Manuel Pellegrini insists Raheem Sterling can count himself unlucky to be out of the Manchester City side at present, but has no doubt in his game-changing ability.
The 21-year-old has had an injury disrupted first season at City after his move from Liverpool and has struggled to force his way back into the team following a return to fitness.
Pellegrini, though, is adamant the England international, who came off the bench to feature late on in the goalless draw against Real Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday, still has a big future at the club.
“The problem is that when you arrive to this stage of the Champions League, I think it is very, very important to arrive in your best moment as an individual player and as a team,” the Chilean said.
“It is difficult for Raheem to arrive after one month and a half that he could not play to arrive in his best moment. But I think that he can give us different options.
“It will depend on what he can do in his next game, but of course we bought him because he is a player that makes the difference.”
Pellegrini also stressed that Sterling is a “very young” player who should not be judged too early in his career, with City in Premier League action against Southampton on Sunday.
He said: “I think that we are not just evaluating him for just one season, he is a very young player. He has a very important future. But of course, big players, important players might make the difference in these kinds of games.
“This year will be very important for him. He is just 21 and I am absolutely sure that he will have an important role here in this team and in the national squad of England.”