Manchester City midfielder and four-time African footballer of the year Yaya Touré has announced his decision to retire from the Cote D’Ivoire national team with immediate effect.

The 33-year-old took to social media to reveal the surprise decision, just months before the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Gabon would provide the Ivorian selection with a chance to defend the title they won in Equatorial Guinea two years ago.

Touré has been a stalwart of the Elephants, making 100 appearances and scoring 20 goals for the number one ranked team on the continent, according to the September FIFA rankings.

He has also captained the team in recent years, leading them to Nations Cup glory in 2015 as his finest moment with the national team.

He used his Twitter account to direct followers to his official retirement announcement in a statement on his website.

Beginning the statement with, ‘THANK YOU to the Elephants!’ he went on to say: ‘Writing this note was probably ‘the most difficult match of my life’. After 14 years at the highest level, I’m sure this is the right time for me! The fact that I am 33 now, the intensity of training and the multitude of games are not the reasons why I am making this decision.’

Touré went on to say: ‘Football is everything to me and it gave me so much in my career that I no longer feel able to set myself new goals as a player with the Elephants of Ivory Coast.’

The retirement is a big knock to the Cote D’Ivoire national team ahead of their AFCON title defence in January.