Pep Guardiola has admitted Yaya Toure deserves to be restored to Manchester City’s Champions League squad.
Midfielder Toure was omitted from City’s 25-man list for the group stages, sparking a row with his agent that led to him being frozen out of Guardiola’s side altogether.
That issue was resolved in November as Toure apologised for the remarks of his representative Dimitri Seluk, who had accused manager Guardiola of humiliating the player.
The Ivorian has now put the matter behind him and reclaimed a place at the heart of City’s midfield and his excellence has made him a near-automatic choice for the European knockout rounds.
Guardiola said: “He deserves that. In the first part of the season he was not able (to play) for many physical reasons, in the second part you know why (not).
“But of course he (now) deserves to be in the Champions League in the second round.”
Toure fell out of favour with Guardiola at Barcelona and his lack of activity early in the season fuelled speculation he again did not figure in the Catalan’s plans. That increased considerably after the Seluk row broke out.
Toure’s form recently has changed the picture dramatically but Guardiola claims the player’s renewed zest comes as no surprise to him.
“I know him better than you,” Guardiola told journalists at a press conference. “I was with him in Barcelona.
“I judge the players on whether they are able to go to Old Trafford, to Anfield, to the Nou Camp, to Madrid, to Turin – on how they are going to react. There is no doubt about Yaya on that. His personality is huge about in those terms. I knew that from Barcelona.”
City were unable to get Toure into their initial squad because they had already filled their 17 available spaces for overseas players. A space has now opened up following a season-ending injury to Ilkay Gundogan.
Toure’s impressive form comes as his contract winds down. The two-time Premier League winner is one of six City players whose deals expire at the end of the season. Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero, Jesus Navas and Gael Clichy are the others.
Guardiola admits that situation is not ideal, and he offers no guarantees to any of them about the future, but he has no doubts about their professionalism in such circumstances.
He said: “They (each) have to play every game for himself, for their families and for the team. Of course we are concerned about that, but they are so so professional.
“If they are angry or upset because they aren’t renewing their contract they are not going to play, another guy will play.
“But the four or five guys in that situation, I see them every single training session and in the games, and I am just glad with how they do.
“We are going to see at the end of the season.”
Yaya Yaya Yaya Yaya Yaya