Kolo Toure revisits incredible Celtic spell, 'battering' Rangers and moment he knew it was time to retire

Kolo Toure admits he knew it was time to retire midway through his first and final season as a player at Celtic.

The football cult hero, 43, spent a year at Parkhead in 2016-17 before pulling the curtain down on his incredible career. Arsenal Invincible Toure followed ex-Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers up to Glasgow and helped the Hoops to a historic Invincible Treble. The Ivory Coast defender played a key role in the first few months of Rodgers' first reign at Celtic, starring in the Champions League qualifiers and a famous 5-1 win over newly-promoted Rangers.

But the two-time Premier League winner soon fell out of the picture after a horror show against Borussia Monchengladbach in October 2016, playing just five more times before hanging up the boots and becoming part of Rodgers' backroom staff. And while he knew he was reaching the end of his playing days, Toure loved the experience of playing in front of 60,000 fans at Celtic Park.

Speaking to Jake Humphrey on the High Performance podcast, he said: "Joining Celtic, I was going there because of Brendan Rodgers. I was following Celtic a little bit, but not overly, I have to be honest. When I trained there I wasn’t sure what I was going to see there. I went to the training ground, I see the people, I see the fans – it was incredible. The passion, it was incredible. They love the club, they love the club.

"The competition between Celtic and Rangers. There’s not many like that. It’s religious, I would say. They don’t like each other, they hate each other."

Asked the best way to deal with the rivalry, he chuckled: "Win games. Win football matches. Especially in Scotland. Make sure you win the title. Make sure you win every single game you play against them. When I played, it was the first time when Rangers came up from relegation and we battered them 5-1. I played in that game. It was intense, it was a really good game and we played very well.

"At the end of the game, I was driving my car and I saw police in the middle of the road. There were two sets of fans on the left and right, it was Rangers and Celtic fans wanting to fight each other. I turned quickly and drove to go the other way. Yeah, it was incredible in Scotland."

While Rodgers relied on Toure's experience in the early stages of the historic campaign, it wasn't long before Dedryck Boyata emerged from the shadows to become a pillar of the side. The Belgian waited patiently for his chance under the Northern Irishman and his big moment finally arrived when Toure decided to hold a heart-to-heart with Rodgers - realising his best days were behind him.

The former Manchester City star said: "It's difficult when you feel like you're losing your strength. Because I was a powerful player and I was used to winning my duels all the time, I was suffering inside. I couldn't cope with the intensity in training, I was getting passed by young players and hated that.

"I remember the moment I decided to retire. There was a game. We had a break after December and we came back. I remember having a conversation with Brendan and he asked if I would be able to play that game.

"We had a young player, Dedryck Boyata – he was doing very well at training that week before we started the second half of the season. I thought I had to make sure I didn’t play that game or I’d make the team lose. I don't think I was at my full potential.

"I said to the boss 'Play that young player'. As a human, you have to know your limitations. I realised at that moment, let this boy play. He’s doing very well in training, he's fit, just give him this chance. Going back to Martin Keown – he supported me when I came to Arsenal. He never stopped me developing myself and I was thinking I don’t want to stop this young boy from developing.

"I had a conversation with Dedryck. He was down because he wasn't playing. But I told him to stay calm. I was so honest with him and said 'Listen, I'm playing because the manager respects me a lot because of my experience. But stay calm, you're going to play.'"