Pep Guardiola told the Manchester City bench to stand. They did as they were told, rising as one in applause, and so did everyone else. Yaya Toure began his slow, long waltz off with five minutes remaining on Wednesday night. The end of an era. And what an era it has been.
Toure is not overly fond of the limelight, awkwardly ambling out as captain on Wednesday night, and his demeanour actually showcased the magnitude of this occasion for him. He wandered off rather sheepishly after being mobbed by almost all of his team-mates.
They wanted to congratulate a legend on a job well done. Guardiola slapped the veteran’s head, gave him a hug. Ironically, City won a free-kick 20 yards out seconds after Toure came off and Guardiola jokingly beckoned him to return.
And then, at just before 10 o’clock, came the overt gratitude, the montage of his greatest moments in a City shirt. Barely anybody had left the Etihad, wanting to stay for his presentation in the centre circle, and they cheered that FA Cup winner against Manchester United as it came on screen. Toure played to the crowd, saying: ‘Once a blue, always a blue.’
Out came his brother, Kolo, to present a lifetime season ticket. A framed shirt with the 316 – his number of appearances – on the back was another keepsake. Kolo spoke passionately about his younger brother’s achievements.
This was the send-off he deserved and Vincent Kompany rattled off his biggest moments on the mic. ‘I just want to say thank you,’ Kompany said. ‘If there is a legend at this club then it is this man.’
It says something for the splendour with which he plays that the amount of passes he wasted could be counted on one hand on Wednesday night.
Toure had the ball a lot and was ruthlessly precise with it. He looked at ease, floating through this victory, and while the 34-year-old is not the juggernaut of old, he certainly still seems to have a place in Premier League fixtures.
That will encourage potential suitors eyeing Toure up this summer and at times it felt as though he was playing his own game of pass completion. That in itself felt a fitting tribute before the club paid theirs.