It cannot be easy living in the shadow of a more successful sibling, especially when you are striving to make your mark in the exact same profession. That is the daily reality faced by Ibrahim Toure, brother to established Ivorian stars Yaya and Kolo, but the youngest of the trio is content with his professional career so far.
First taught the ropes at ASEC Mimosas, Ibrahim followed the trail blazed by his elder brothers when he left for Europe at a young age, making Metalurh Donetsk in Ukraine his initial destination. The 28-year-old next headed to Nice in France, and from there he set sail for the Middle East, taking in spells with clubs in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Lebanon. At the start of the current campaign, he signed for Lebanese champions Safa, and since then he has racked up seven league goals to see them sit atop of the standings.
FIFA.com met up with the forward at the training ground of his new team, where he discussed his journey in the game, the influence of his illustrious brothers and Côte d'Ivoire's prospects at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
"I started out at a big Ivorian club before leaving for Europe," explained Ibrahim, recalling his early days at ASEC, where Kolo and Yaya likewise gained their grounding. "I had trials with a number of sides, including Olympiacos, but I wasn't offered a deal.
"After that, I played for Metalurh and Nice, before picking up a serious back injury. Once I'd recovered, I left for Syria. It was there that I met my current coach, the Romanian Valeriu Tita, who was then in charge of Al Ittihad Aleppo."
Looking back on his first experience abroad, Toure still has fresh memories of the severe culture shock awaiting him in eastern Europe. "The climactic conditions were very difficult because I wasn't used to them at all, and that's without mentioning the high standard of play," he said. "Despite everything, though, I did my best."
His situation scarcely improved at Nice either, and he left the Mediterranean club without making a single appearance for the first team. "The coach had just bolstered the squad with big names like Bakari Kone, Matt Moussilou, David Bellion and Souleymane Camara," he said. "It was difficult for me to find my place among all those well-known forwards, especially as I was very young."
As testing as his years in Europe were, however, Toure still considers his time in Ukraine the highlight of his playing career up until now. "I put in some great performances there and scored a lot of goals. That's my favourite memory."
Optimistic for Brazil
When it comes to his brothers, Toure admits to feeling a weight on his shoulders due to their success, but he has also learned a lot from them. The duo have plentiful advice for their younger sibling and the trio remain in constant touch, calling each other around three times per week. Indeed, the last time Ibrahim spoke to Yaya, the Manchester City midfielder had just been crowned CAF African Player of the Year for the third time.
"Of course there's a huge amount of pressure on me wherever I go because I'm the brother of Yaya and Kolo Toure," explained the Safa striker. "But you mustn't forget that I'm a forward, whereas Yaya is a midfielder and Kolo is a defender. Speaking for myself, I always give everything."
Toure will also be right behind his brothers and the rest of the Côte d'Ivoire squad at Brazil 2014, where Sabri Lamouchi's men will tackle Colombia, Japan and Greece in Group C. He is fully confident that the Elephants can grace the knockout stage for the first time in their history at the third attempt.
"It's a difficult group, but we have a good chance of qualifying because our players are very experienced," he said. "The side is full of talent and players who play at the highest level, but we need to come together as a team. Our group is easy compared to the ones we had at the last two editions, when we were up against Brazil [in 2010] and Argentina [in 2006]. The moment has come to reach the next level."
Toure is still unsure if he will be travelling to Brazil himself, but he has not given up his dream of slipping on the coveted orange shirt. "I think I still have a chance of representing my country," he explained. "If I manage to join a European side, maybe one day I'll get called up by the national team."
Whether that day comes or not, Ibrahim can be justifiably proud of being the younger brother to two genuine stars of the global game – and carrying the Toure family name with distinction as he continues to forge his own path.