Yaya Toure has been further marginalised by new Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola after he was left off the club’s trip to Romania for Tuesday’s crucial Champions League play-off with Steaua Bucharest.
Toure is the only player in City’s Champions League squad besides Jason Denayer who did not travel on Sunday. Club sources confirmed that the Ivory Coast star is not injured.
Toure was not even on the bench for Saturday’s opening Premier League game against Sunderland. The 33-year-old has entered the final year of his £250,000-a-week contract and is unlikely to sign a new deal even if one was offered by City.
Although Guardiola sanctioned Toure’s £24million move to City in 2011 when he was coach of Barcelona, it was claimed that he would be given a clean slate by the Spaniard.
But Guardiola’s decision to sideline the player even though new midfield signing Ilkay Gundogan is out for another month does not augur well for Toure’s prospects.
Asked about Toure on Saturday, Guardiola denied there were any personal issues saying: ‘I know Yaya from Barcelona, how he loves to play football, I know perfectly his quality, he knows the reason why today he was not on the list, because I speak sometimes with the players to say the reason why, and I know they’re so professional.
‘I saw, maybe we are a month and a half together, and in no training session they didn’t show me how good professionals, how good players they are. Not any. Every day was amazing.
‘But they train, we make many things and after I sit with my people, and I decide what is the best. So now because we maybe know I’m a little bit right. If we draw or lose maybe it’s a mistake, so I know how this is. But it’s not a personal problem about any player.’
The Premier League outfit flew to Bucharest on Sunday with Bacary Sagna posting an Instagram photo from inside the plane.
Sitting next to team-mate Kelechi Iheanacho, Sagna accompanied the picture with the caption: ‘And we off to Bucharest.. #mancity #Bucharest #nike #bunadimineata.’
Having started Saturday’s win over Sunderland, Sagna can expect to be named in the team to face Steaua too – something that can’t be said for Joe Hart.
Guardiola refused to give the England goalkeeper any assurances about his long-term future at City after surprisingly axing him for the Black Cats fixture.
The Spaniard underlined his ruthless reputation by demoting City’s longest-serving player in favour of Argentine Willy Caballero.
‘I am a guy who takes decisions. I am not afraid about that. I feel it and do it,’ said an unrepentant Guardiola.
‘I think Willy had a really good pre-season. He gave me a lot of confidence for this game, his building-up play, his personality. That is why I chose him.
‘This line-up was for this game. Of course Joe can play in the next game (Steaua Bucharest) but I don’t know if he will.’
Missing out on the first game of the Guardiola era will be huge concern for 29-year-old Hart who was blamed in some quarters for England’s exit against Iceland at Euro 2016.
Always seen as a commanding presence on and off the pitch, Guardiola is among the managers who feel he has to improve his footwork in the modern game where
sweeper-keepers such as Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer are held in high regard.