YAYA Toure has been a central figure in all of Manchester City’s special moments in their golden era.
The Ivorian has scored goals on the biggest stages, and at the most important times, as City have won five domestic trophies in his seven seasons there.
His medal haul currently shows two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups in a glorious period for the club.
But, as his time in Manchester draws to a close, he knows that his biggest legacy could be to leave the club as a Champions League winner.
Along with Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Vincent Kompany, Toure has been there every step of the way in City’s adventure in European football’s premier competition.
This is their seventh crack at the Champions League, and there is still just one semi-final appearance to show in all that time, against Real Madrid in 2016.
Too often, there have been failures and near-misses as City have been unable to match the biggest teams across the Continent.
Toure was a Champions League winner under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona in 2009, and he would love to repeat that feat now at City.
“I want it so badly,” he states. “I have won everything in England with City – and now I want something that is really special for the fans and the club.
“I have been lucky enough to win some important trophies for my clubs, and also with Ivory Coast.
“But the Champions League is special. I really need to win it again to be happy.”
The big hope is that this season could be different as Guardiola has struck upon a formula which has put City on top of the Premier League, and at the head of their Champions League group.
For the first time, City have won all three of their opening group games, and need only a point away to Napoli on Wednesday to secure a place in the last 16.
It’s a first visit to the Italian city since November, 2011, when a 2-1 defeat effectively knocked City out of the competition in their first attempt.
Toure played on that night six years ago and remembers it well. But the 34-year-old is also able to recognise the progress his team has made since.
And midfielder Toure is desperate for City to go deep into the competition so they can test themselves against the true heavyweights of European football.
“Playing away to Napoli is horrible,” he says. “It is so difficult for the opponents because the fans are so good.
“The stadium is massive and the atmosphere is very intense.
“But I think we can play a good game, like the one in Manchester.
“They came here and made it very difficult in the end, but I think we have a team that might be more dangerous away from home.
“When teams attack us, we can make the most of the space they leave at the back. With players of the speed of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero, we can attack the space.
“I can see the progress the team has made. We are one of the top teams now – but we have to prove it.
“I am very excited because we want to play Real Madrid and Barcelona to show where we are now.
“At the moment, we are doing very well against some good European teams.
“But the real tests are the big teams like Barca, Real, Juventus, Bayern and PSG.
“It is hard to predict who will win the Champions League, because all the teams have great quality. It is the hardest trophy to win.
“You have to be focused for every game. Teams like Barcelona, Madrid and Juventus are excellent sides who are better than the ones we face in England.
“Experience is so important, but we have that now.”
With the big six clubs in England having opened up a gap over the rest, matches in England have started to take on a familiar pattern.
Opponents drop deep and defend in numbers and invite a team like City to break them down.
That was especially the case against Wolves in the League Cup tie in midweek, where they needed penalties to finally see off their Championship opponents.
But Toure has noticed a difference in the Champions League, where sides such as Napoli and Shakhtar Donetsk have carried their own threat.
City’s veteran star admits that he much prefers that type of cut-and-thrust in a game.
“The Champions League is the most- difficult competition in football,” he believes.
“We saw against Wolves what can happen if you go into games thinking you are going to win easily.
“You have to give them a lot of respect as they defended well and made it difficult.
“But games like that can be boring when they have 11 players at the back.
“If you don’t break them down in the first 20 minutes, then it becomes tough.
“The Champions League is for the best teams. They all try to attack and try to use the ball. That makes it exciting for the fans.
“But we have momentum in Europe and we are playing very well.”
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