Yaya Toure believes he can play at the top level for two more seasons and would not rule out a move to Manchester United, saying he would like to “teach” Paul Pogba.
Toure, 35, was released by Manchester City following eight successful years at the Etihad Stadium, but has said he wants to stay in England.
“Let’s see, let’s see,” Toure told the Manchester Evening News when asked about being a potential replacement for the retiring Michael Carrick at United. “I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve.
“It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job. I’ve been playing football for such a long time, I’m no good in the office or something else. I am good in football.
“To see myself at a different club is going to be difficult. I have been such a big part of City for such a long time now. I just want to say that definitely I will continue to play at a high level — Champions League or Europa League.
“I want to play two more years. They have to be in the higher level, and then I can do something else.”
Toure said he would relish the chance to play with United midfielder Pogba and could help the France international to improve after two difficult years at Old Trafford.
“It’s difficult because of the way the media has treated him,” he added. “We don’t have the same characteristics because for me I was involved in all the ball, I ran everywhere. I liked that. I was prepared for that. I was working for that for a long time.
“When I was in the academy in Africa I had to run everywhere, get box-to-box in 50 seconds. It’s something I’ve been loving to do.
“Pogba is the same size, power — but different in the way he wants to go. He is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.
“He’s a fantastic player. He’s a little bit young at the moment. Criticism is a part of life. If they criticise you it’s because they want you to be good or be better.
“I’ve been criticised and I love to be criticised. I don’t mind if people talk about me — it’s good. It means I have to achieve, I have to be better.
“Even if you continue to be at the peak of your game, sometimes they are going to find something to tell you. It’s part of life. We have to deal with that.”
City boss Pep Guardiola has made signing a replacement for Toure one of his top priorities this season, with Napoli’s Jorginho a target.
Toure said the player who replaces him must match his desire and ambition to challenge for a place in Guardiola’s squad.
“Maybe the new players, the new kids coming through, they can make it,” he said. “But the mentality I always had — it was always too high. The way I demanded of myself and demanded of those close to me to be at the top of their game.
“Sometimes it is difficult to get that, but let’s see if City can get a good one [replacement]. I wish them good luck in the future, maybe one day I hope I will be back in a different situation.
“I feel like I’m retiring because in my mind I was thinking I would stop football after City. I was wanting to continue with City for two more years, but that is life. We have to move on, we have to understand decisions sometimes.”
Jonathan is ESPN FC’s Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.