As the former defender turns 40, Goal examines his legacy and questions why he’s not considered one of the Premier League’s biggest imports.
Either way, Kolo Touré has had a remarkable playing career and certainly exceeded expectations after joining Arsenal under a deal with ASEC Mimosas in 2002.
The former Ivorian defender, who currently sits in his capacity as assistant coach to Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers, was signed by Arsene Wenger in February 2002 but did not play for the Gunners for the remainder of 01 / 02. season.
While stats will show he made 27 appearances in 03/02, only nine were starts, and a young Touré had to play second fiddle to Martin Keown and Sol Campbell in a campaign which saw the northern side of London lose an eight-point lead with nine games remaining.
At the time, the Ivorian was deployed in defensive midfield, central defense and right-back and often seemed unconvincing. In all fairness, this was likely due to being moved into different positions, his age, and his relative inexperience at the highest level.
Before his introduction to the English game, there was a perception that Wenger had inherited a great defense at Arsenal – Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams, Keown and Lee Dixon – and the feeling was that the Frenchman was going to have a hard time building another strong defensive unit once. these players have aged and declined.
However, the ASEC graduate has grown into a strong center-back and has completed a new back line that includes Ashley Cole, Campbell and Lauren. German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann also replaced David Seaman this summer, but the Gunners improved defensively and conceded 26 times in an unbeaten campaign that saw them keep 15 clean sheets.
Only Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea with 21 had more, and the Gunners’ development from the previous campaign was evident. In 03/02, Wenger’s side conceded 42 goals, keeping just 10 shutouts, which was the ninth highest in the top flight.
A year later, with Touré a pillar at the back, their progress is marked.
Certainly, while the nasty rearguard of the North London club cannot be attributed to the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations winner alone, his influence has been significant.
His growth from defensive midfielder ropey, skilled in different roles, to a consistent lead alongside Campbell was truly impressive, and West Africa joined a list of Wenger bargains that turned out to be important players for the club.
Despite Arsenal’s decline, which coincided with their departure from Highbury, Touré went from strength to strength, and he eventually moved to new rich Manchester City in 2009.
Previously, the center-back narrowly missed a Champions League winner’s medal in 2006, where the Gunners were beaten 2-1 by Barcelona, after being part of the squad that kept 10 successive clean sheets in Europe from the third day until Barça scores twice. in the decision maker at Parc des Princes.
Arsenal’s back line blocked Real Madrid, Juventus and Villarreal on the way to their decision maker with the Catalan giants.
For the context, Whites had Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Raul and David Beckham in their ranks, while the old lady was blessed with David Trezeguet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pavel Nedved, while the talented maverick Juan Riquelme and Diego Forlan performed for the sub yellow.
Nevertheless, Touré et co. Stopped the aforementioned stars from finding the back of their net on their run to the final, an extraordinary feat.
West Africa had made nine of ten appearances, missing only a 1-0 victory at FC Thun in matchweek five, and scored the decisive goal of the London side’s semi-final with Villarreal, a first-leg finish that sealed progress to Arsenal’s first and only Champions League final to date.
Leaving north London was imperative given Wenger’s side struggling to compete with their rivals, while a falling out with brandon William Gallas made their time in the Emirates even more uncomfortable.
Sadly, the fate of the Ivorian’s Man City, which produced another Premier League title win in 2011/12, is somewhat overlooked due to the turmoil following an encouraging 2009/10 campaign.
Fears related to her weight led to the seemingly unintentional ingestion of a banned substance, resulting in a six-month doping ban in March 2011, while a two-year clandestine affair before and after her marriage further hurt her. his reputation in Manchester.
The former, although unacceptable, can be attributed to naivety but infidelity, and the manner of the facade certainly marred Touré’s image, and it struggled to shake a certain comic perception for the rest. of her career.
Certainly, the stigma that followed the player has meant that his legacy in English football may remain marred forever, and still at 40 – almost four years of his playing career – he doesn’t really get the credit. that he deserves.
Accepted, he did not respect professional and social mores, as did Rio Ferdinand, who was banned in 2004 for failing a drug test, while John Terry and Ryan Giggs reneged on their marital vows in s ‘engaging in business in the past.
The aforementioned players are widely regarded as some of the best players of the Premier League era, despite their shortcomings, due to their various qualities and what they have brought to their teams.
This argument is not made to give Touré a pass, and the former Ivorian star’s achievements in the English game also cannot match these icons, but simply to put everything in perspective.
The former defender is among a list of 11 players who have won the Premier League with two different clubs. This group includes Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole with Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, Carlos Tevez in the two Manchester clubs, and N’Golo Kante (Leicester City and Chelsea) and Riyad Mahrez (Leicester and Man City).
James Milner, a league champion with Liverpool last season, is the newest addition to this list.
With 353 top-flight appearances, Touré ranks as Africa with the most games in the division; 55 appearances more than Shola Ameobi who comes second.
Why, then, do observers not focus on the aforementioned exploits, but instead choose to remember the off-camera incidents when it has failed to live up to social standards?
As Touré celebrates his 40th birthday, Goal celebrates one of the Premier League’s most enduring players and an African talent who deserves more!