Pep promises cake but no contract guarantee for Toure
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has promised Yaya Toure the “biggest possible” birthday cake on Saturday – but will not announce whether the Ivorian midfielder has a new contract until the end of the season.
Guardiola says he has made up his mind on the future of City’s seven out-of-contract players, including Toure, but will not reveal those decisions to the players – or the public – until the campaign is over.
Toure, along with Pablo Zabaleta, Jesus Navas, Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero and Tosin Adarabioyo, are coming to the end of their deals but Guardiola is keeping his thoughts to himself with three games of the season left as City push for Champions League qualification.
“It doesn’t depend if you’re going to play the last three matches (if you are) going to stay or not. The decision is already done. But we are going to communicate it after the season,” Guardiola said.
“Of course the club is going to do it properly like always. Still we are fighting and playing for something so, so important for the club for the future. Now is still the time to be focused on what we have to do.”
The majority of the seven are expected to leave the Etihad Stadium, including veteran midfielder Toure after seven years at the club.
He turns 34 on Saturday, when City face Leicester, and Toure’s agent Dimitry Seluk has asked fans to mark the occasion by bringing cakes to the game.
Seluk famously questioned Toure’s future at the club three years ago after claiming City had not sufficiently marked the occasion, although he now insists it was a joke that was misunderstood.
Toure need have no worries on Saturday about whether the club will provide him with a cake, though.
“He’ll have the biggest one possible,” said Guardiola. “We are going to do that. But after the game.”
City will have striker Sergio Aguero and defender John Stones available after both returned to training following injuries.
Guardiola’s side will be seeking revenge for one of the lowest moments of their season. They trailed Leicester 4-0 at the King Power Stadium in December before scoring twice late on.
If City win their three remaining games they are guaranteed to finish third, but Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United all remain in the race for the Champions League spots.
Finishing fourth would mean again going through the Champions League play-offs, while third would bring direct entry into the group stage.
Guardiola insisted it will make little difference to him, saying: “If we finish fourth, we’ll go into the Champions League play-off like this season and my first at Barcelona.
“The pre-season will already be done. We’re going to the US to play tough friendly games. You go there, you have to make a good performance there.
“Of course, if we have already qualified for the Champions League, we are going to prepare and arrive at the first game in the Premier League ready. If it doesn’t happen, we’re going to prepare for the play-offs.
“When you play that, it becomes the most important game of the season. If we’re not able to do third or fourth we’re going to prepare for the first game of the Europa League.”
Leicester boss Craig Shakespeare, meanwhile, admits he is an admirer of Guardiola and believes the City manager has set the standard.
He said: “I have watched from afar when he was at Barcelona in awe sometimes at how he went about things.
“Whenever you went on FA courses you talked about the Barcelona model. It will be a very interesting and proud moment to stand in the technical area alongside him.
“He is his own man. He has looked at it this season and I am sure next season they will go from strength to strength.
“It gets harder every year. You saw how many teams reinvested and fortunes spent on transfers. It still shows where the league table is now.”
Leicester beat City 4-2 in December, with Jamie Vardy scoring a hat-trick, as they battled relegation before ex-boss Claudio Ranieri was dismissed in February.
Shakespeare will be without midfielder Danny Drinkwater, out for the final three games with a thigh injury, but is hopeful Leicester can do the double over Guardiola’s men.
“I’m not sure it was a one-off. We had been trying before that, but in terms of the standard of the opposition it was a very good performance on the day,” he said.
“It might happen again, it might not. They are a good side. They have proven over the season, especially of late, what they are about.
“I think they were surprised about the intensity, whether it be the Premier League or just on that occasion. I don’t think they will be surprised any more.”