The war of words between Manchester City and Yaya Touré’s representative escalated on Tuesday when Pep Guardiola insisted the midfielder will not play for the club again unless his agent apologises for comments aimed at the manager following the Ivorian’s omission from the Champions League squad.
Touré, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona before being sold to City in 2010, was surprisingly omitted from the 25-man squad earlier this month and has yet to feature for the club this season. That led the outspoken Dimitri Seluk to criticise the new manager, questioning whether Guardiola had “the balls to say that he was wrong to humiliate a great player like Yaya” should City not win the Champions League.
His words provoked an angry response from Guardiola before Wednesday’s EFL third round tie against Swansea, with the manager adamant that Touré will not feature for the club again unless Seluk retracts his statement.
“He must apologise to his team-mates, to the club. If he doesn’t, he won’t play,” said the 45-year-old. “It was difficult to leave him out of the Champions League squad but [the] day after, his [agent] went to the media. He has not had the courage to call me. From that moment he was out. I know him, I know he’s a good guy, but it was difficult for me as well to put Aleix García out.
“I cannot imagine in my period when I was a football player, my manager going to the media and speaking against Johan Cruyff, about this and about that. If he has a problem call the club, and they can talk, until he speaks, Yaya is not going to play.”
That request was given short shrift by Seluk, however. Speaking to the Daily Mirror, he said: “If Pep Guardiola wants a war, then he can have one. Pep didn’t like my opinion? But what does he expect me to say when he does this to Yaya? I spoke out because I felt that Pep was being vindictive to Yaya. Unfortunately for Pep, we live in a world where you have the right to free speech. He has reacted to what I have said about him by punishing Yaya again. But I’m not surprised.”
Seluk added: “Pep doesn’t want players with personality. He only wants players who are scared of him and will do what he says. The first thing he did when he arrived at City was to pick a fight with Yaya and Joe Hart, two of the club’s biggest players.
“Hart is England’s goalkeeper; Yaya has won the African Footballer of the Year four times. They have both been big personalities in the dressing room at City and Guardiola doesn’t like that.
“When you first go into someone’s house then you should treat them with respect. You don’t go into someone’s house and ask them to leave. He was the same at Barcelona.
“He forced Samuel Eto’o to leave the club. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a player who cost £57million, was sold for just £18m. It has to always be about Pep Guardiola, no-one else.”
Seluk later added to Sky Sports News: “Guardiola wins a few games and thinks he’s king. I live in Europe so I can say what I like and Guardiola can’t stop me. I will apologise to Guardiola if he will apologise to [Manuel] Pellegrini for what he did to him. If you are a gentleman this just does not happen.
“He signed a new contract last year then he gets pushed out for Guardiola to come in. Pellegrini was a gentleman. Guardiola also needs to apologise to Joe Hart. It’s not right to come to England and then get rid of a few English players. Guardiola wants a new future for Yaya, for Hart, and they won’t be the last.”
Asked again whether he would apologise, Seluk finished: “Well, what do I need to apologise for?”
In a separate development, the Touré also decided to retire from international football. The Ivory Coast international announced the decision in a lengthy statement on his website.
“Writing this note was probably ‘the most difficult match of my life’. After 14 years at the highest level, I’m sure this is the right time for me,” Touré said. “The fact that I am 33 now, the intensity of training and the multitude of games are not the reasons why I am making this decision. Football is everything to me and it gave me so much in my career that I no longer feel able to set myself new goals as a player with the Elephants of Ivory Coast.
“I can still bring a lot to the players, to the youth of my country and to the African continent and to the world. I would like to give the children what football has given me. Football gave me a lot. It taught me many things, things of life. This is one of the most important lessons in my life.”