For a number of weeks, there has been an abundance of speculation regarding the prospect of Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure making the move stateside and joining New York City FC.
Jeff Rueter — a contributor to both The Guardian and ESPN FC — is now reporting that NYCFC are already in preliminary talks to bring the Ivorian box-to-box legend to the South Bronx, though it remains to be seen whether or not the move would occur in January during the MLS offseason or at some point during the summer transfer window, midway through next season.
#MLS sources telling me that #NYCFC has entered preliminary discussions about signing #MCFC mid Yaya Toure. NYC wants him to join team in January; Man City would prefer summer transfer.— Jeff Rueter (@jeffrueter) November 13, 2017
NBC Sports is also reporting that Toure would not occupy a Designated Player spot upon his arrival, according to their sources.
When it comes to the box-to-box midfield role, there are few players of his generation that could do it better. For years, fans have watched Toure eat up ground in Premier League games, using both his physical strength and passing vision to terrorize opposing midfielders and defenders alike en route to becoming one of the most revered midfielders in the world.
Despite all of that, however, there are still valid concerns regarding Toure making the move to MLS.
Let’s tackle the biggest elephant in the room first: his age — Toure turns 35 in May. NYCFC manager Patrick Vieira has insinuated in the past that age is merely a number, and is supported by the astonishing accomplishments of David Villa and the landmark signing of the team’s first-ever Homegrown Player James Sands. That being said, there is little doubt that a midfielder — especially one with a box-to-box role — will have less of a bite at 34 then they did at 28.
Toure’s age also brings about concerns regarding NYCFC’s long-term plans. At 34, for how many years can City honestly count on Yaya to perform at a high clip? We saw firsthand with Frank Lampard what happens to the body of an aging footballer. Granted, Lampard did deliver when he was on the pitch, scoring 15 goals in 29 appearances with the Bronx Blues. But injury and fitness issues plagued the former Chelsea legend during the entirety of his one-and-a-half year stay in the Bronx. And Toure will bring the same concerns coming to a league that — at the very least — is known for its physicality.
Age, however, isn’t the only concern for Yaya Toure. It’s also what he contributes on the pitch.
During the latter stages of their 2017 campaign, New York City struggled to score goals the same way they had earlier in the season. Following a strong performance in the spring, Rodney Wallace’s goal scoring went stone cold as he didn’t score a goal after May 6. After an equally impressive first half of the season in which he scored eight goals, Jack Harrison only netted two in the final 17 games of the season, including the two playoff games against Columbus.
As NYCFC approached the 2017 MLS Cup playoffs, it became apparent that they needed a player not named David Villa to help contribute in the goal-scoring department.
For all the good he has done in the past, Yaya Toure has never been considered a clinical scorer. In 299 appearances with Manchester City, Toure has netted 81 goals. That is approximately one goal every 3.7 appearances. Not bad by any stretch for a midfielder, but definitely not up to par with Villa, who has scored 63 goals in 94 appearances with New York City, averaging a goal every 1.5 appearances.
Sure, David Villa is a striker and Toure is a midfielder, making any kind of goal-scoring comparison practically moot. But the point remains that City is currently lacking the firepower they need to compete with the best in MLS. And bringing in an aging midfielder on the backstretch of his career will do little to improve that.
Finally, there’s the money issue. Despite struggling to find consistent playing time under manager Pep Guardiola in Manchester, Yaya Toure is living lavishly.
Since signing a new one-year extension with the Cityzens in June, Toure is making an esitmated £220,000 a week, which is approximately £11,440,000 ($13,492,908) a year. Barring a contract that would make him the highest paid player in MLS history, the Ivorian will have to take a significant pay cut. And should the NBC Sports report ring true in regard to NYCFC pursuing Toure as a non-DP signing, things become even more complicated.
Hypothetically, let’s say you’re making in excess of $13 million at your current job. You’re relatively close to retirement, but not close enough to be truly considering it just yet. You’ve been progressively phasing out of your current role and to make things right, your boss has brought to you a proposition which requires you moving to a similar — albeit much less prominent — division within the company’s network. The only catch is that in order to accommodate such a move, you have to accept an annual salary of — at best — $800,000 or so.
Think about that for a second.
If your first response isn’t “LOL, get bent,” then I seriously question your sanity. Realistically, there is no way that anyone is taking a $12 million pay cut to play football in a much less prestigious environment than the Premier League. Barring some serious off-the-books hookup, I wouldn’t expect Yaya Toure — the same man who had a falling out with Manchester City in 2014 over a birthday cake — to accept anything less than Designated Player money.
All criticism and jokes aside, there absolutely lies the possibility that Toure can make positive contributions to New York City. After all, there will be a space to fill when it comes to the box-to-box role linking attacking midfielder Maxi Moralez and defensive mastermind Alex Ring. Yangel Herrera is expected to be back in Manchester following his loan’s expiration at the end of the year. And Toure is definitely a suitable replacement should he assert himself and be able to assimilate into his new surroundings, even if for a fraction of his current earnings.
But does anyone truly expect that to be possible? Only time will tell.