Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has made light of conflicting attitudes around Yaya Toure, while underlining the midfielder's vital importance to his team's faltering Premier League title bid.
A star performer when the club came from behind to win the top-flight crown in 2011-12 and 2013-14, City will again look to Toure for inspiration after a damaging 3-0 defeat at Liverpool in midweek left them 10 points behind leaders Leicester City and only in fourth place above rivals Manchester United on goal difference.
The Ivory Coast international sat out the Anfield clash due to a kick on his heel and City missed his influence in the centre of the field, Toure having been prominent in the preceding Champions League and League Cup final triumphs against Dynamo Kiev and Liverpool respectively.
Of City's eight Premier League defeats this season, Toure has featured in six and often found himself singled out for considerable criticism on each occasion – usually in relation to a perceived failings in effort and attitude.
The 32-year-old is poised to return when bottom club Aston Villa visit the Etihad Stadium on Saturday and, speaking ahead of the match, Pellegrini was quick to seize upon an apparent contradiction.
"When Yaya plays you always ask me why I don't take him out," he said. "And when Yaya doesn't play you miss Yaya.
"[Toure's influence] is not only in the dressing room, but on the pitch. I think in 90 minutes he brings quality and all the players trust in him because he makes an important difference.
"In the dressing room he is one of the few players with Martin Demichelis that has played in a final of the Champions League, so I think all of them are talking about that."
As Pellegrini prepares to make way for Pep Guardiola at the end of the season, Toure's own City future is uncertain given the incoming manager allowed him to move from Barcelona to Eastlands in 2010, while the player's outspoken agent Dimitri Seluk has regularly made inflammatory comments over his client's future.
"He will always be a very important player here – in every club that he plays," Pellegrini added.
"I don't know [about the future] because I am not thinking about that and neither is Yaya. But in every team he plays he will be an important player."
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