MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) – Pep Guardiola believes Manchester City left-back Benjamin Mendy can still make a strong contribution for the Premier League champions, but only as long as he wins his on-going fitness battles.
The 25-year-old French international has had a disappointing time with last season’s domestic treble winners, starting just 14 league games in 25 months since signing for GBP52 million from Monaco.
Mendy has been hampered by a series of injuries but has also been criticised on occasions by City manager Guardiola for his approach to rehabilitating after those problems.
However, Guardiola has been encouraged by the manner in which the defender recuperated from his latest knee injury at City’s medical base in Barcelona.
“If Benjamin is fit he will have success. He has a special quality,” Guardiola said.
“I am happy, but I don’t want to say too much. But I am satisfied because it has been two weeks and his recovery after training has been good. He doesn’t feel any pain and that is good.
“These kinds of traumatic injuries are a bit unlucky. One after another. He couldn’t take the rhythm for even half season or a long time. That is a concern but he’s now training good.
“The people from Barcelona are telling me that he is working incredible like an animal and hopefully he can maintain that because it is not about one day or one week, it is about every day doing that.”
Mendy returned to training with City’s first team squad this week, but is well short of match fitness.
Oleksandr Zinchenko has emerged as City’s first-choice left-back, having successfully converted from a midfield position, while GBP60-million signing Joao Cancelo, mainly a right-back, can play on the left.