Happy birthday Yaya Toure!

He may have all the money in the world and 47,000 people sing his name in praise every week - but what he craves is validation

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My friend Jon, an arch negotiator, says that when someone makes an issue out of a seemingly trivial matter, the real issue is usually about something else. So it may be fair to assume that Yaya Toure's current disenchantment with Manchester City is not because the club's owners, who pay him £250,000 a week, had not wished him happy birthday in a fulsome enough manner.

Maybe he's angling for an improvement in his terms, and in this the supporters of the club bear a certain responsibility. "Oh Yaya Toure, I think we should pay you some more," is the final line of one of the songs belted out in appreciation of the Ivorian's majestic talent. It's ironic, of course, but perhaps Yaya took it seriously. Maybe his agent is seeking to signal Yaya's availability to other clubs (a big transfer would represent a lucrative bit of business for both player and agent).

Then again, maybe Yaya was in fact simply cheesed off because he'd just turned 31 - a difficult age for a footballer - and he didn't get a singing telegram, or a nice spring bouquet, or a birthday cake with little plastic footballers, from Manchester City's Abu Dhabi-based owners. In any case, it seems Yaya may have set his expectations a little higher. His agent held up the example of another equally illustrious player who was given a Bugatti by his club chairman to mark his birthday.

Football has enough of a PR problem at the moment without the grotesque imagery of club owners giving away Bugattis like they were party balloons and players throwing a hissy fit if they don't get one. We thought more of Yaya, who comes across as a decent, rounded kind of guy from a poor country and who has seen a fair bit of the world (albeit from a gilded cage).

But perhaps he's not being so unreasonable after all. Isn't there a little bit of Yaya Toure in all of us? We live in a world where we are encouraged to display our emotions, and where - through Facebook and Twitter - private thoughts are spewed out for public consumption. We are on a hair trigger to take offence. Society has become more infantilised.  And the world of Premier League football, where players are cosseted, indulged and lauded within an inch of their lives, is like a Disneyland where everyone has a birthday Bugatti and an absurd sense of entitlement.

In that context, spare a thought for poor old Yaya. He's only human, after all. Not even a phone call, never mind a sports car. He may have all the money in the world, but, as many have found before him, that doesn't necessarily bring you happiness. What he craves is validation, a sense of being appreciated. Some 47,000 people sing his name in praise every week. But that's not enough. He has been chosen as African Player of the Year for the past two years. All well and good. He is loved by Manchester City supporters and admired by football people everywhere. Yes, that's nice. But give the man a break. All he wanted was a simple card that said: "To Yaya, Happy Birthday, lots of love, Sheikh Mansour". Is that too much to ask?   

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