Pep Guardiola insists Benjamin Mendy can still be a force for injury-hit Manchester City despite the French defender’s own struggles to find top fitness.
Mendy has endured a difficult time with City since arriving from Monaco in a £52 million ($64.85 million) deal in 2017.
He suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in September 2017 and has been fighting for full fitness ever since.
Since that day against Crystal Palace, the 24-year-old has only featured in 20 of City’s 118 fixtures in all competitions.
Premier League champions City have seen centre-backs Aymeric Laporte and John Stones both suffer injuries this season, with midfielder Fernandinho dropping into defence against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday.
But Mendy made his first appearance of the campaign when he came on as a substitute in the 3-0 win over Shakhtar.
Now Guardiola wants that to be the start of a better period for the French World Cup winner.
“The first step is to not get injured. It is to play weeks and weeks and weeks, and do months of training and training,” Guardiola told reporters on Friday.
“We did it last month and that is a good sign. He played his first minutes and in the future he is going to play a little more regularly.
“Benjamin has to play and play because we always dreamed that he would be an incredibly important player for us.
“With him we can attack more constantly and in different ways. There is a special quality that only he has in our team.
“With Mendy we can attack wide and from deep. So that is why hopefully he can be fit and healthy and play.”
Mendy is in contention to feature against Watford in the Premier League on Saturday as City aim to recover from the shock 3-2 defeat at Norwich last Saturday.
With Liverpool already five points ahead at the top of the league, Guardiola will not want his side to drop any more unexpected points.
Guardiola also said he expects his assistant coach Mikel Arteta to become a top manager and even backed his fellow Spaniard to take over when he eventually leaves the Etihad Stadium.
Arteta, who has had offers to go elsewhere, came straight from the end of his playing career at Arsenal to join the backroom team at City.
“Mikel has helped me a lot from day one. He knew the Premier League better than myself,” Guardiola said.
“He is already an incredible manager and he will have incredible success in the future.
“I am pretty sure he would be able to succeed me, yes. I am happy he decided to stay but sooner or later it is going to happen.
“He is young at 37, but he has experience to handle big players and big teams.
“We see football in a really close way and thanks to his vision we can often change something in the team.”