African players victimised: Touré

Manchester City’s problems with players talking themselves into trouble have resurfaced in the form of an outspoken attack from Kolo Touré in which he claims African players are the “victims of discrimination” in English football and alleges he has lost his place in Roberto Mancini’s team because the club have a grudge against him for missing key matches to play for Ivory Coast.

Manchester City’s Kolo Touré, right, has offered a withering assessment of his team-mate Stefan Savic.
Manchester City’s Kolo Touré, right, has offered a withering assessment of his team-mate Stefan Savic.

Touré, removed as City’s captain at the start of last season, also provides a withering assessment of Stefan Savic, the 20-year-old who was signed from Partizan Belgrade for £6m in the summer to provide extra competition for the centre-half places. “When you look at the performance of Savic [on his league debut] against QPR – excuse me, I’m relaxed.”

However, it is when the former Arsenal captain talks about playing in next month’s Africa Cup of Nations that his interview in the monthly French magazine So Foot takes a more sinister twist. Touré alleges it is held against African players who miss league fixtures because they are representing their country, stating that “it’s going to get more and more difficult for us, the Africans”.

Victim of discrimination

“To compete in the ANC, it’s catastrophic these days,” he says. “Coaches no longer want to sign players because of it. I am convinced that, if I am not playing [for City], it’s not only for football reasons. If it was only about the game, I’d be playing every week. I am the victim of that, and it has to be said.”

Reflecting on the last tournament, Touré went on to speak of his belief that City had never forgiven him for missing almost a month of the season and not coming back as quickly as they wanted. “When I was in Angola for the ANC in 2010, the club hired a plane so that I could get back as soon as possible for a match against Manchester United [the Carling Cup semi-final second leg]. I couldn’t get back in time and we lost. I believe that the club have not got past that, and I’m paying for it now.”

2012 ANC

The next tournament takes place in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon from 21 January to 12 February and Touré argues that clubs are against losing their players to it. His verdict is that “African players are the victims of discrimination”.

When it comes to losing his place, a counter-argument could be made that Touré has not helped himself by testing positive for a banned substance, leading to the six-month ban that took him out of consideration until September.

Joleon Lescott has become Vincent Kompany’s regular centre-half partner and there is a strong sense behind the scenes that Touré’s unusually outspoken comments lately reveal a player who is open to the idea of moving in the January transfer window.

Touré, never previously known as a dressing-room agitator, has talked of wanting to join Paris St-Germain and is known to have been angered by City’s decision to take their own disciplinary action against him for the failed drugs test, with a six-week fine imposed.

The 5-1 victory against Norwich City on Saturday was his first full game in the league this season and, though there have been four more starts in cup competitions, he has featured less than any of Mancini’s three other central defenders.

Nothing to prove

Touré, however, seems distinctly unimpressed by the early impression left by Savic.

“I know my qualities, I’ve got nothing to prove here in England, they know me here. Football’s like that. It goes one way, then the other. The clubs at this level always have big squads. Look, I was the captain here. So was [Carlos] Tevez [who could join Milan in January after a complete breakdown in relations with Mancini] and he is no longer. Who would have thought that would happen?”

Mancini will be asked about Touré’s comments when he holds a press conference on Tuesday to preview the crucial Champions League tie against Bayern Munich. In the meantime City’s manager has learned that Aleksandar Kolarov will be out for a minimum of three weeks, but possibly twice that length, because of the groin injury the left-back suffered in the Carling Cup quarter-final at Arsenal last week. If City’s worst fears are confirmed, Kolarov could miss as many as 10 matches.

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