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Wenger saw Toure potential
Published : 16 Dec 2011 14:46:53
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was in no doubt Yaya Toure would make it big one day - even if the Manchester City midfielder was 'average' when he turned out for the Gunners as a raw youngster in a pre-season friendly.
Toure, 28, arrived at from Barcelona in a £24million deal in August 2010. The career of the Ivory Coast Champions League winner could, though, have been so different, having impressed on a trial at Arsenal in 2003, when his brother Kolo was also at the club, only to then opt for a move to Metalurh Donetsk in Ukraine because of delays over international clearance.
Wenger, who takes his side to Barclays Premier League leaders City on Sunday, recalled the then teenager's first and only appearance for the Gunners against Barnet at Underhill, saying: "I have known him since he was 15."
He added: "We had an agreement with Yaya to come here, but the problem was that he was at Beveren and we had to wait long enough for a European passport. Therefore he was impatient and went, at the time, to Metalurh Donetsk.
"Now he is a top-class player. We knew that at the time he would be a top-class player, but the only problem with Yaya was to fix him into a position because he can play everywhere."
Wenger added: "He can play centre-back, as a second striker, as a midfielder and for a long time we didn't know where to play him. He played in a pre-season game at Barnet (on July 19, 2003) as a second striker - and he was completely average on the day."
The Gunners head to the Etihad Stadium on the back of an impressive run of seven wins from the last eight league games, as they also qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League, where they will face AC Milan.
Roberto Mancini's expensively assembled squad - which also now includes former Gunners duo Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy - were beaten for the first time in the league this season when losing 2-1 at Chelsea on Monday night.
That followed on from their failure to reach the last 16 of the Champions League and Wenger said: "They had two disappointments but they will want to respond. Defeats always take a bit of confidence away from you, but let's not speculate on any weakness from their part and make sure on our side we are at our best level.
"We are ready for it physically and mentally. We are prepared and will give absolutely everything to win the game because we are in a position where we want to win the game."