Look beyond the exciting football, success and generally charming personality and there are plenty of things to criticise Pep Guardiola for.
He’s an incredibly sore loser and sometimes his comments toe the line, bordering on disrespect, as several interviewers for Match of the Day discovered to their disappointment last season. He is also a manager who can be criticised for sometimes being too deeply attached to one style and philosophy, even on the rare occasion it is to the detriment of his team.
You can also claim he is a manager who has been fortunate to have only managed big clubs with big budgets and superstar players. Would he have enjoyed the success he has while managing a ‘lesser’ club? The debate rages on.
One thing it would be hard to sell Guardiola as, though, is a racist. Yaya Toure, however, seems to think differently.
“He was cruel to me. I came to wonder if it was not because of my colour,” he told France Football this week.
“I am not the first to talk about these differences in treatment. In Barca, some have also asked the question.
“When we realise he often has problems with Africans wherever he goes, I ask myself questions. I want to be the one who breaks the myth of Guardiola.”
The insinuation is clear
The insinuation from Toure is as plain as day. For those that can’t read between the lines, though, let’s make it abundantly clear. Toure believes Guardiola has treated him differently because of the colour of his skin. Toure believes Guardiola is a racist. He may not use that word outright but the insinuation is a plain one.
Furthermore, he claims he is not the only to have thought it. It is a big claim and a dangerous one, too. To suggest someone with a profile like Guardiola’s is racist is not only shocking but also career damaging. Unfortunately for Toure, it’s also a claim that’s a little bit difficult to fathom, especially when you look back across Guardiola’s managerial career.
Eric Abidal, David Alaba and Jerome Boateng are just three of a long list of the names to have starred under Guardiola over the years. Between them they have more than 500 appearances under the Catalan, while only Lionel Messi has played more games for him than Dani Alves, another player who can consider himself to be from an ethnic minority.
It’s a similar story at Manchester City. Two of the top three appearance makers under Guardiola at the Etihad are persons of colour, namely Raheem Sterling and Fernandinho. All of these players have played a key role in the successes he has managed at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. They are hardworking, dedicated, talented players who have flourished under Guardiola’s tutelage. They are not players who have been overlooked or treated poorly by him because of the colour of their skin.
Pep has never fancied Toure
Instead, they are players who speak highly of their former manager. Alves has described him as a ‘genius’, while Abidal referred to him as ‘great’. Alaba, meanwhile, went for ‘brilliant’ when he talked of his former manager back in February of this year. These are hardly the words of a group of players who believe that Guardiola had an issue with them because of their race.
It may be simplistic to suggest that Guardiola is simply not a racist because he has worked with black players, but it is hard to believe that a racist manager would be willing to not only play them but also hand them such key roles in his team.
Instead, we are left looking at why Toure might suggest such a thing and when we do, we are left feeling that these are the words of a player wh is playing the blame game.
The fact is, the Catalan has never fancied Toure. He did not want him at Barcelona and let him leave for Manchester City willingly. At the Etihad, he’s been nothing short of a bit part player. Last season, Toure frequently looked well past his sell by date, chasing the rapid, better players that surrounded him in City blue. Guardiola just didn’t need him.
That is likely to have stung deeply for a player who has played a key role in City’s rise to the top of the game in recent years. These parting shots appear to be him trying to bite back. It is not his fault he is older and a lesser player, it is Guardiola’s. It is because Guardiola is a racist. It feels like a cheap excuse and a cheap shot.
As of yet, there is no evidence
Guardiola is a manager with a strong history of managing multicultural teams, with players from a wide gamut of ethnic backgrounds not only playing but starring under him. You only have to look at the number of appearances the likes of Alves, Abidal and Alaba and Boateng to name just four, made under him to prove that point.
There is no denying that there are racists in all levels of football, and we truly do not know what occurs behind closed doors. The evidence for Guardiola, though, suggests he is far from what Toure believes he is.
Indeed, evidence is the key word. Toure’s claims are unsubstantiated. He provides no evidence, examples or reports to support them. At this moment in time they are nothing more than opinion. If he has evidence to prove Guardiola is a racist, then let him air it and investigations be launched as they should be.
Until he does so these unsubstantiated remarks will smack of a man trying to hit back at a manager who has never been keen on him. They simply feel cheap.
In a football world where racism is a real issue and both FIFA and UEFA continually fail to stamp it out, Toure should know and behave better. Actions like these only help to make the efforts of those working to eradicate racism all the more difficult.