There are no algorithms to determine who will make the grade in management. So the only option for Yaya Toure as he studies for his coaching badges? Watch and learn.
The past week has certainly given the 37-year-old Ivorian much to consider regarding what makes a good manager and what the future holds for his former boss, Pep Guardiola.
Manchester City’s defeat by Lyon in the Champions League quarter-finals means that four years after being hired to win club football’s biggest prize, Guardiola has yet to reach the last four.
‘If this was Barcelona or maybe Real Madrid, for sure he’s going to be in trouble,’ Toure says. ‘It’s down to the board and what they’re going to decide to do with him.
‘For me, he’s up there in the class of Jurgen Klopp and Zinedine Zidane but it’s up to the club. I know City: they can have whatever manager they want because everybody knows they have got the money to do it.
‘People are finding a way to say he came just for the league — you cannot lie about that because the budget the club have been giving to him year after year, he needs to have the Champions League.’
When Toure ended his eight-year stay at the Etihad in 2018, failing to win the Champions League was his sole regret. For those left behind, that millstone grows heavier with every failure.
Toure knows the burden well. When he signed in 2010, he was tasked with ending City’s 44-year wait for a league title. He repaid them with three.
‘That’s the game,’ says Toure. ‘Some important people in the club were calling me, saying I have to play; I have to deliver; we need to win the trophies; we have to do this.
‘It was hard, week in, week out when you’re playing with this pressure on your mind.
‘As a manager it’s different. If you have the support of the board, the board is behind you and bought you everything when you wanted, when you don’t deliver it is quite complicated.’
So will someone be putting Guardiola under similar scrutiny? ‘I don’t know. Txiki Begiristain (director of football) and Ferran Soriano (CEO), they are always friends and maybe they cannot find a way to turn things around.’
Toure and Guardiola have history. In 2018, he branded Pep ‘cruel’ and a ‘myth’. But perhaps this is about more than personal differences.
Toure has a wealth of experience under top coaches. So does his brother. Kolo is an assistant to Brendan Rodgers at Leicester, having worked with Arsene Wenger and Klopp.
‘He would say Klopp is fantastic and if you want to be a manager tomorrow, if you work with this guy you are going to achieve a lot. When he grabs his players after the game, you see the players have love for him and really want to work for him. That can sometimes be the difference.’
Toure once claimed other players told him ‘they ended up hating Guardiola’. So are relationships, rather than tactics, the key to management these days?
‘It is all about that,’ he says. ‘I believe if you have to give 100 per cent then you have to give 100 per cent to the right person and the person who deserves my sacrifice. You cannot do things for people if there’s no confidence or trust.’
That bond helped Liverpool canter to a first title in 30 years. So before another tilt at Europe, City face overturning an 18-point domestic deficit.
‘It’s going to be very, very tough. Arsenal are coming back, Chelsea are there too,’ Toure says. ‘Liverpool, for me, is the team you’re always scared of. Klopp has changed all his players and they’re superstars now.’
City will always have a chance, though. ‘They can buy any player they want,’ Toure says.
Even, perhaps, Lionel Messi. His future has been plunged into doubt amid the chaos at Barcelona. Toure knows the politics of the Nou Camp, having played there alongside Messi and under Guardiola.
‘If he had to leave the club, maybe he could come to City. Why? Because City have the money to buy him and there are only a few clubs in the Premier League who can afford him.’
And perhaps want him? ‘Few managers are going to love him because he just sits off to the side and does not want to defend much. In England they want you to work, defend and attack and it is not easy.’
Nevertheless, Messi’s genius would surely help cure City’s European complex. He, like Toure, won the Champions League under Guardiola at Barcelona. But now he is enduring his own barren spell.
‘In Europe, all the clubs are vicious, very good and clever,’ Toure says. ‘Psychologically as well it can affect you because when you keep losing, any team can beat you.
‘Of course, Pep is good but people are going to demand a bit more from him because of what they give to him. When you get these things, you have to give the trophy.’
Once coronavirus clears, Toure can begin his own pursuit of managerial greatness. For now, though, his playing journey goes on.
He recently took an unlikely detour, joining Leyton Orient for pre-season training but the League Two trophy won’t be joining his bulging collection any time soon. Nor will football’s greatest individual prize, even though Kolo claimed Yaya would have won the Ballon d’Or had he shared his work ethic.
‘Yeah, he said that to me,’ Toure laughs. ‘When I was playing for City I don’t know what I had to do — maybe I could fly with the ball, that might win me the award.’
Guardiola must be wondering whether he, too, needs a miracle to land Big Ears once more.
Yaya Toure admits he is powerless to change Manchester City’s minds after they honoured David Silva with a statue, but not him.
When he left in 2018, City named a training pitch after Toure and unveiled a mosaic of his winning goal in the 2011 FA Cup final against Stoke City.
But earlier this week they announced plans for a statue of Spanish playmaker Silva, who has joined Real Sociedad after a decade at the club.
‘I am happy for the guy, he is a great lad,’ Toure says. ‘I can do nothing about it because it is up to the club. The fans know better.
‘The statue for Silva, I am very delighted. It’s up to the club — I have nothing much to say. They can decide.’
Yaya Toure was speaking at the ‘Hotels.com Dream Screen’ drive-in experience. Hotels.com is an official partner of the UEFA Champions League.