Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri still have a future at the club, despite sitting out the 2-1 win over Sunderland on Saturday.
The midfield duo were left out of Guardiola’s squad for his first Premier League match, along with striker Wilfried Bony and centre-back Eliaquim Mangala.
The future of all four players has been the subject of recent speculation, with 33-year-old Toure heavily linked with a move to Inter for much of the transfer window, while Nasri was criticised for his fitness upon returning to pre-season training.
But Guardiola is happy with the attitude of the players and says their future inclusion in the side is not out of the question, although he would not guarantee a return for anyone.
“I don’t have any complaints about these names,” he said. “Yaya trained really good. Sammy arrived a little bit… but the last week, two weeks he is training amazing. So I am really impressed with the quality of Sammy.
“Mangala, you know better than me how professional he is. But in the end I have a squad and I decide, I have to create a team spirit. It’s not about tactics, it’s not about anything. And I decide today this line-up, that does not mean in the future they are not going to play or they are going to play.
“At Barcelona and Bayern Munich I wanted to change the line-up because always I want to involve, I want to create something where everyone is involved. Today I chose this line up but that doesn’t mean they won’t play in the future.”
Guardiola, who handed Willy Caballero a starting spot in goal ahead of Joe Hart, said the Argentine earned his place with his pre-season form but would not give any assurances over the position.
“Willy had a very good pre-season and he gave me a lot of confidence today for his build-up play and personality. That’s why I trust him,” he said.
“Hart can play – other players in the squad can play. I was focused on Sunderland. From tomorrow morning it’s Steaua Bucharest [in the Champions League play-off] and I will decide what’s best for that.”
City looked likely to be held to a 1-1 draw by Sunderland after Jermain Defoe equalised in the second half following Sergio Aguero’s early penalty, but the home side snatched victory when Paddy McNair turned into his own net with three minutes to play.
But, with champions Leicester City losing to Hull City and Tottenham being held by Everton, Guardiola was happy enough to take an unconvincing win.
“For the first game at home it was going to be a question about the Premier League – you saw the results of the other games,” he added.
“I’m very pleased about the performance we achieved. Maybe we should attack quicker but that is normal. We have to learn. I saw many good things about the spirit of the team.
“We didn’t create many chances but we only conceded two – the goal and Defoe in the first half, when Willy made a good save.
“But I am so pleased. We have to build something from that.”