"We needed someone experienced before this World Cup, and now that we’ve got him, it’s up to us to play. We have to start believing in ourselves again. Eriksson is someone who’s had a lot of success over the years - he’s one of the world’s best coaches."
There can be no doubting Kolo Toure's’s enthusiasm and optimism ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Toure has been itching for an opportunity to put the record straight since Côte d’Ivoire’s quarter-final defeat by Algeria at this year's CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Angola. With an impressive club record to look back on, the elder brother of Yaya Toure is still waiting for his first silverware with the Elephants.
The move to Manchester City last summer after seven years at Arsenal led to a strong season for the Adjame-born defender on a personal level, but the campaign was more of a disappointment for his big-spending club, who never really broke into the title race and finished outside the UEFA Champions League spots.
In spite of criticism in England over his departure from the Emirates Stadium, he has stepped up to the plate at his new club after being handed the captaincy by Roberto Mancini. The change of scene has made him mentally stronger and he can be proud of his season in the north-west of England.
Kolo trained at the Academie Guillou before being brought to Arsenal from ASEC Abidjan by Arsene Wenger. The French manager soon offered his protege a chance at first-team football and by August 2002, he was facing Liverpool in the Community Shield. He went on to play 26 matches that season and was involved in 30-plus games in every subsequent campaign until his last season with the Gunners in 2008/09.
Although he can play at right back, it was in the centre of defence that Toure built his reputation at the North London club that he helped to win the Premiership title in 2004, as well as the FA Cup in 2003 and 2005. He also played in the League Cup final in 2007 and the UEFA Champions League final in 2006. Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in that match at the Stade de France remains the biggest disappointment at club level for a born competitor.
Winning ways became a habit for Kolo very early on. He was spotted by Jean-Marc Guillou during a match between members of his academy and the local team of a working-class district of Abidjan. This led to a place at the ASEC Abidjan academy, and Toure went on to win the Ivorian league three times with the team, as well as the CAF Champions League in 1998 against Dynamos FC.
He was 17 at the time, like most of his teammates from the golden generation of graduates from Jean-Marc Guillou’s academy, including players like Aruna Dindane and Didier Zokora. Having joined as a midfielder, he emerged from his training as an athletic, physical, powerful player at right back or in the centre of defence. Now, after reaching the finals of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006, Toure is hungry for success with the Elephants, after five seasons without a single trophy to his name.