Benjamin Mendy brings "a special quality" to Manchester City, according to Pep Guardiola, who is hoping the French left-back can maintain full fitness after his impressive display against Arsenal.
City forked out £52 million ($64m) to lure Mendy to Etihad Stadium from Monaco in the summer of 2017, after watching him emerge as one of the brightest young talents in Europe at Stade Louis II.
Unfortunately, he has been unable to reach his full potential in Manchester due to a string of serious injuries, limiting him to just 47 appearances in all competitions over the past three seasons. 24 of those outings have come in 2019-20, but Guardiola had still been unable to rely on the France international prior to the coronavirus-enforced break in the campaign.
Mendy benefitted from two months in lockdown to get himself back into peak condition, and returned with a point to prove against Arsenal on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old played the full 90 minutes of City's 3-0 victory, producing an assured display in defence which helped to keep the Gunners quiet going forward.
Guardiola could stick with Mendy for his side's next fixture against Burnley on Monday, but he is reluctant to get carried away with the full-back's latest display.
Asked if the former Monaco star can play a key role in City's squad over the next few weeks, Guardiola told a pre-match press conference: “It’s our wish and his wish. He has a special quality with his energy. He came back so fit but it’s one game. Hopefully, he can play regularly.
“He’s a guy who missed a lot. Fabian Delph and Oleksandr (Zinchenko) and Danilo helped us a lot (when Mendy was out). I think it's so important to have him, but we have to wait, it’s just one game.
“The quality for Benjamin is to go outside, but Mendy is also learning to go inside too. It’s about being fit.
“He loves playing football. He plays without pressure – he’s a guy who handles pressure really well. But we could not count on him for two years, it’s a long time.”
After playing host to Burnley, City will turn their attention to a huge meeting with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, which could have a huge bearing on the top-four race.