Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has rejected suggestions Sergio Aguero does not have a long-term future at the club.
Guardiola sprung a major surprise by leaving Aguero on the bench for Wednesday’s 4-0 Champions League defeat to Barcelona at Camp Nou, despite the Argentina striker heading into the match with 11 goals in nine club appearances this season.
Newspaper reports in the UK on Friday stated Aguero could be driven out of the club by Guardiola, who has previously urged the player to improve his overall contribution to City’s play.
Speaking at a news conference ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match with Southampton, the 45-year-old maintained it was a tactical call to leave his top scorer on the sidelines – allowing him to bolster the midfield areas – while shooting down the notion of him wanting Aguero to leave.
“I’m sorry but when Sergio decides to leave Manchester City it will be his decision,” he said. “I appreciate him as a football player, I appreciate him as a man and what he has done here.
“Next time, before you give this opinion, you can call me. Before you decide he is not in my plans you can call me before you write whether he is in my plans or not in my plans.”
Guardiola maintained crowd favourite Aguero, whose stoppage-time goal against QPR in 2012 memorably secured a first English title in 44 years for City, took his omission well and insisted he had a fuller role in mind for the 28-year-old before Claudio Bravo’s 53rd-minute red card changed the complexion of the contest.
“I spoke with Sergio about that,” he said. “He was so understanding. He [could have] helped us a lot from the bench, I thought, in the last 30, 35 minutes when the Barcelona central defenders were tired.
“I wanted one more midfield player in the middle. Kevin De Bruyne had the quality to get in behind the back four because he is good in the movements behind the full-backs and, when he decided to come in the middle to play with [Ilkay] Gundogan, Fernandinho and sometimes Pablo Zabaleta, that was the reason because I tried – I know how difficult it is – to keep the ball in Camp Nou.
“I believe when you have the ball that [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez and Neymar and so on are, in that moment, still dangerous but less dangerous.
“That is why I decided to have one more man in the middle.”
Guardiola also left club captain Vincent Kompany out of his matchday 18 in Catalonia but maintained the injury plagued centre-back was not fully fit, with 19-year-old full-back Pablo Maffeo selected in his place.
Maffeo could be in line for a role versus Southampton after Zabaleta limped off with a bloodied foot in midweek.
The Argentina defender will miss out on Sunday, with fellow senior right-back Bacary Sagna (hamstring) still sidelined.