Yaya Toure has been branded a "spoiled brat", a "ludicrous wuss", a "stupid egotistical big baby" and much, much worse, after confirming yesterday that he was considering leaving Manchester City because the club did not wish him 'happy birthday' in suitable fashion last week.
The Ivory Coast midfielder, reportedly paid £200,000 a week by his club, turned 31 on Tuesday last week, and by happy coincidence his anniversary coincided with a lavish party thrown for the Premier League-winning City players at the five-star St Regis Resort Hotel on Abu Dhabi.
But it was in this rarefied atmosphere that City bigwigs apparently disrespected and humiliated Toure – by presenting him with an inadequate birthday cake and not making an effort to shake his hand.
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The story emerged on Tuesday via Toure's agent, Dimitry Seluk, who said that his client was thinking of leaving the club because of the disrespect it had shown him. At first the claims were treated with scepticism, which later turned to bewilderment and then astonishment as it became apparent that the story wasn't a hoax.
Seluk did little to help his or his client's cause by pointing out that former Brazilian star Roberto Carlos was once presented with a Bugatti on his birthday by Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala.
Unsurprisingly, the result was a tidal wave of abuse. Toure was ridiculed on social media as his name became the top trend on Twitter.
Having run the gauntlet on Twitter, Toure was subjected to a second wave of scorn from traditional media.
"Even in a game drunk on money and tarnished by preening popinjays, this act of vanity almost carries the power to astonish," gasps Jonathan McEvoy in the Daily Mail. He blames not only "ego-mad players and greedy agents", but also the clubs who indulge them.
"We're used to professional athletes behaving like little children," says Alan Tyers of the Daily Telegraph. But it comes as a shock to see Toure, who is a "warrior-king" on the field, behaving like "an overtired six-year-old girl" off it.
Has there ever been such a "ludicrous excuse" for leaving a football club "as the nonsense dreamt up by Toure and his representative yesterday," wonders James Ducker of The Times. Simply asking for a transfer would have at least been "rational" he adds. "Yet by concocting a story that would embarrass a 13-year-old... Toure and Seluk served only to make fools of themselves."
He is particularly aggrieved as Toure's moaning comes after a season in which City "could not have done much more to accommodate the Ivorian", backing him over disciplinary issues and in a racism row involving CSKA Moscow, as well as making him their highest-paid player.
Even at a club that has had to deal with the likes of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli in recent years, "Cakegate, as it is certain to become known, leaves a distinctly unpleasant taste in the mouth", he adds.
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