Yaya Toure has accused Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola of having “problems with African players,” and questioned whether his limited playing time under the Catalan was because of his skin colour.
Toure, who made just one start in his final Premier League season at the Etihad, said Guardiola would “never admit [to not liking African players]. But the day he picks a team with five Africans in it, I promise I will send him a cake!”
The 35-year-old, who is leaving City at the end of June, was the only African player to appear in a game for the Sky Blues this season after Nigerian international Kelechi Iheanacho was sold last summer.
In an interview to be published by France Football magazine on Tuesday, the four-time African Footballer of the Year winner accused Guardiola of being “manipulative”, and blamed the Spaniard for both of his short-lived spells at his clubs.
“He was cruel with me. Do you really think he could’ve been like that with Andres Iniesta?” Toure said.
“It got to the point I asked myself if it was because of my colour. I’m not the first, other Barca players asked the question too,” he added.
Guardiola’s Barcelona team, which won three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues in four years, featured only a handful of players of African descent, and only three who represented African nations internationally – Toure, who is Ivorian, Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon and Mali international Seydou Keita.
“Last summer, when Pep brutally got rid of [Wilfried] Bony, who had been signed a year earlier for a huge sum, I asked questions,” Toure added.
Bony joined City for $42.5 million in January 2015, but failed to start any games under Guardiola when he was appointed manager in 2016. Bony was subsequently sent on loan to Stoke City.
Toure, who made over 300 appearances and scored 79 times in all competitions for City, hailed the title-winning season as the “perfect” farewell, but said there was a bitter element to his departure.
“He stole my farewell with City, a club with beautiful fans. I would have liked to leave with emotion of this club the way Iniesta [left Barca] or Gianluigi Buffon [left Juventus]. But Pep prevented me.”
“I want to be the one who breaks the Guardiola myth,” he added.
Toure, however, claims his physical performance did not fall off. “I even asked coaches for my stats,” he said.
“When I realised that they were as good or better, both in training and in matches, as those who played and were younger than me, I understood that it was not a question of physicality. I don’t know why but I have the impression that he was jealous, he took me for a rival.”