Most players relish the prospect of facing their former club, but combative Manchester City FC midfielder Yaya Touré is an exception to the rule.
Indeed, Touré, who is enjoying a stellar season under Manuel Pellegrini, is filled with apprehension ahead his side's UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie with FC Barcelona. "It's difficult because I don't really want to play Barcelona. It's a club I have a lot of respect for, a club which taught me a lot and where I have many friends who helped me," the 30-year-old told UEFA.com.
"I will play against these guys at the Camp Nou. It's the stadium where I always wanted to play and now I'll be coming back wearing a different shirt. I didn't want to play in front of the fans who gave me so much love and respected me, but that's football," he added.
The Ivorian international signed for Barcelona from AS Monaco FC in 2007 and went on to lift two Spanish titles and the UEFA Champions League among other trophies. Touré was then given licence to thrill after joining City three years later. This term, he has already plundered a season-best 12 league goals, helping Pellegrini's team remain in the hunt for four trophies.
"At Barcelona it was my job to hold and organise. It was all about being focused and never losing concentration. Now I can drop into defence or join the attack. I was limited to playing in the middle at Barcelona. I like playing in England because it's an open league and very fast-paced," he explained.
Touré won the Premier League in his second year in England, though European success has been harder to come by, with City twice succumbing in the UEFA Champions League group stage before this season's breakthrough. "The first two campaigns were difficult, but now everything is going well. We have a manager who has a very good vision of how we should play. He understands football and teaches us a lot," said the three-time African footballer of the year.
Turning his attention to the last-16 encounter on 18 February and 12 March, Touré anticipates a "great match" against "a great club with an exceptional history". The KSK Beveren, FC Metalurh Donetsk and Olympiacos FC old boy is also desperate to add weight to City's UEFA Champions League credentials, saying: "We have a great desire to show our fans and everyone else that City are on the right track."
Champions Matchday, official magazine of the UEFA Champions League, is available across Europe on the newsstand and also in digital versions which can be purchased on Apple Newsstand. You can follow the magazine on Twitter @ChampionsMag. To see the full interview click on the video player above.
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