup at the hands of Manchester United and Liverpool respectively.
City played eight games in Toure's absence and only won four of them - with two tight wins over Wigan and Aston Villa and Mario Balotelli's last minute penalty sneaking Roberto Mancini's side past Tottenham.
Adding to this disappointing run was a defeat at Everton, as the FA Cup holders’ title credentials were questioned after having previously topped the league so comfortably.
|TOURE DE FORCE|
| PLAYER RATING
|7.0||Again highlighted his importance to City with a powerful display, injecting energy into City attacks while also defending with purpose. Picked his pass perfectly to set up Aguero for the opener after 19 second|
Upon the Ivorian's return however, Mancini's men have looked a side transformed and Toure's energy and drive through the middle of the pitch were crucial to City's comeback at the Estadio Dragao, as he set up Sergio Aguero's winning goal.
The second leg at the Etihad Stadium confirmed Toure's importance to his team, with him once again assisting Aguero after just 19 seconds and putting in another storming midfield performance. The Ivorian comfortably shut down the creative threat of Joao Moutinho and Lucho Gonzalez while also looking one of City's most dangerous attackers.
After the game he discussed just how crucial it is for City to triumph this season, proclaiming: "It is a very important year for the club and now we have to fight for them and we have to go on now in the Europa League, it’s very important for us to win something this year." He's certainly doing his bit.
Against Porto, Toure put in exactly the kind of all-action performance that Premier League fans have grown accustomed to, but maybe did not expect from him following his £24 million move from Barcelona in 2010.
Regularly deployed in a limited defensive midfield role at Camp Nou, the former Olympiakos man arrived with few expectations and a weight around his neck after being placed on wages that were rumoured to be the highest in the Premier League at the time.
But a year-and-a-half under Mancini’s stewardship has seen the 28-year-old become an all action, box-to-box midfielder who is rated as one of the top players in his position in the Premier League, as evidenced by his recent acknowledgement as the best player in Africa.
Indeed Toure has a truly complete skill set and could probably play in any position in the field.
Pacy, bullishly strong, brave in the tackle, an incisive passer and a marvellous finisher, Toure is City’s joint-top scorer in Europe this season alongside Aguero, with both players having netted three times in continental competition.
City have a plethora of attacking talent with the likes of David Silva, Samir Nasri and Mario Balotelli often dazzling fans with outrageous skill and technical precision, however, they would not be given the platform from which to shine if it weren’t for the hard work and persistence set in place by Toure.
Not only is he one of the more talented performers around Toure is one of the most consistent, having missed just eight Premier League during his time at City with five of those coming in his recent spell away with his country.
In many ways he couldn't be more different to Tevez. The Ivorian has become City's go-to midfielder on the biggest occasions and rarely has he fluffed his lines, providing consistency at a club where sideshows often threaten to take centre stage. Even out of the spotlight, Toure is fast becoming City's leading man.