Yaya Toure was on the verge of joining Arsenal when he was only 20 years old.
Yaya Toure, one of the best African footballers of all time, was available for Arsenal to sign, but after a trial, former manager Arsene Wenger described him as “totally average.”
Yaya Toure, then 20, auditioned for Arsenal in 2003, hoping to start his European career with the North London club. However, the athletic Ivorian failed to impress Wenger in a pre-season friendly against Barnet.
As quoted by the Daily Star, this is what he said:
Yaya Toure is a top-class player, we knew that at the time. 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.Arsene Wenger
Wenger was still interested in signing the then-20-year-old Touré, but he was unable to obtain a work permit.
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Touré eventually became impatient and signed for Ukrainian club Metalurh Donetsk in December 2003, where he lasted one and a half years.
After stints with Olympiacos, Monaco, and Barcelona, he returned to the Premier League in 2010 as a £24 million signing for Manchester City.