FourFourTwo's 100 best foreign Premier League players ever: 20-11
18. Yaya Toure
Part-human juggernaut, part-parable teller (ask anyone who’s ever interviewed him, this correspondent included), Toure made sure that Twitter birthdays would never be the same again. In fairness to the hulking Ivorian, neither would Manchester City’s recent history.
Something of a football nomad before arriving at the Etihad for £24m in 2010 – he’d played in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece, France and Spain – Toure settled quickly in Manchester. He evolved, too, from a defensive midfielder into something altogether more all-action, with added goal threat. Sixty Premier League goals – and counting – is an impressive haul for a midfielder who's played one-third of his games as an anchor.
His displays in winning the 2013/14 title – ahead of a Luis Suarez-inspired Liverpool – warrant special mention. Before that season, Toure hadn’t managed more than eight league goals in a single campaign. That term, the talismanic Ivorian scored 20.
It is, of course, very easy to dislike Toure. His agent Dimitri Seluk doesn’t help matters when talking, often with all the self-awareness of Donald Trump, about how mistreated his client is by the world – but Toure’s will to win is conspicuous by its absence when he’s not at the heart of City’s midfield.
Since buckling down to a new fitness regime – that dominant physique is starting to creak – he’s even convinced Pep Guardiola to bring him in from the cold. And nobody gets Guardiola to do something he doesn’t want to do. Anyone got a Turin number for Joe Hart? AM
17. Carlos Tevez
Tevez arrived in bemusement, left in acrimony, and for six years in between proved himself a vital player for three different clubs, winning every trophy there was to win.
“He’s not worth the trouble” was a regular refrain regarding the Argentine, who caused no end of hassle at all his clubs – illegitimacy at West Ham, disloyalty at Manchester United and insurgency at Manchester City. But the refrain wasn’t true: sure, Tevez brought an ungodly amount of trouble, but he was, undeniably, worth it.
His all-action performances at the tail end of the 2006/07 season – not least a final-day winner at Old Trafford – quite literally saved West Ham from relegation, and at United he became an integral part of Ferguson’s last great team; the Ronaldo-fronted, all-conquering side of the late-noughties.
It was at City, though, that he proved both most troublesome and most invaluable: his five-month strike in 2011 was brattish and absurd, yet his very presence at the club, having defected from United, functioned as the proof and embodiment of the new-look City’s ambition to overhaul their neighbours at the top of the food chain. And when he returned from exile in March to fire City to the most pant-wettingly dramatic title win of the Premier League era, he helped enact exactly that.
A dead-eyed mercenary? Undoubtedly. But having fought his way out of the Buenos Aires barrios and been hawked from club to club by dubiously motivated agents, his only loyalty was, quite rightly, to himself. AH