Former Barcelona & Manchester City star Yaya Toure joins China's Qingdao Huanghai
Sports Scene

China’s second tier club Qingdao Huanghai announced on social media that former Barcelona and Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure has joined the country’s League One league leaders.

The former Ivory Coast international, who has not played since December following a three-month stint with Olympiakos in Greece, is likely to make his debut on Saturday when Qingdao host Zhejiang Greentown.

The 36-year-old was reported to have been on trial with the Chinese club soon after shooting down claims made by his agent Dimitry Seluk in May that he was planning to retire. Seluk remarked at that time, “We don't want to go there. And we will never go to China. Yaya does not think about money. Yaya thinks about football.”

Meanwhile, Toure himself also rubbished the rumors at that time and mentioned that he wanted to keep playing “for a few more years.”

“I believe my experiences in football will offer something new to this growing club and together we can make great history!” Toure said on his personal website.

However, his sudden U-turn has seen him joining the Chinese club football bandwagon and caught many of his fans off guard.

Qingdao, located in the eastern China port city, currently lead the League One by four points with the campaign at the halfway stage, and Toure has been added to help the team earn promotion to the Chinese Super League next season. Interestingly, the Chinese side also play in Barcelona colors.

Yaya started his career as a youth with Ivorian side ASEC Mimosas in 1996 before he shifting to Belgian side Beveren aged 18 in 2001. After spending two full seasons in Belgium, Toure relocated to Ukrain as he joined Metalurg Donetsk in 2003. 

Subsequently, the footballing nomad had spells with Olympiakos and Monaco but it was his nine million pound transfer to Barcelona in 2007 that created quite buzz about the African utility footballer. The first Ivorian to be signed by the Catalan giants was part of the club’s 2009 UEFA Champions League triumphant squad and played a stellar role as a center-half in Pep Guardiola’s invincible side. He celebrated his second successive La Liga title with Barca before flying off to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup where he joined the likes of Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure in the formidable African team.

He made 118 appearances with the Spanish giants and almost 300 career appearances under his belt. However, his the eternal journeyman’s travel continued as he made a stunning move to City where he would become one of the most influential midfielders the Club has ever had. 

Playing for United’s “Noisy neighbors,” he chose the No.42 shirt in honor of one of his idols Patrick Vieira, who was still wearing the No.24 jersey at City. His first campaign with the City saw him guide the Club to a first major trophy for 35 years. 

Interestingly, the Ivorian scored the goal that settled the Manchester derby FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and it was Yaya again who scored the all-important winner in the final against Stoke. 

In the 2011/12 season, Toure scored crucial goals against Newcastle in City's penultimate game of the season to guide Roberto Mancini's men within touching distance of the coveted league crown. They won the silverware a week later though.

He has been a multiple African Football of the Year award winner and was also named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year in 2012 and in 2012/13 when he scored 10 goals in 32 appearances. 

The next season, he once again played a pivotal role in City’s title-winning campaign, scoring 24 goals from 49 games. The stellar 2013-14 season also earned him the MCFC Player of the Year award. Justifying his reputation as the man for the big occasion, he scored a spectacular goal in the Capital One Cup final.

His contribution for the Premier League side was immense and he is often regarded as one of the Club’s all-time greats.