Man City's Pep Guardiola: Yaya Toure 'has to continue' top-level career
MANCHESTER -- Pep Guardiola says Manchester City's game with Brighton will be all about Yaya Toure and he believes the Ivorian can still perform next season.
Toure, who has won three Premier League titles as well as an FA Cup and two League Cups at City, will make his final appearance after eight years at the Etihad Stadium in Wednesday's clash.
"[Yaya] was one of the football players that made the club big and bigger and bigger and without doubt he was one of the most important players in our history, helps this club make a step forward and hopefully we can make a good game for him," Guardiola told a news conference.
"Yaya is beloved in the locker room, for the old guys, with the young guys. He deserve the respect from the young guys. He came in the [Roberto] Mancini era and after Manuel [Pellegrini], the two leagues they won he was decisive, so so important."
Toure was out of contract last season but Guardiola decided to give him a 12-month extension after becoming a crucial player in the second half of the campaign.
However, he hasn't started a Premier League game this term and will be able to leave for free in the summer.
Several Premier League sides have been linked with a move for the Ivorian and Guardiola says he is still capable of performing in the English top flight.
"I am not going to judge Yaya for what happened this season. Maybe I was wrong this season," Guardiola said. "We have to analyse a career, not just in Manchester, in Barcelona and Monaco.
"He is a player with a huge personality, he doesn't feel the pressure, it doesn't matter where he plays. He loves to play football. Every day in the training sessions I saw nothing changed my opinions.
"He was the only guy last season we extend the contract. His behaviour was good. Hopefully he can stay in football and come back maybe here.
"I am not the right guy to say to him what is the best. He will choose. I think he has still the desire to play. He loves to play football. He likes the game and he enjoys the training sessions, especially with the ball. My advice, if he still has desire to play, he has to continue. If you have doubt, you have to retire, it is over."
Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.