Pep Guardiola has admitted that Eric Garcia could leave Manchester City this month despite him wishing otherwise.
The 20-year-old, who is in the final year of his contract at the Etihad Stadium, has indicated a desire to move amid links with a return to boyhood club Barcelona.
The Spaniard is now entitled to speak to other clubs with a view to a summer switch. But there have been reports suggesting Barca could even move to complete a deal this month.
Asked if that might happen, City boss Guardiola said: “I hope not but maybe the people from Barcelona know more than me. I don’t know what is going to happen but maybe it is going to happen.”
Garcia is at least back in contention to play against Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday. He has returned to training following a spell in isolation with coronavirus.
Fellow centre-backs Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake are out injured. Striker Sergio Aguero is still isolating after being identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Guardiola said: “I think Eric will back. Nathan and Ayme are still not fit, Sergio I don’t think so. The rest I think are OK.”
City are emerging as strong title contenders after winning their last four Premier League games.
Their most recent success was a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Brighton on Wednesday. Guardiola feels it is in such games, and this weekend’s clash with Palace, that a side’s true mettle is shown.
Guardiola said: “If you look at the results for the top teams, every game is complicated and difficult. When you win away against two incredible teams like Chelsea and Man Utd the headlines are nice but the reality was Brighton and we knew it.
“We played really good against Brighton. We created chances to score three or four goals but we suffered in the last minutes not because we were bad but because they were good.
“Every game is difficult and Sunday will be no exception.”
Guardiola refuses to blame Sterling
City spurned numerous chances to make their win over Brighton more comfortable, notably when Raheem Sterling blazed a penalty over the bar in the latter stages.
It was a poor miss but Guardiola has refused to criticise the England forward.
Guardiola said: “He’s an incredibly important player for us. Everything we have done would not have been possible without him.
“He will score goals, make assists and help in all departments like normally wingers are not able to. I’m more than happy to have him here with us.”