Yaya Touré has made the extravagant boast that Manchester City’s spending power could produce a superior team to Barcelona.
The Ivory Coast midfielder ended a three-year spell with the Spanish champions and Champions League favourites last summer when became the first footballer in Britain to earn more than £200,000 a week. While City are bidding to qualify for the Champions League for the first time, Pep Guardiola’s lavishly gifted side remain on course for a third consecutive La Liga title. Yet Touré believes the financial support provided by City’s owner, Sheikh Mansour, could mean his current club surpass his former employers as arguably the finest club side in the world.
Touré said: “At the moment you cannot compare Barcelona with City because Barça are at the top and have top-quality players. [Lionel] Messi, Xavi, [Andrés] Iniesta, Dani Alves; they are fantastic. But City are still signing new players. In a couple of years we could maybe be better than Barcelona. But what we need to continue to do is work hard and try to continue to improve with every game.”
The City midfielder’s conviction followed the 5-0 win over Notts County in the FA Cup fourth-round replay on Sunday and the performance of Roberto Mancini’s expensive strike force – Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and substitute Carlos Tevez. “Sometimes it’s not easy to get used to playing behind different strikers but I thought Dzeko played fantastic and Mario played well,” said Touré.
“It’s not easy for Mario after a long time out injured, it was his first start for a while. For me it’s most important that the team plays well and makes the fans happy, with the football and the project. I keep saying to my brother and my family that City have great players but we need to continue to work hard to become a great team.”
Balotelli produced another show of petulance when he was withdrawn against County, but, despite reports that the Italy international is struggling to settle in Manchester, Touré insists his problems are purely related to a persistent knee problem. The midfielder said: “Sometimes it’s difficult for him. He’s young. But he’s a fantastic player and the team need him. It takes time because the football here is not the same as in Italy.
“I feel sorry for him because he had a long-term injury. When you have been out for a while it’s not easy, but I’m totally sure he will be a top player and we need him. He wants to play, score and give enjoyment to the fans. I know he will be a great player for City.”
Before being able to invite comparisons with Barcelona, City need to win a first major trophy since the 1976 League Cup and their £24m signing is confident the exhaustive wait could end this season. “We are in a good position in the cups and we are well placed for the top four,” said Touré. “Our target is to be in the Champions League next year, it is very important for this club. It will be tough to stay in there because Liverpool are coming and I’m sure Chelsea will be back.”