Manchester City will offer Eliaquim Mangala and their other fringe players the opportunity to leave the Etihad in the next six months if they are unhappy over their lack of playing time.
Mangala has not started a Premier League fixture this season but may come into contention for Wednesday’s game at home to Southampton with John Stones injured and City weighing up the risk of playing captain Vincent Kompany three times in a week.
A £42million signing from FC Porto in 2014, the Frenchman spent last season on loan at Valencia but turned down a move to Crystal Palace in the summer when City chased West Brom’s Jonny Evans as a replacement.
Mangala has 18 months left on his contract and manager Pep Guardiola insists he is happy for the player to stay. However, he will listen to Mangala’s concerns in January and at the end of the season if he is unhappy with his first-team opportunities. The same is likely to apply to other fringe players like Yaya Toure and Claudio Bravo.
‘He (Mangala) is a player for us and he will stay here,’ said Guardiola. ‘In the future, in the winter break and open window in the summer, we are going to assess everything, not just Manga. If you are happy or not, playing or not, you have to decide. He has to decide if he wants to stay here.
‘He’s a player with a lot of experience at a high level, Valencia, Porto, here, in the national team. I’m really impressed with his behaviour in the training sessions. Always a help, for a manager, a club, it’s so important. He has specific qualities and in this league it’s important. We are going to use him.
‘He’s always paying attention and wants to try to do it. He’s always asking and trying to do what he has to do to improve our game.’
City go into the Southampton game on a run of 11 straight Premier League victories after Raheem Sterling’s late winner at Huddersfield on Sunday maintained their eight-point lead at the top of the table.
It was the fifth time City have scored a decisive late goal this season, and Guardiola believes his team’s ability to keep their cool under pressure has been vital.
‘That’s good,’ he added. ‘When that happens, you decide in the last 15 minutes to change Vincent Kompany for Gabriel Jesus, it sends a message. Fernandinho to centre-back.
‘It happens because they believe in what they want to do. Last season we worked on it, but the result helps them to believe a bit more. Winning games in a row helps for more belief in what we are going to do.
‘I cannot change something I don’t believe. The principle is we are here because we believe in something. When it happens, maybe you are convinced. Life is like that. People think managers arrive and it works, it’s not always like that.’
Guardiola is refusing to look too far ahead as he comes up against Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino, a man he knows from their brief time together at Barcelona in 1998-99 when the Argentine was on loan at the Nou Camp from Velez Sarsfield.
‘Normally you don’t anticipate the future too early,’ said the City boss. ‘We anticipate many things about records but that can confuse us and we have to be focussed on what we have to do. It’s Southampton – good recovery and preparing mentally for a tough game.
‘What I saw of Southampton, he’s done an amazing job. We were together one or two seasons and it was an amazing experience. We were together all the time. He was curious about football and talking tactics.
‘I remember inside the pitch he had courage and intelligence. He loved to talk football. He appreciated Louis van Gaal and his time with Rafa Benitez at Liverpool.
‘We’ve lost contact a bit but I have really good memories of him and I will be happy to see him. It’s been a long time and I’ll speak to him after the game.’