Yaya Toure has played just once for Manchester City this season, starting in the second leg of a Champions League qualifier that City had already won. Since then, Pep Guardiola has kept the Ivorian on the bench, and even left him entirely out of City’s Champions League squad for the group stage. That rubbed Toure’s agent, Dimitri Seluk, the wrong way, and things have gone downhill from there.
Seluk popped off in the media about Guardiola when Toure was left unregistered for Champions League play, calling Guardiola "disrespectful" and saying that the manager should be prepared to apologize to Toure if they don’t win the Champions League. Toure has been out of City’s squad since then, and on Tuesday, Guardiola responded to Seluk, laying down an ultimatum for Toure’s return to the squad.
It was so difficult for me to put him out of the Champions League, so difficult. I know him, I know he's a good, good guy, but the list is the list.
But the day after his manager [agent] spoke, and from that moment Yaya is out.
Go to the media and apologise to Manchester City - the first one - the second one his team-mates and, after, the trainer. When that happens Yaya will be part of the group and he will have the same chance to play all the games.
I cannot accept as a coach every manager [agent], when his player doesn't play, goes to the media and speaks and speaks and speaks.
I cannot imagine in my period when I was a football player, my manager [agent] going to the media and speaking against [then Barcelona boss] Johan Cruyff, about this and about that.
-Source: Sky Sports
Shockingly enough, Seluk did not take Guardiola’s words particularly kindly.
If Pep Guardiola wants a war, then he can have one.
Pep didn't like my opinion? But what does he expect me to say when he does this to Yaya?
Yaya is a player who has made history for Manchester City.
He has won the Premier League twice, he has won the FA Cup, he has won the League Cup twice and he helped them reach the semi-finals of the Champions League for the first time.
I spoke out because I felt that Pep was being vindictive to Yaya.
Unfortunately for Pep, we live in a world where you have the right to free speech.
He has reacted to what I have said about him by punishing Yaya again. But I'm not surprised.
Seluk went on to slam Guardiola over his handling of Joe Hart, who was similarly benched and eventually loaned to Torino. He also accused the manager of only wanting players who are "afraid" of him, not wanting strong personalities to challenge his authority. Seluk even went so far as to demand that Guardiola apologize not just to Toure and Hart, but also to Manuel Pellegrini, and he basically accused Guardiola of stealing Pellegrini’s job.
It’s an incredibly dramatic response, and one that’s sure to draw another snippy response from Guardiola in the coming days. And while Toure certainly does have a long and successful history with Manchester City, if you look at how he’s played in the last year-plus, it’s clear that he’s not the elite, dynamic player he once was. He’s much more limited in what he can do than he used to be, and it’s not wholly unreasonable for Guardiola to prefer other midfield options that he has available, like Kevin De Bruyne or Fernandinho.
Toure could have left last summer, but at 33 years old and with very high wages to pay, only a handful of clubs would have been interested in him — all clubs that would be rivals for City in England or Europe. City were understandably resistant to the idea of selling Toure to a rival, so he wound up staying put -- something else that annoyed Seluk.
So now with Guardiola’s ultimatum and Seluk’s apparent escalation of their growing media war, it looks like Toure won’t be back in Manchester City’s squad any time soon. City haven’t exactly missed him so far — they’ve won every single match they’ve played this season in all competitions, and looked like they’ve adapted very well to Guardiola’s methods. The way he’s handled this situation with Toure is perhaps not the best as it essentially boils down to "your agent was mean to me so I won’t play you," but the squad’s performances on the pitch seem to suggest that they’re doing just fine without him.
In the meantime, get some popcorn, because it looks like things are just starting to heat up in this little drama.