Poor old Kolo Touré. You have to feel a little bit sorry for him. After all, he's not exactly had the best past year or so.
It wasn't always bad. In fact, his career at Liverpool all started rather swimmingly. The Ivorian made the switch from Manchester to Merseyside on a costless last summer, with the hope of added extra playing time after not enjoying too many minutes at Manchester City. Despite low expectations, after a solid pre-season, the form at the start of his Premier League campaign with Liverpool was surprisingly impressive.
He put in superb performances against Stoke City and Aston Villa, and the future was looking bright. Though much of his playing time was down to injuries to Brendan Rodgers' other centre backs, Touré played so well that he seemed the perfect temporary replacement to nullify the loss of Jamie Carragher's experienced presence.
As a right central defender, paired by Daniel Agger, Touré looked like a man on a mission and he was a huge part of keeping two successive clean sheets. The 32-year-old was impeccable and his commitment and determination won him over with the Anfield faithful instantly, and he quickly earned cult hero status. Admirably, he exceeded all expectations that he would be merely a back-up defender.
Then it kind of, well, collapsed from there on in. In his next game, against Notts County, the defender overstretched his groin, but managed to shake it off to play a minor part against Swansea two weeks later. He came on as a substitute for the final 25 minutes, but didn't really look anything like the Touré who had impressed early on. The Ivorian put in a string of performances, yet still struggled.
After vowing to prove Arsenal wrong to have seen the back of him, the Gunners brushed aside Liverpool with ease, and Kolo was particularly poor. He almost gifted Olivier Giroud the opportunity to double his side's lead when a poor back pass set him through on goal, and was also guilty of a poor header from Steven Gerrard's inswinging costless-kick which could have changed the game's outcome. For both Arsenal goals too, he looked lost and a shadow of his former self. Again, he was largely at blame in the build-up to Hull City's second goal in the a defensively disastrous 3-1 loss, when his failed clearances in his own penalty area allowed David Meyler to smash home.
It didn't improve from there. Rather spectacularly, his uncertain cavalier approach was caught out when he was employed as a left-centre back alongside Martin Skrtel. Touré's general recklessness first showed in a high-profile mistake that came against West Brom. After an impressive game against Everton, in which it was the 32-year-old's long ball that Daniel Sturridge locked onto and lobbed over Tim Howard, his trip to the Hawthorns was a day to forget.
After receiving a pass from Simon Mignolet, Touré saw two Baggies players closing in on him and so decided to play the ball straight across the edge of his own penalty area towards right back Jon Flanagan. What he had not seen, was that Victor Anichebe was there to intercept and by the time Touré had realised his error, the ball had nestled into the net to give the home side a late equaliser and squander the three points. Sure, Liverpool paid the price for a poor second half and Mignolet's pass was not particularly wise, but it was Touré who received most of the criticism.
Only 10 days later, Kolo was caught in the eye of yet another storm. In what can only be described as comedic, Touré got Kieran Richardson's seemingly innocuous cross completely wrong and sliced the ball backwards and past Mignolet to gift Fulham the lead in what was a crucial game for the Reds. It was a freak own goal, and a horrible howler to add to the West Brom mistake. It was almost as if the defender single-handedly wanted to deny his side Champions League qualification, and it unfairly meant he was branded a defensive liability. Luckily, Steven Gerrard's last-gasp penalty spared his blushes.
The mistakes marred his season, and the Reds would of course go on to throw away the league title with three games to go, concluding the end of a disappointing season for the defender.
Outside of Liverpool, life hasn't been much better since. Touré recently contracted malaria, before thankfully recovering in time for the World Cup. However, whilst representing his country, his younger brother Ibrahim Touré sadly passed away at the age of 28 after battling cancer. Then just a few days later, Ivory Coast were dumped out of the World Cup after a late 93rd minute Greece penalty sealed their fate.
After what has been a steadily declining year on all fronts for the Ivorian, he is supposedly considering his options. According to the trustworthy Liverpool Echo, Turkish side Trabazonspor are interested in Touré's services, and a move would bring to a close what has been an incredibly turbulent year for the centre back.
It all started well whilst at right centre back, but when injuries required him to switch to the left and play alongside the equally cavalier Martin Skrtel, a certain substance hit the fan. He still has his qualities, and though his cult status may have been dampened, there's still an entertainment derived from the Ivorian that raises a smile from any football fan. But the confident pedigreed presence Liverpool saw early on in the season seems to have been lost, and perhaps a move may be best for all parties.
It has been well known that Brendan Rodgers is looking to improve the quality of his back-line following a season where Liverpool conceded 50 goals in the Premier League which virtually cost them their 19th title, and Touré would fit the bill to be sacrificed. He's ageing, his wages are likely to be high, he's far from first-choice and he has been shown to vulnerable. Despite the depth he can help provide, not too many Liverpool fans would strongly oppose Touré's departure.
After just 15 league starts, it would be a shame to see the veteran defender be branded as a failure, but ultimately his errors will likely it deem it just that. Originally, he had looked to have been a smart acquisition, but due to injuries and being played out of position amongst other things, his form curtailed significantly. It all went downhill, and when the going got tough, the tough didn't get going.
Thanks for trying at least, Francois. It's a shame it didn't work out.