Staying put best advice for mercurial Yaya

Posted by Simon Curtis

There is a formidable Ivorian writer called Ahmadou Kourouma, in whose somewhat odd novel "Waiting for the Wild Beasts to Vote" - a remarkable story narrated by a chap with the unlikely name of Bingo - we learn of the life story of Koyaga, Dictator of the Gulf Coast.

Koyaga grows up a hunter, although a particularly lousy one, it has to be said. In an epic career change, he begins to fight mythical beasts and tries life as a shapeshifter, capable of changing himself into animals and birds.

Eventually he puts his mythical powers to a more prosaic need and decides, instead of pretending to be a giraffe to get his kicks, that he will mount a political coup. It's whatever you are into, I suppose.

- Yaya Toure's agent threatens move

There is nothing to suggest that the story is even loosely based on the efforts and abilities of the modern-day Beast of Bondoukou, Yaya Toure, but the tale's unerring snapshots of trickery and power and role-changing doesn't half remind me of him -- and today, of all days, when The Sun's formidable fact-finding team tell us that the Ivorian midfielder is on his way home to pack his bags.

Maybe it is an Ivorian thing, but Yaya Toure is the bulwark around which Roberto Mancini has fastened his Manchester City midfield; his is the unerring forward momentum to which he has tied his hopes; his is the defensive cliff upon which he has adhered his dreams of conquest. In short, take Yaya Touré out of this City side, and you have just over half a team left.

I do not suggest for one moment that City cannot survive for a time without his coruscating runs, his devilish pirouettes and his barnstorming tackling, but -- over an entire season -- the absence would be felt like that of a man running through the pantanal swamps of Tanoe with a family of dwarf zebra in his rucksack: it would be heavy going.

City have tried it before, on the occasions of the last two African Nations Cups. Although things went OK, they went much better when he returned. City fans, well used to grabbing onto any bit of bad luck, any sign or vestige of an ill omen to get their masochistic kicks ("Now this really will be the end of us all..."), have grown accustomed to turning up at the ground and watching that giant, ambling figure trot out and take up his position right in the middle of things, grown accustomed to him picking up the ball in defensive midfield and taking off at a surprising gallop with opposition players hanging from his great flailing limbs. They have grown accustomed to him picking up the entire side when it is wilting and carrying the whole job lot forward to salvation and to victory.

It's not the money, of course.

Yaya Toure is not paid a king's ransom for nothing. Why would the giant Ivorian have jumped ship from Barcelona to rainy Manchester, and the slightly under-developed blue half of it at that, if a moderately attractive financial adjustment had not been on offer?

Admittedly, first-team action was not assured in Spain and his brother Kolo was waiting to pick him up at the airport with a collection of his favourite Ivorian mystical shapechanging short stories when he touched down in North West England. But still it was a gamble at his age to swap those comfortable confines for a new world of drizzle, curries and guitar music.

What he has achieved in the meantime is quite extraordinary. Wednesday's slightly frothy press quotes about an imminent departure (a new contract signed sealed and delivered by Saturday or he packs his dazzling leopard print pyjamas and leaves for the hills) smack of the usual tired prose that we are used to reading at this time of the season -- No chance of the title. Big game player. Must be hankering for a move!

It's the respect.

The player's agent -- a small, heavily built man named Dimitri Seluk, whose Facebook page is a little too cluttered with leggy young supermodels than a man of his modest good looks perhaps warrant -- insists his client deserves respect. From his cozy bolt-hole in Monaco, wrapped in an improbably ugly designer cardigan, this man knows he is sitting on hot property.

I think, when Seluk rips himself clear of his long-legged friends and their tall drinks, he will find there is respect for Yaya Toure in Manchester. On both sides of the Great Divide, in fact. He will find that teammates, management, press and supporters are in absolute unison: Yaya Toure, the modern-day mythical shapechanger, must for once stay exactly where he is.

ESPN Conversations