Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola denied having any issue with Leroy Sane, despite the 22-year-old starting the new season on the bench.
Sane was named PFA Young Player of the Year for 2017-18 after contributing 10 goals and 15 assists in City’s Premier League title-winning campaign, but it was not enough to earn a place in Joachim Low’s Germany team for the World Cup.
The promising 22-year-old was expected to shine this term given the additional time off compared to many of his team-mates, but Guardiola was critical of his lack of defensive effort during pre-season.
However, the City manager assured he has no lingering issues with Sane – who he feels is getting back to his previous levels – and he is simply out of the line-up due to the excellent displays from left-back Benjamin Mendy, who missed the majority of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“In the past two weeks in training I’ve seen the Leroy that I know and we know. I am delighted about that. You know about his performances in pre-season, he arrived late and now he is getting back like Leroy is,” said the City manager.
“We have six excellent strikers and not all of them can play. It is not about he is not playing because we are unhappy with his performance, it’s because we have to choose and now Mendy is playing more wide. That is the reason why.
“He is ready with his physical condition. He doesn’t need much time to get in better condition, it is not about that.”
And Guardiola says Sane has not dwelled on his World Cup omission.
“He came back [to City] and I think he forgot about it,” he added, “I understand the disappointment of missing the World Cup – for young players it is an important issue.
“He came back, he was in the [United] States and made pre-season and stayed there and took a little bit more time to settle and now he is ready.
“When he doesn’t play [it’s not] because I am angry with him or do not trust his physical condition, quality, skills or what he can do for us or for himself.
“In the last game, Raz [Raheem Sterling] didn’t play as he was in a tough, tough game against Arsenal when he was outstanding. But Mendy and Bernardo Silva were also excellent against Arsenal and I gave opportunities to the other guys.
“It is not the case that when someone in this team is not playing that I’m not happy with them or they don’t deserve it. I have to choose and they have to be ready. We have played two games and the competition has just started.
“Sometimes you need more time when you arrive. In pre-season always the players are, ‘Okay, we’ll do it because it is pre-season.’ But I have never complained about Leroy’s behaviour in the training sessions or matches. What he did last season was so important.”