Yaya Toure has confirmed he was close to moving to Italy several times in the past, while he has not ruled out playing in Serie A in future as he prepares to savour the “spectacular” atmosphere of Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo with Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Inter Milan tried to sign the former Ivory Coast midfielder several times while Roberto Mancini was in charge, but he says he has no regrets about turning down their advances each time.
“There were several contacts with Italian football in the past, but then I followed different, important paths like Barcelona and Manchester City,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport, adding that for the future “you never say never in life.”
Alongside David Silva and Sergio Aguero, Toure is one of only three players still with City from their last trip to Naples — a 2-1 defeat in November 2011 — and he says he knows what to expect on Tuesday night.
“The thing that struck me the most was the crowd,” he said. “They are really passionate, spectacular supporters. The San Paolo is a stadium which doesn’t leave you indifferent, even as an opponent. Support like that of the Napoli fans gives extra strength to their team.
“I’m not afraid as a City player, but I am concerned by the lift they give to the home team. In moments of difficulty, fans like Napoli’s can be decisive.”
Toure also expects a different outcome to that game, adding that City have matured a lot in the past six years.
“That was our return to the Champions League after a lifetime,” he said. “It was the beginning of a long march which led to us winning the Premier League title and playing in Europe’s biggest club competition with continuity.
“I’ve been with City since 2010 and it’s been an honour for me to experience and participate in this part of history.”
Nevertheless, Toure acknowledges that Napoli can cause problems for any side, saying that they “play some of the best football in Europe” and that “their coach Maurizio Sarri is considered an innovator of Italian football, and from what I saw [two weeks ago], that assessment’s right.”
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.