Hopefully it's not already too late in the week to offer some husky-voiced, shoulder-squeezing support to Yaya Touré. It can't have been easy. And frankly it's an indictment of us all that this is still considered news.
But perhaps Touré's decision to reveal publicly for the first time that he likes to "study" football, that he believes his sport is a science, and that he sees himself as a kind of footballing professor-in-the-field might yet do some good. Who knows, it might even act as a spur for others in English football to "come out" as thinkers, seekers and book readers, to admit that they too have an interest in independent thought, writing things down, and generally having some kind of idea what's going on out there beyond all the jumping and falling over?
"Like physicists who try throughout their careers to crack a scientific code, I'm trying to break all the mysteries of football," Touré told France Football this week, holstering his compass and dropping into a crouch. Best of all he revealed that he carries with him a notebook in which he critiques opponents, makes notes on his own performances, and possibly even sketches out the first draft of a wistful, meandering first novel about a powerful, successful goalscoring midfielder who's actually, you know, a lot more sensitive than people think.
It is of course easy – not to mention a familiar English ritual – to mock scholarly intentions in any form. But this is clearly a brilliant thing, most obviously as a counterpoint to the prevailing culture in English football, whereby simply glancing briefly at a book or owning a ballpoint is likely to be greeted with jeers, even anger. Most obviously it offers an insight into Touré himself: an intelligent and eloquent man who on the pitch has begun to look like a surprisingly nuanced and delicately phrased galloping midfield bludgeon.
Pre-Pellegrini Touré seemed to have two main roles at City: his default setting as a kind of strolling defensive bicep; and beyond this the runaway-dustcart mode whereby Touré would be "released" upfield to launch a series of disorientating forward charges, ball trapped beneath his thundering hooves, the attacking midfield equivalent of the massive terrifying round boulder in the Indiana Jones films that keeps looming up out of mine shafts and rumbling down tunnels and generally scattering the natives. It worked too, at least for a season or so in the Premier League, during which the jottings in Touré's notebook were presumably things like "I ran fast. Some men were scared" and "Humans are ... weak".
After which there was talk of a loss of vim, of a sliding towards the periphery, even a vague gearing up for a tortuous summer transfer saga. No longer though. Under Manuel Pellegrini Touré has not only been brilliantly effective, he has also been different. Touré 3.0 is less a creature of extremes, performing instead alongside Fernandinho as a central midfielder of real craft, a player of timing and angles and incisive short passing, subtleties emerging almost by stealth beneath the shadow of that surging power, like a Great Dane that has also secretly learned to speak Portuguese.
Reading his words now it's tempting to look back and see signs of that intelligence in action: for example the take-down of Marouane Fellaini at the Etihad Stadium where, instead of settling for the expected arm-wrestle, Touré simply skirted around Fellaini, trusting to the old boxing truism that a good big 'un who can actually run properly will always beat a slow, chronically confused Belgian.
Then there was Touré's beautifully practised finish for his first goal against West Brom in midweek, hardly the work of some clanking iron man looming on the edge of the penalty area with a tractor in each fist (he has nine goals to date, having never before scored more than eleven in a season). "I'm actually a machine," Touré told France Football, but from here he looks like something much more human: a footballing autodidact, unashamedly analytical, at the age of 30 a little more studied and a little better too.
Of course, the real question here is: why isn't every footballer doing this? In tennis or cricket or boxing all athletes will relentlessly analyse their own game, not to mention the strengths and weaknesses of their next opponent. Before one series against West Indies Michael Atherton ordered England's net bowlers to run in and deliver from several yards nearer to him just to replicate the effects of repeatedly edging to first slip off the unfeasibly tall Curtly Ambrose. Why shouldn't footballers do this kind of thing: training en masse, but then spending every spare moment in micro-focus – videos, stats, private rehearsal – on the next full-back, the next midfield opponent, the right winger who always steps left then right.
Instead of which it seems to be part of the lore of English football that nobody ever learns, nobody ever gets better, that players simply carry on doing the same thing for ever until eventually, like dying robots, they simply have to stop. Just look at Andros Townsend, who has talent and speed and brains and who has been at his most effective, albeit with diminishing returns, attacking down the right in a manner reminiscent of a fly repeatedly battering its head against a window pane until six hours later by chance it slips through the gap and veers out triumphantly into the sky. All very well for now. But he really could do with a notebook.
Of course, in the wider world Touré is by no means the first to indulge in a bit of self-propelling micro-preparation. For many years Holland, and the collected gossiping, declamatory footballers of Holland, have been brandished like a vast orange hammer with which to batter England's assorted dunces and mutes. Beyond this Samuel Eto'o is said to go through his own full pre-match analysis of an opposition defence: videos, stats, special moves, goalkeepers who like to dribble. No doubt there are others too, secret scholars lurking behind the prevailing omerta.
There is of course hope in all this, not least because it is Touré – muscular, visceral, unarguably successful Touré – styling himself as the Premier League's scientist in residence and Louis van Gaal is fond of saying that the mental side of player development is football's last great unexplored frontier. For now we have Yaya and his notebook: one giant steamrollering stride for man, one small step for Premier League kind.