Yaya Toure’s doomed Arsenal trial saw him play against Friends Reunited founder

Yaya Toure has joined Tottenham as a youth coach – but he could have been a legend on the other side of north London.

The former Barcelona and Manchester City midfielder went on trial with Arsenal aged 20 in the summer of 2003, with then-boss Arsene Wenger having watched him as a teenager.

Toure was given the chance to impress the legendary French manager in a pre-season friendly against Barnet, starting in midfield alongside older brother Kolo who had signed for the Gunners the year before. He was given the full 90, playing as a striker in the second half.

READ MORE: Yaya Toure spotted in Tottenham gear as former Man City hero takes on academy role

But his performance, which included a glorious chance for a header spurned, left a lot to be desired for Wenger, who described it as "completely average" in 2011.

"Yaya Toure is a top-class player, we knew that at the time," said Wenger. "The only problem was to fix him into a position because he can play everywhere.

"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 as a second striker – and he was completely average on the day."

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It probably didn't help Toure's cause that for the last three minutes of the game he came up against the co-founder of social network site Friends Reunited, Steve Pankhurst, who had paid £5,500 at an auction for the chance to play in Barnet's side.

Wenger went on to express his regret at not signing the Ivory Coast legend in 2014, but explained how work permit issues also played a part in the missed opportunity.

"It would be up at the top [of my list of regrets],” he said. "But let's not forget that Yaya Toure had an agreement with us – and it's not because we did not want to sign him that he went to Ukraine.

"We needed to wait for his passport in Belgium. We have made mistakes but he is not a mistake, it's just the fact that he preferred to go to Metalurh Donetsk. He could go there without any passport."

Toure's dominance in the Premier League in a City shirt meant it was a painful one-that-got-away for Arsenal fans. And insult has now been added to injury, as he's joined rivals Spurs to work in their academy.


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