A Sweet Tooth for Success


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Cake is a fantastic thing. It has many uses – birthdays, weddings, mood-raiser – and there are numerous different variations. There is a cake for everyone out there, unless by some serious set of unfortunate circumstances there is someone allergic to every single potential ingredient. Even if a cake is ruined (i.e. it’s burnt) it is still charming – in fact, it often becomes more special. It’s such a shame, though, that there is always someone who ruins this idyllic entity.

Footballer Yaya Toure had a superb season for Manchester City – he scored over 20 goals from midfield and was a key factor in the club regaining the Premier League. Couple that with the League Cup trophy, the prospect of Champions League football next year, a salary reported to be in the regions of £200-£280k a week and a guaranteed place in the starting line-up for the Ivory Coast at the World Cup next month, Toure’s life seems to be going pretty well. Yet, less than two weeks after winning the league, the midfielder seems to want out of the club – all because he wasn’t given the lavish birthday celebrations he was expecting.

It all started on Monday morning when his agent, Dmitri Seluk, tweeted that the Ivorian’s birthday celebrations were a ‘joke.’ Although no-one seemed to take this seriously, by the end of the day this story was dominating the British sporting world as Toure, after initially denying he was unhappy, said that he backed his agent’s comments. Reports are unclear as to exactly what happened, but it seems that the pair were unhappy that the player only received a ‘small’ cake and birthday messages on Twitter. Seluk said he expected at least a handshake from the club’s owners to show they wished Toure a happy birthday and that, because they hadn’t, they were showing his client a huge lack of respect.

I can’t help but think that this isn’t the complete picture. With the close-season now upon us and players looking to start to find new clubs, this stunt seems to reek of a ‘come and get me’ cry, potentially to his former employers Barcelona. Seluk has utilised the ‘lack’ of birthday celebrations to suggest that his player wants out. If he had been given an £800,000 car, as Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos once was on his birthday, would he still be moaning? Probably not. It’s likely that they would have found another way to express Toure’s desire to leave. Of couse, they haven’t explicitly said that the player does want out, but what other reason can there be to ruin the perfect image of cake?

He isn’t the first Manchester City player to behave in such a childish manner in order to get a point across. Carlos Tevez’s refusal to warm-up in a Champions League game instantly springs to mind, whilst Mario Balotelli’s constant sulkiness was extremely petulant and left City fans feeling relieved when he left. All of these players joined Mancester City after their takeover by Khaldoom Al Mubarak in 2008 and the way they have all reacted to perceived injustice suggests that their only motivation to be at the club is money. These players should follow the example set by Joleon Lescott, another Manchester City player – an England regular not so long ago, the centre-back has barely played for the club this season and seems destined to leave in the summer. As a result, he hasn’t even been selected as a standby player for the World Cup. Has he complained? Well, if he has I certainly haven’t heard anything.

Fair play to Seluk as he has played this story brilliantly. He knew the media would quickly pick up on his tweet due to its surprising and controversial nature and, within 24 hours, Toure became a bigger story than the upcoming World Cup (at least for a few hours). Even now, three days later, there are new developments to this story as the pair are now claiming that Toure may only stay if he is offered a coaching job at the club after his career finishes. For City to offer Toure this would be a huge gamble as he has no coaching credentials to speak of and he still has plenty of playing years left. By making more and more outlandish claims that many people know City will struggle to meet, Seluk is increasing the likelihood of his player leaving and this will no doubt be picked up by some of the biggest clubs around the world. This is even more so as Toure showed this season that his is playing the best football of his career.

But my praise for the way this story has been conducted stops there. It highlights just how immature certain players are – if he had come out and just said ‘I want to leave’ then fair enough. Hiding behind an occasion such as a birthday, which is supposed to be a special time, to express this desire to leave is just absurd. But the most upsetting bit of this story is that Toure actually seems to have received two wonderful looking cakes of a size that many people would be overjoyed with and is still complaining. Some people are never satisfied…

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