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Gnégnéri Yaya Touré or as he is usually known, Yaya Toure is an Ivorian footballer who plays for Barcelona in La Liga, Spain. Standing at 6ft 3in, Yaya is a huge physical presence on the football pitch. He can play at either centre-midfield, defensive midfield or centre-back positions. Last season for Barcelona saw Yaya play predominantly as a defensive midfielder, where he established himself as a world class player in that position. Barcelona had a remarkably good season last season and whilst the likes of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Samuel Eto'o were getting the plaudits, the input from Yaya Toure cannot be underrated. So often he was a crucial cog in the Barcelona system, covering gaps left from their gung-ho attacking style and adding a crucial stability in midfield.
Yaya excels at tackling, you rarely see him come out of a duel as the loser. I really love this in Yaya, he gets stuck in and he isn't afraid to do the dirty work for his team. At Barcelona, he is surrounded by players receiving much more praise than he is but he knuckles down and does a marvellous job doing the ugly part of the game. He organises the shape of the Barcelona system very well, he offers a focal point in midfield, always looking to make himself available, always looking for the ball. This is another attribute I can only admire in Yaya, he is happy to take responsibility for his team and put his neck on the line. In modern football this is becoming rarer and rarer.
Yaya has had a stop-start career so far up to now. In some ways it is surprising that a player with his ability has only really made a real name for himself at the age of 25/26. Barcelona signed him from Monaco in 2007 for nine million euros which for me is an absolute bargain. Previously to playing with Monaco, Yaya played Olympiakos, Metalurh Donetsk and Beveren, all his stays at clubs being relatively brief. He is also an established player for his country, Ivory Coast and he has picked up 27 caps and scored 3 goals. As this scoring record suggests, he is hardly a regular goal-scorer but Yaya does chip in every now and again. His goals are often spectacular as he has a tremendously powerful shot. However, it must be said he can often put his shots well wide with the same technique. It's a shame because he seems to do this more often than score!
Yaya is currently 26 years old, which means he still has time improve even more. On the back of his excellent season last season, he has attracted a lot of attention from other clubs who are desperate for a commanding presence in midfield. It looks as if Yaya will remain at Barcelona however, which I feel is the best thing for him to do. He's in the best footballing team in the world at the moment, playing fantastic football and that can only be good for his development. As the years go by, Yaya appears to be adapting to new positions. Last season saw him play at centre-back in some games, highlighting his excellent defensive intelligence. Notably he played in this position against Chelsea away in the Champions League. He guided a weakened defence to an excellent 1-1 draw which was ultimately enough for Barcelona to progress to the final. He always showed how good he is in the air. Being tall doesn't gurantee you win headers and Yaya proved his intelligence aerially, using his body to detract Terry away from goal, timing his jumps well and powerfully heading clear. He always displayed his deft touches off his head, starting counter-attacks immediately. A very useful skill to have in your team.
The fact Yaya plays in such a technically brilliant footballing side as the current Barcelona's shows he can play football as well, not just rough it up. As I mentioned earlier, he is always looking for the ball and his teammates are only too happy to give it him. He keeps the play simple but highly effective, playing short, incisive passes, spreading them across the pitch. He makes this look easy. Yaya very rarely gives the ball away, which is a fantastic attribute to have in a defensive midfielder.
By his nature, Yaya can pick up a few cards along the way. That's only to be expected when you are doing the dirty work all game. He does keep a remarkably cool head though for what he does. Opponents try and wind him up all game but he gets on with his job extremely coolly and maturely. He handles pressure very well. This was highlighted in the Champions League final, where he played out of position again at centre-back and he put in a wonderful performance, attracting praise from all angles. And rightly so, he was sublime. He works hard for his team, shows grit and determination and these mental attributes are invaluable for a football team and invaluable for a defensive midfielder.
I look forward to watching more of Yaya next season and by the way Real Madrid are going it looks like he will have his hands full with Ronaldo, Kaka and co!