Yaya Toure’s ever-increasing influence at Manchester City is something that we can expect to see more of in seasons to come.
That’s the conclusion we can draw from his staring role for the Citizens in their 2-0 win over Newcastle United on Sunday, with the Ivorian scoring both goals in the crucial victory on Tyneside.
Held back in a more defensive-minded role for the majority of his career thus far, the 28-year-old’s attacking prowess is something every club should fear in England, as the former Barcelona star shows no sign of slowing down.
After starting his career with Beveren, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger turned down the chance to sign the player after a trial in 2003, and instead Toure signed for Metalurh Donetsk.
He spent a season-and-a-half in the Ukraine - playing in a variety of positions - before Olympiakos made their move in 2005. One solid season in Greece, coupled with an impressive outing at the World Cup with the Ivory Coast, led to AS Monaco bringing the player to Ligue 1.
Barcelona saw the potential, and spent €9 million on the powerhouse. However, Frank Rijkaard’s departure from the Nou Camp the following year was badly timed for Toure, with the Spanish tactician favouring Sergio Busquets in a midfield three alongside Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez.
That’s not to say Toure didn’t make his mark on some pretty big stages, playing in central defence against Manchester United in the Champions League final victory of 2008/09.
He wasn’t seen as a vital part of the machine in Catalonia though, and they were willing to sell to Roberto Mancini’s big-spenders when an offer in the region of £24 million was placed on the table. Whilst they would have liked to keep him, they felt the offer was too good to refuse.
And, whilst the exact details aren’t exactly known, a weekly wage in the region of £250,000 was placed on the table to sweeten the deal for the younger Toure brother, who followed in the footsteps of brother Kolo when joining the club.
The former Arsenal centre back's time with City has been spent largely either on the bench or serving a ban for failing a drugs test (blamed on diet pills), but his younger brother has excelled to help his side in both defence and attack.
Indeed, the biggest issue for City’s Italian manager is to decide which position best utilises the considerable attributes at Toure’s disposal.
Physically imposing, Toure towers above most players in the Premier League and is built like a traditional centre back or defensive midfielder.
However, an incredible ability to accelerate past players, as well as a fine first touch and control with his feet, suggests that Toure might be better suited to playing in a more advanced role.
And, when things weren’t going the way of City at St. James’ Park, that was certainly in evidence as Mancini gave his star man licence to attack. It’s an embarrassment of riches when players like David Silva and Sergio Aguero can’t unlock the door, so you then turn to Toure.
Samir Nasri was sacrificed for Nigel De Jong, giving the Ivorian freedom to attack as Gareth Barry worked alongside the Dutchman as cover for any Newcastle attacks. After trading a one-two with Aguero, Toure didn’t let his manager down with a beautiful curled finish past Tim Krul. His second, from close range, rounded off a counter attack in which four players flooded forward for City, the sight of the title glistening in their eyes.
Toure was leading the charge, and has been for months now at the Etihad Stadium after returning from the African Cup of Nations as a runner-up. The Elephants fell at the final hurdle, losing to Zaire on penalties in the final.
It’s a disappointment that appears to have spurred the player on at the back end of this season, and his most-recent driving performance will have earned envious glances from the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in particular.
Where Scholes and Giggs used to be the players every other team wanted, now think of Toure as the player that would get into every team in the top flight. He simply is that good.
Worryingly for the rest, he still has plenty left in the tank, and at 28 could be around for many more years to come. Toure has time to become one of the Premier League’s all-time greats, even if he did join the party late two years ago.
With an FA Cup winners medal and an English domestic title to add to that if things go as expected against QPR on Sunday, the trophy cabinet continues to fill for both the player and club.
That’s a pattern that everyone should expect to continue.
"Forty-four years is unbelievable, it is too many years. I have always said I came to this club to make history even if some people said I came for different things,” he noted on the club's official website.
"That is my first objective, to help make the club into a successful football club."
Football should fear a rising City.