Everybody's got a Kolo Toure story. Some of these tales are apocryphal yarns, others are disconcertingly true. Yet the scrapes the Ivorian has managed to get into in his personal life seem only to add to the fascination surrounding this eminently likeable man. In his press work for Liverpool thus far, Toure has come across as affable and humorous, humble but quietly confident. When asked directly about his position in the squad, he respectfully acknowledged the talent and legacy of Jamie Carragher before happily accepting the mantle of being the Bootle man's direct replacement. Liverpool needed to find a player who could confidently step into the first team and minimise the loss of a club legend. "I'm the one," Toure said simply.
Pre-season matches are notoriously inadequate yardsticks by which to judge a player's true readiness for the Premier League fray, but most observers drew consolation from the former Manhester City and Arsenal man's athleticism, aerial dominance and attacking threat on set-plays, as Liverpool wandered the planet before the campaign began. As it transpired, all of his best attributes were on display on Saturday, as Toure marshalled the back-line alongside Daniel Agger and rattled the Stoke City crossbar with a ferocious header.
Last year, Brendan Rodgers lamented the lack of "character" in his squad. Kolo Toure supplies more than a modicum of that elusive commodity. He has segued effortlessly from bit-part bench-warmer at City to first team leader at Liverpool. True, far sterner tests lie ahead than the lumpen, staid and often agrarian football of Stoke City, but as an opening day examination of the Ivorian's mettle, they were more than adequate. Facing Mark Hughes' band of giant berserkers would have been enough to see lesser players crumble, but Toure stood firm and at one point out-Aggered Agger with a surging run deep into enemy territory. This is most certainly a man with "character."
Toure has spoken eloquently and frankly on a number of topics, with the press seeming to pick up on his charisma and value immediately. Kolo is now the Liverpool go-to-guy for the media, it would appear. Speaking in the wake of the massively encouraging opening day victory at Anfield, he was quick to mention the team's togetherness under Rodgers and he singled-out Daniel Sturridge for particular praise.
"We have been working so hard with the manager during pre-season," insisted the new man. "The spirit in the squad is very good and the mentality of all the players is great. We won as a team. It's fantastic for all the supporters and players to start like this. It will give everyone a big lift. This win will be important for the future of this football club.
"Daniel Sturridge, for me, is one of the best players I am playing with. I see him in training every day. I knew him when he was at Chelsea but now I have more respect for him. I think he's a great striker. He never gives up, he's very fit and has been working so hard. It was only his second game since he came back from injury. Look what he did, he showed his quality and I'm really happy for him. I'm very proud of my team-mate. It's not easy to play like that."
With this type of stuff on-tap, Brendan Rodgers may actually have a rival for the 'most quoted' award by season's end. Toure also had words of praise for the "fantastic" Simon Mignolet, dismissing the Belgian's nervous start to the match as perfectly understandable and preferring to focus on the "unbelievable double save" which allowed Liverpool to finish the day with three points. Goalkeepers, Kolo reminded us, are often unemployed for vast tracts of a match, but the "best ones" can be relied upon in a pinch.
Perhaps the most interesting words Toure had were on the divisive and inflammatory topic of Luis Suarez. In an attempt to
not get debris hurled at him by disgruntled match-goers show newly regained solidarity with his team-mates, the Uruguayan went walkabout on the Anfield turf before the match cradling the delightful Delfina. For many fans, the bond with the incredibly talented striker is damaged beyond repair. Toure however, had a resolutely practical player's take on the whole farrago.
"I think Suarez was defending himself and the club were defending what they wanted as well because they know by keeping him we are going to be really strong because he is one of the best strikers in the world," reasoned Toure. "For us, it is really important to keep him. What the club did, for me, is right because we want to keep him. You would never want one of your best players going to another team. We want him to stay because this is a big club. It is nothing, for us, we know football. For a player like Suarez, there is no problem. We love him."
This is remarkable stuff and puts the kind of hysterical Twitter meltdowns of certain professional journalists into perspective. It's a game. Toure knows this. He has lived through similar summers at the Emirates, when Real flirted with Patrick Vieira, and he understands that it is important to remain calm. He will not condemn a man he may need to soldier alongside. It's a flawlessly practical outlook. In a further display of saying the right thing, he went on to praise the player for his talent and both the manager and the captain for their efforts in convincing Suarez that Anfield was where he should stay.
"He can do anything. He just resolved the problem with the manager and we want him to score our goals -- that is what we are looking for. The manager sorted it out with him. He was very clever -- and Steven Gerrard as well. They worked [on him] and we are happy he is back training with us again. That is great."
With footing as sure in the media as he has displayed on the pitch, Kolo Toure is well on his way to becoming a hugely influential figure at Anfield. No doubt there will be madness and missteps but this man's passion is the thing that endears him to fans. It may be political. It may even be a touch cynical but when you see him celebrating with his team-mates, you don't doubt he cares. At any rate, he's got this scribbler convinced, and I for one, am itching to get on the Kop and lustily sing "What's the story, Kolo Toure?"