Manchester City's Kolo Touré has claimed that African players are discriminated against by clubs because of their enforced departure for the African Cup of Nations and that he has been victimised for missing a key fixture against Manchester United because of international commitments two years ago.
Touré's comments, which will come as a surprise to the club given the gratitude he expressed to executives after his financial penalty for failing a drugs test was not as severe as he feared, comes as Roberto Mancini prepares to do without him and his brother, Yaya, for a defining period in City's season, next month. The brothers could be away with the Ivory Coast squad for the tournament, in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea for up to five weeks, including a January programme in which City play four games in ten days.
"I feel that it's going to be more and more difficult for Africans," Touré said. "Competing in the [tournament] is a catastrophe for us now. Coaches don't want to sign players because of it. African players are the victims of discrimination."
An absence of far greater concern to Mancini, whose Champions League survival is in the balance against Bayern Munich tomorrow, is that of Aleksandar Kolarov, who will be missing for four to six weeks with a groin injury, sustained in last week's Carling Cup win over Arsenal. Mancini has selected Kolarov ahead of Gaël Clichy in some Champions League games and he, too, may miss the crucial January period.
Touré, whose claim of discrimination was not made against City specifically, said that the club had hired a plane to get him out of Angola, from the last African Nations Cup, in the hope that he would be available for City's Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester United in 2010, which they lost 3-1 to exit the tournament. "I couldn't get back in time and we lost," Touré said. "I believe that the club has never got [over] that."
Touré has become more marginalised following his drugs test failure, starting only one Premier League game this season and Stefan Savic, the 20-year-old summer signing has been given as many chances as the Ivorian, who has hinted that he would be happy to depart for Paris Saint-Germain.
Touré was dismissive of Savic, a player who is yet to get the measure of Premier League football. "When you look at the performance of Savic against QPR – excuse me, I'm relaxed," said Touré, who was fined six weeks' wages and found guilty of gross misconduct over the failed drugs test. "I know my qualities, I've got nothing to prove.
"I am convinced that if I am not playing, it's not only for footballing reasons," he said.