Man City boss Pep Guardiola insists contract stalemate not the reason behind Leroy Sane's lack of starts

James Robson
Evening Standard

Pep Guardiola insists Leroy Sane is not being punished for his failure to agree a new contract at Manchester City.

And the Catalan claims the winger ‘knows’ why he has not enjoyed a regular starting place this season.

Sane has started just three of the last 11 games in all competitions, with Riyad Mahrez most recently preferred to him for the Champions League defeat to Tottenham in midweek.

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The Germany international’s lack of regular football comes at a time when he is locked in talks over a new deal at the Etihad, but has failed to follow the leads of a host of other City stars by committing his future to the Premier League champions.

But Guardiola is adamant those protracted negotiations are playing no part in his team selections.

(AFP/Getty Images)
(AFP/Getty Images)

He cites Ilkay Gundogan as another player who has so far refused new terms, but is getting plenty of playing time.

“Gundogan would not play if that was a reason why,” said the City manager. “Gundogan has one year left and doesn't want to extend so he would not play and he plays - ahead of Kevin De Bruyne.

“I take the decisions on the pitch, what I believe in that moment, what I feel, and take a decision.”

Sane was the PFA Young Player of the Year in City’s record-breaking title triumph last season – but he has often been overlooked this term.

There were concerns about his focus at the start of the season, but Guardiola maintains the belief that the 23-year-old is one of the most exciting attacking talents in Europe.

“I have said many times how important Leroy has been for us in good or bad moments,” he added. “He knows the reason why he hasn't played lately. We spoke often with him - myself and my people - on and off the pitch and we want the best.

“Of course there is competition from the other ones, and in some specific games we need it, and in some specific games I prefer a type of player to have more control, but my admiration and trust with him is intact. It's there, but I always want more.”

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