Yaya Toure will be added to Manchester City’s Champions League squad for the knockout phase, Pep Guardiola has confirmed, but his long-term future remains unclear.
The 33-year-old has forced his way back into the manager’s plans at the Etihad Stadium in recent weeks following a difficult start to the season.
Toure was omitted from the squad for the Champions League group stage, despite having played in the second leg of the play-off round against Steaua Bucharest, and he was ordered to apologise after his agent publicly hit out at Guardiola’s methods.
The former Barcelona midfielder has since battled his way back into the first team after improving his fitness and marked his first Premier League start of the season against Crystal Palace in November with both goals in a 2-1 win.
When asked if he will be recalled, Guardiola replied: “Definitely, yes. He deserves it. In the first part of the season it was not so good for many physical reasons, but of course he deserves to be in the Champions League in the second half.
“I know him better than you. I was with him at Barcelona. Normally I judge the players on how they are going to react when they go to Old Trafford, Anfield, to Nou Camp, to Real Madrid. Yaya is no doubt. I know it doesn’t matter where he plays. His personality is huge.”
Toure’s future nonetheless remains in doubt, with his contract – along with those of Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta – expiring at the end of the season.
Guardiola denied that he is eager to offload the majority of City’s more senior players but would not give any assurances that they will be offered new deals.
“They would not be professionals if they say ‘if you don’t renew the contract then I don’t want to play’. Maybe that happened in the past, last season,” he said.
“But the four or five guys in that situation, I see them in every training session, and I have to be glad about what they do.
“You cannot compete with just young players, or just old players. Now, with players like [Pablo] Zabaleta, Bacary [Sagna], Yaya, Willy Caballero, they’ve played absolutely amazing.
“But at the end, we’ll try to decide because the club is not for the next season. It’s for the next one, the next one, five years, 10 years. Of course you have to change the players, change the manager.
“I have to see the level of performance of the team at the end of the season and then we decide. When they don’t play good, when they’re not training good, that is the moment. But that is not the case.
“Maybe they can extend their contract but we’re not going to decide right now. I’m not the only one who decides on the future. I want to feel that the club is involved.
“Maybe if the results are not good, the manager can be sacked and the club remains, the players remain. So that’s the most important thing.”
Culled from fourfourtwo.com