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A painfully slow start to his Manchester City career two years ago had many critics questioning the purchase of Yaya Toure.

As he trundled around the pitch in his first few games, the Ivorian looked laboured and laden with extra kilos as he was clearly off the pace. “He can’t bloody move for all that money he’s carrying around,” was one of the jibes about the midfielder who had cost £24 million (Dh143m) from Barcelona and was reportedly earning £240,000-a-week (Dh1.43m).

Already, Yaya was seen as a mercenary with money as his motivation. First impressions, though, can be ever so deceiving. Now, Yaya has overtaken David Silva, Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Carlos Tevez as the most influential and important member of the City team.

A big earner he may be, but he has consistently delivered big performances. His award as the African Player of the Year for a second successive time, ahead of Didier Drogba and Alex Song, was well deserved, but if he continues his current form, he will no doubt be in the frame for similar accolades at the end of the English domestic season.

And it is why manager Roberto Mancini must now find a solution as to how City will cope in his absence next month when Yaya goes to the African Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast.

Without their “engine” for up to a month, and a six-point deficit to Manchester United at the top of the Premier League, the club’s chances of success could combust. When Yaya went on national duty last season, exits in the FA Cup and League Cup coincided with his eight-game spell away.

Mancini has described him as “irreplaceable” and that’s not hyperbole or massaging his ego. There are few like Yaya. He is a driving force in the mould of say the German legend Franz Beckenbauer, adept in defence, tenacious in the tackle, and inspiring an attack with one of his rangy runs.

Mancini’s options are few. Javi Garcia needs more time to prove his potential at the Etihad, while Jack Rodwell has lived up to the injury-prone reputation that fans feared when he joined from Everton. That leaves Gareth Barry as the central figure during this period and that will be a worry with Arsenal, Liverpool and relegation-threatened QPR to face.

While City are preparing for UEFA’s Financial Fair Play proposals, the prospect of having Daniele De Rossi in their ranks at this crucial juncture of the season would be significant. Not only to signal the club’s intent to keep hold of their title, but enhance their future Champions League ambitions.

The Italian would offer steel to supplement a midfield of Yaya and Silva that would arguably rival Barcelona’s brilliant trio of Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

If he made the switch from Roma in January, similarities would also be drawn with Yaya, who left trophy-laden Barcelona for a new challenge.

De Rossi is believed to want the same after 11 years in Rome and a season where he has looked unsettled and unfulfilled. Where one Italian could go in the shape of Mario Balotelli, another would be most welcome.

 

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