Pep Guardiola wants Vincent Kompany to be mentally and physically fit before giving the Manchester City captain a sustained run of first-team action.
Kompany has been ravaged by a succession of muscle injuries over recent seasons, with calf problems decimating his 2015-16 campaign, in which he started only 20 of City’s 58 games.
The last of those came in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, the centre-back lasting only 10 minutes due to a groin and thigh injury that required surgery and ruled him out of Belgium’s Euro 2016 campaign.
The 30-year-old made his first appearance under Guardiola in last month’s EFL Cup tie at Swansea City, only for a fresh groin strain suffered in stoppage time to send him back to the treatment room.
An unusual substitute cameo as a striker in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Everton was followed by Kompany missing out on the matchday squad for City’s 4-0 Champions League loss at Barcelona, prompting reports Guardiola is ready to end the player’s time in Manchester.
But the former Barca and Bayern Munich coach told reporters he was considering selecting the defender at Camp Nou before Kompany told doctors he did not feel 100 per cent.
“In that moment, what happened over the last two years, I don’t know. We are working on that, with the doctor and him,” Guardiola told reporters.
“I thought two days ago, maybe Vincent in Camp Nou for his personality, but one day after in the training session he said ‘I didn’t feel like this’.
“In that moment, when his head is not ready and what happened in the last two years it is better to stay out.
“I spoke with Vincent on that, so don’t put a lot of pressure about how many games [he can play] or big, big targets.
“Try to train good, week after week, training with no injuries and after we play a game. After you play 75 minutes or 90 minutes – maybe it was my mistake in Swansea to not put on another player.
“We will see but I think when he is trying to play one game and after another one he will take a lot of confidence and maybe he will be able to play more games.”
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Premier League match against Southampton, Guardiola offered assurances that Kompany is very much part of his plans at City.
“I’ve never trained with him in the past,” he said. “What I have seen from when he’s fit is that he’s a real centre defender. I like him.”