Pep Guardiola has refused to guarantee that John Stones will remain a Manchester City player beyond the next transfer window, despite previously insisting that he would never allow the defender to leave the Etihad.
Stones was an unused substitute in each of City’s last three games and missed the beginning of the Premier League season’s restart with a minor injury, with his last appearance back in February.
The 26-year-old is no longer an established member of Guardiola’s starting line-up with just 20 appearances to his name this term, despite the centre of defence being a problem position this season.
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In 2018, Guardiola dismissed suggestions that Stones could be sold that summer as “fake news” and insisted that the centre-half would be a City player for as long as he remained the club’s manager.
Yet even when reminded of those comments on Tuesday, Guardiola stopped short of making the same guarantees and – though he said that he is “delighted” with Stones – he added that transfer decisions will be made once the current campaign has finished.
“On the transfer market we speak at the end of the season,” he said. “I’ve said many times I’m more than delighted with John as a person, as a pro, everything. What I want is the best for him. We’ll speak at the end of the season about what is going to happen.
“Sometimes my wish is not the wish of the players, or the wish of the situation for the club. At the moment I will feel it, if we have to change, we’ll talk to them. He’s a young player and we want him to be consistent, to train and recover.”
Guardiola revealed that Stones will make his first City appearance in four months when Newcastle United visit the Etihad on Wednesday night, and said that the England international had not started sooner in order to build up fitness.
“We cannot forget he didn’t make a [pre-restart] pre-season, no pre-season for him, after two or three training sessions [he was] injured and didn’t train ‘til last week,” he said.
“I saw Eric [Garcia] and Aymer [Laporte] did incredibly well together in Arsenal and other games, I wanted to give more minutes.
“Of course, what we want is for his future and for ours, for him to come back and play and to be able to play two, three four months with no injuries. He’s struggled with injuries, he has to come back, he needs more time, that’s why these last games, Eric and Aymer.
“After lockdown, we need rhythm, I decided they were able to play. Eric especially doesn’t make mistakes. Against Southampton, he doesn’t make one mistake defensively, that’s what we want.”
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