On Saturday at the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal face Manchester City (Watch live on NBCSN, 1:30 p.m. ET and online via Live Extra) knowing one of their opponents star men probably should’ve be playing for the Gunners.
Yaya Toure reached a deal to sign for Arsenal back in 2003, but with a long wait for his passport to come through after impressing on a trail from Belgian club Beveren, Toure instead went to Ukraine and played for Metalurh Donetsk instead of joining his brother Kolo in North London.
Asked where his regret in not signing Toure ranks all-time, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was obviously remorseful over missing out on Yaya.
“It ranks at the top,” Wenger said. “But let’s not forget Toure had an agreement with Arsenal. We waited for his passport in Belgium but he went to Ukraine instead. He’s not a mistake but he preferred to go to Donetsk without a passport.”
Toure played in a trial game for the Gunners against Barnet back in 2003, and everyone believed the deal would be sealed to see the Ivorian midfielder join Arsenal. However with passport complications meaning he could easily ply his trade in Ukraine, Toure instead decided to go along that route, rather than wait for any red tape to hold up his move to the red half of North London.
After Donetsk he then moved to Olympiakos in Greece, Monaco in Ligue 1, then FC Barcelona where he became superstar before a big money move to Man City.
That’s all in the past. But you can’t help but imagine Toure in Arsenal’s central midfield now, as a marauding destroyer, and how that must make Wenger rue the decision not to chase Toure harder when he had the chance to. With diminutive, yet supremely skillful, midfielders like Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla and Mesut Ozil around, having Toure as their foil to win the ball and give it to others would’ve work wonderfully well in Arsenal’s engine room. And this season the 30-year-old Ivory Coast star has shown he can score goals too, with 21 goals from midfield and most of them of the spectacular variety.
You can’t live in the past, but you just feel that not signing Toure could be one of those decisions that will haunt Wenger until the day he decides to no longer be a manager. On Saturday, will Yaya come back to haunt the team he nearly joined back in ’03?
You just know he will.