Pep Guardiola insists Yaya Toure still has a major part to play for City this season – but refused to confirm if he will be recalled for Saturday’s game against Watford.
Toure has been omitted from City’s last two match day squads and didn’t travel with the team to Rotterdam for Wednesday’s Champions League victory against Feyenoord.
Guardiola mysteriously claimed the Ivorian knew the ‘reasons why’ he’d been frozen out – raising fresh doubts about his future.
Guardiola handed Toure, 34, a new 12-month contract at the end of last season, but is understood to be unhappy with his performance levels in training and has challenged him to improve.
But the City manager is adamant Toure remains an important part of his plans.
“We need him,” he said. “I need him and the team needs him.
“He was so important last season. He’ll be so important this season.
“He’s a part of the group.”
Toure was frozen out of City’s first team and dropped from their squad for the group stages of the Champions League last season.
But he forced his way back into Guardiola’s plans after issuing an apology for his agent Dimitri Seluk’s public criticism of the City manager.
He became a pivotal part of City’s midfield in the second half of the season, earning himself a new one-year contract.
Which is his absence in the early weeks of this campaign have come as such a surprise.
Guardiola and Toure have had a fraught relationship at times. The coach sold the midfielder to City when he was at Barcelona, and last season refused to play him after critical comments from agent Dimitri Seluk.
But Toure apologised and became a key member of Guardiola’s squad, earning a new deal, and the City boss said he remains part of his plans.
Asked whether Toure would play soon, Guardiola said: “Hopefully — it depends on the player.