Yaya Toure will make his 316th and last appearance for Manchester City against Brighton on Wednesday night. The 34-year-old Ivorian has won three Premier League titles in eight years at Etihad Stadium and Frank Lampard, who played with and against him, tells BBC Sport why he was so important for City – and what makes him such a special player.
I would put Yaya Toure in the top five of the toughest midfield opponents I faced in my career, and at his peak he could change games on his own.
Steven Gerrard probably edges it as the best I have played against, for his consistency over the years, but Yaya is up there along with Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Paul Scholes – which shows how highly I rate him.
Every midfielder has different attributes but the best players are the ones you fear, and I certainly did that when I was up against Yaya.
Even some of the very best play within themselves slightly, but he didn’t. He would hurt you by going forward and by scoring goals at the end of it, which is always a great trait that not many midfield players have.
When I faced him, I knew he was very good on the ball and could pass it around me if he wanted to. He knew the moments to keep it simple and move the ball around.
But if you got too close to him to try to stop him doing that, he also had that ability to drive through midfield and his physical power and pace – which was deceptive because of his big stride – made it so difficult to stay with him.
Either by making a one-two or just by facing me up and running straight past me, he would be gone.
‘He was bought to be a superstar – and he lived up to it’
Yaya is leaving Manchester City at the end of the season and I am glad he will get a proper send-off in Wednesday’s game against Brighton, because he definitely deserves one.
In his eight years at the club since arriving for £24m from Barcelona in 2010, he has played a huge part in City’s rise, initially by being one of the first signings they made of a really top player from a big club.
Along with David Silva and Sergio Aguero, who followed him to Manchester, he was bought to be one of City’s first superstars and he has lived up to that with the way he has performed down the years.
Yaya was integral to their first two title wins in 2012 and 2014, particularly that second success when he scored so many goals, and was the dominant force in midfield in the Premier League all season.
Yaya has played in so many positions but I preferred him as a deep-lying midfielder because he could do things there that others were not capable of.
He controlled possession and set the tempo for the team – then he unloaded and went forward to create or score. I loved that because it made him different, and made him very difficult to mark.
He has been a lot quieter this year but, in his first five or six seasons at Etihad Stadium, he was a big factor in the revolution of the club and signified the change that was happening there.
‘You get defined by big goals – and Yaya scored plenty of them’
The big players score big goals in big games and Yaya has always done that for City.
Right from the start he has played a huge part in helping them win trophies, scoring the winner in the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United in 2011, and doing the same against Stoke in that year’s final.
He scored two hugely important goals against Newcastle as City closed in on the 2012 Premier League title and then there was the one he bent in against Sunderland in the 2014 League Cup final.