Toure brothers determined to succeed
Kevin Affleck brings of the thoughts of Kolo and Yaya Toure who hopes his decision to swap Barcelona for Manchester City to be reunited with his brother is rewarded with a trophy – a feat that would represent an emotional moment after the heartache his close-knit family have endured.
The Toure brothers, Yaya and Kolo, are two of nine siblings and Yaya – two years younger than Kolo – was hit hard by the death of his mother in 2003 when he was just 19.
“In my life I’ve had problems to deal with,” Yaya said.
Family is clearly one of the core values in the lives of the Ivory Coast internationals.
Kolo, the defender, has a silver pendant with the inscription on the back “I love my mum and my wife”, while Yaya, the midfielder, insists his name on the back of the shirt that adorns his hulking frame reads “Toure Yaya” so his proud family name is more prominent.
“We are both very close to our family and go back to see them as often as we can.” Yaya said. “And we are so very thankful for the support they give us. Now we want to win a trophy together – that would be such a proud moment for the family.”
Kolo and Yaya were born in Bouake, the Ivory Coast’s second city, but eventually settled in Abidjan and graduated from the same ASEC Mimosas Academy as Chelsea’s Salomon Kalou and Bakary Kone, the former Nice and Marseille striker who now plays for Lekhwiya in Qatar.
While Kolo arrived in Manchester via Arsenal, Yaya’s path to the north of England has been rather more unconventional; the midfielder has plied his trade in Belgium, Ukraine, Greece, France and Spain.
“I left my country when I was young to find my way in Europe, to learn about European football and to be a total professional,” Yaya said. “That is why I’m like I am. You have to have order and discipline. You have to have rules for life: behave well, respect your surroundings. You must be in control of yourself.”
England became his destination after City used the carrot of his brother, a lucrative contract and the chance to be part of an ambitious project to lure him to the Premier League.
“I have always wanted to play with Kolo,” Yaya said. “We have often talked about it and wondered whether it would happen. It’s nice that we’ve been able to do it.
“We are very close, and I have so much respect for him. As well as being my brother, he is a brilliant footballer, I watched his success at Arsenal and wanted to be like him.
“And it felt a bit like coming home joining City because he was already here. It feels nice to have my brother to talk to every day at the training ground and at the games.
“Kolo was a big help to me in settling in when I first joined from Barcelona. Not only had he played in Manchester, but was well used to English life from his time in Arsenal. He has really helped me.”
Kolo and Yaya are inseparable and even get changed next to each other in the dressing room. Last season Yaya was sharing a changing room with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
The executive management team at City clearly performed a good job selling the club and convincing a player at the peak of his powers to swap Camp Nou for Eastlands.
“Of course I enjoyed my career with Barcelona, played with some brilliant players and won trophies,” Yaya said. “I will never forget my time there, it was very special. I saw the ambition of Manchester City and wanted to be a part of it.
“There are important players here who are capable of winning things, and the team is improving all the time.
“It’s a great club, with great people, and I’m proud that I can be a part of it.
“It’s a very exciting project and there are a lot of people talking about Manchester City, not just in England but in Europe.”
Kolo for his part says “It’s great to be playing in the same teams as my brother. When he was at Barcelona, I wanted him to come to England, and that’s why he came to City. Now he is one of the best players at City and I am so proud. “To be part of a team as big as City is great for both of us, but it is also great to be part of the Ivory Coast. I hope we win a medal for Ivory Coast and win a medal with City – that is my dream.” Kolo, who turns 31 this year, is the older of the brothers by almost two years, but he admits that often it is Yaya who mentors him rather than the other way round. “I try to look out for Yaya but he is an experienced guy,” he said. “He won the Champions League, and is a clever boy who knows what he is doing. “I try to help him but there’s not a lot I can do – he helps me more, because he has more football experience. He won the Champions League and played with the best team in the world at Barcelona, and now he is also with one of the best clubs in the world at City. “Age doesn’t mean a lot. A younger guy can be more talented, more intelligent than you, more capable of doing things, and for me Yaya is one of the best players in the world. “I am having a great career and am happy for what has happened to me but I look at my brother, and what he does in the football world at the moment is so great and I just try to help him.”