Yaya Toure promised Manchester City fans he would return to the Etihad Stadium after an emotional final home appearance for the club.
Toure was presented with a lifetime City season ticket as tributes were paid to the veteran midfielder following the champions’ record-breaking 3-1 win over Brighton on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old, who is leaving the club at the end of the season, was recalled to the starting line-up and handed the captaincy as City celebrated his outstanding service over the past eight years.
The victory took City’s tallies this season in terms of points, goals and wins to 97, 105 and 31 respectively – all new Premier League records.
“Of course I was very delighted to be part of the team that broke the record,” said Toure, who does not intend to retire and could stay in English football. “It was something special, brilliant and amazing.
“The fans, all the time, have shown love. There was a feeling like some of them were sad – but they don’t have to be sad. I’ll be back for sure.”
Manager Pep Guardiola felt the night could not have gone much better.
Brighton’s Leonardo Ulloa did pierce the mood slightly by cancelling out Danilo’s opener but further strikes from Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho – all three City goals set up by Leroy Sane – ensured a comfortable win.
Guardiola said: “Ninety-seven points, a lot of goals, a lot of wins – that’s a consequence of the season we have done. It’s good.
“Now it’s one more game. We’re going to try for 100 points and finish this almost perfect season in the Premier League.
“It’s fantastic we did that (break the records) in the day we always will remember – the day for Yaya.
“You know, Yaya does not leave the club because always he’ll be part of it.”
The presentation to Toure involved a surprise guest appearance from his brother and former City team-mate Kolo Toure.
He went on to thank club owner Sheikh Mansour, whose investment has transformed City.
He said: “I want to thank Sheikh Mansour and (chairman) Khaldoon Al Mubarak. Those guys have been magnificent for the fans. City have been so long in the shadow of (Manchester) United and I think those guys bring happiness and a smile to the fans.
“I want to thank the fans as well. They have been so supportive and helpful.”