Is Yaya Toure The Best Central Midfielder In The World?
There’s already been a review of The Manchester City Real Madrid face-off on this website, so by all means go and read that. Joe’s a neutral and his views about the game will be much more lucid than mine (AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRGGGHH) But there is one aspect of it I wish to discuss. I think across the pitch, Real Madrid had the better of us. Just that little bit more quality in every position. I don’t rate their defence that highly; it basically looked like conceding every time it was attacked but it’s not like ours fared much better. No, the position I want to to talk about is central midfield, because I think the best player on the pitch in that particular battle wore a Manchester City shirt. No mean feat, since Khedira, Xabi Alonso and Michael Essien all started that match, and Ozil and Modric finished it. Still. In my opinion, if you were putting together some kind of magical world team but could only pick one centre mid off that pitch on Tuesday night, it would be Yaya.
Why? It’s not just because of how hard he is to tackle, with Madrid’s central midfield trio bouncing off his 6 foot 3 frame like he was an electrified fence. It’s not just because when he starts running, he seemed to be as hard if not harder to stop than Ronaldo at the opposite end off the field, blasting past defenders, taking one stride to their three and drawing twitter comparisons to Usain Bolt in the way he seemingly can transition from bull to Gazelle before anyone knows what’s going on. It’s because he can do things, as well as slot through passes on a a dime, and as well is being one of the most efficient defensive midfielders in the world if asked. If football had much use for the term ‘all-rounder’, then Yaya Toure would be without question in my opinion the most complete all-rounder in world football right now, to the point that I’m still not sure City are using him to his full potential.
It shouldn’t be forgotten though, that of course the combination of all those Madrid midfielders was something City had no match for, for all of Yaya’s bossing off them once he had the ball, with David Silva still struggling to find that electric form of last season, although I think he is getting closer, and I think the level of options City have to turn to in midfield looks surprisingly slender, and when Yaya and Silva aren’t working, there doesn’t seem to be much we can do, but Madrid have such unimaginable strength in depth that they seem to have bought Luka Modric in a cameo role.
But to the central thesis, other players who might be in contention for the best central midfielder in the world? The Barcelona duo of Xavi and Iniesta sure, not to mention Sergio Busquets who of course caused Toure to lose his place at Barcelona and eventually be sold to City. Personally I think Toure stomps on Busquets every day of the week in terms of individual quality, but there’s an argument to say that maybe ‘Biscuits’ was a better fit for the Barcelona team, even he is a lesser player than Toure. Schweinsteiger, Fabregas, perhaps even Paul Scholes? I don’t know, it’s possible I’m being biased, but I’d rather have Yaya than any of these players, even Iniesta. He’s a match-winner combined with a powerhouse combined with a visionary, and I just don’t know if there’s something equivalent on the market. Some of these players might be superior to him in a single bracket, Iniesta’s passing and vision for example is greatly superior. But if you’re talking about the idea of complete midfielder, who can do anything and everything for you? Yeah. Don’t think there’s a match.
What’s strange is how it took this long for Yaya to come into the ascendancy like this. There was never much doubt about his holding role capabilities, and that was the use Barcelona had for him during his time there. He memorably played Centre-Back in a Champions League final victory, and perhaps it was a question of philosophy, because I don’t believe it’s that Barca couldn’t recognize his potential. No team in the last 50 years can claim to have a better eye for potential than the Barca set-up of the last decade. No, I think it’s more likely that they were a team that wanted to build itself around finesse, around quickness of movement, passing; The Tiki Taka. So playing Yaya in midfield ahead of Busquets would in some ways be in spite of that. Choosing, on the surface at least because Toure is an excellent passer of the ball, delicacy over physicality and brute force. It’s not like it didn’t work out for them.
Yaya Toure as an attacking force only really has come to prominence at City. At a club where he was one of the most valuable players instead of a squad player, he found the confidence to venture and expand on what he could be as a player, in a deal that sort of worked out best for everyone, including Toure. Yaya wouldn’t be in these conversations if he’d stayed at Barcelona, and while his enormous transfer fee and wages were met with mockery and derision way back when, those arguments have come to a glaring halt as Toure has been the one to push City over the line in both their FA Cup and Premier League wins. The question is will Toure grow frustrated and try and go back to Barca or even Real Madrid if City have a lesser season, with his personal stock at an all-time high. I believe he could probably get both of these moves if he wanted them, or does he stick it out, and see if that personal bar being raised by the game can get any higher (Personally I think it most definitely can) and maybe win all the things he wants to win anyway. Who knows.
But one thing’s for certain, midfield’s will be bossed in the meantime.