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Yaya Toure: Can footballers have their cake and eat it?

updated 3:02 PM EDT, Wed May 21, 2014
  • Yaya Toure's brand "left damaged" by outburst says PR expert
  • Agent says Manchester City midfielder is upset by lack of birthday celebrations
  • His future at Premier League's top club is in jeopardy according to Phil Hall
  • Public take dim view of such behavior from highly-paid sport stars

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(CNN) -- Is this Manchester City's "David Beckham moment?"

When Yaya Toure's agent announced his client was unhappy because the English Premier League champion's bosses failed to wish him happy birthday, social media went into meltdown.

The 31-year-old, who earns a reported $370,000 a week, has been ridiculed after his agent revealed Toure was left upset by the lack of congratulations afforded to him.

According to the player's agent, Toure was barely acknowledged by the club's owners when the squad arrived in the United Arab Emirates last week to celebrate their Premier League title triumph.

"None of them shook his hand on his birthday. It's really sick," his agent Dmitri Seluk told the BBC.

But according to one PR expert, it's a case of a Premier League player wanting to have his cake and eat it; a case of professional footballers losing all touch with reality.

"I think it's a classic way of player trying to take control of club," Phil Hall, whose clients have included City, told CNN.

"He wants to be king of dressing room and fawned over.

"This is where it often goes wrong. It's the same as what happened with Beckham at Manchester United.

"In a few months, he was gone. The same happened with Eric Cantona.

"Jose Mourinho has dealt similarly with other players. When a player sees himself as bigger than the club, then it's time to part company."

It's unlikely Toure's behavior would have been tolerated at Manchester United under former manager Alex Ferguson.

The Scot ruled Old Trafford with an iron fist and anyone who dared to challenge his authority was promptly shown the door.

In his autobiography, Ferguson describes how Beckham, a global brand, had to leave after a heated exchange following a defeat by Arsenal in 2003.

Beckham suffered a cut to his head after Ferguson kicked a boot at him following a dressing-room argument -- a moment which signaled the end of their relationship.

"The minute a Manchester United player thought he was bigger than the manager he had to go," Ferguson wrote in his book.

"David thought he was bigger than Alex Ferguson. It doesn't matter whether it's Alex Ferguson or Pete the Plumber. The authority is what counts."

While Beckham's brand was scarcely tarnished, Toure -- who signed a new four-year contract with City just 11 months ago -- could find himself in a far more problematic situation.

His agent said the midfielder could leave City if he is not showed enough "respect" -- and the Ivory Coast star tweeted that he would make an announcement after the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.

"Man City is not respecting the player -- how can he be motivated to play for that team?" Seluk told Sky Sports News.

"If they don't want Toure then he can leave at any moment. Many clubs would be interested in him."

According to Hall, the player's latest outburst is a sign that "the tail is trying to wag the dog."

"It's going to be very difficult for Yaya at Manchester City now," added Hall.

"When you do something like this then people start using it against you in different circumstances.

"Next time, when he fails to play because he's got a minor injury, people will start to doubt his commitment again and say, 'Oh, that's Yaya.'

"If he did have a problem then he should have dealt with it quietly. He now looks a bit sad."

Toure is not the first player to find himself embarrassed by his alleged excessive demands.

Hall cites an example of one player who, having lost money on his property empire, demanded his club pay up the shortfall.

Another, who had accrued large gambling debts, urged his club to pay off his creditors because it was having a negative impact on his performances.

It's that type of high maintenance which has helped give footballers a bad name, according to Hall.

"Players need to understand that they are major brands," he added.

"I can't believe they don't employ specialist employers and just rely on their agent or friend. They need to understand they're working in the corporate world and not in Sunday League.

"Effectively, Toure has devalued himself already. Potential suitors will think they can acquire him on the cheap and it may do damage to his signing-on fee."

No cake -- but plenty of food for thought.

Read: Beckham -- the man who broke football's gay taboo?

Read: Beckham -- rise of the metrosexual

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