Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola insists he will not crack down on Benjamin Mendy’s prolific social media output as the French defender returns to action following a two-month injury layoff.
Mendy, who also missed most of last season due to a cruciate knee ligament injury, has become better known for his larger than life personality and fondness for Instagram and Twitter since moving to Manchester from Monaco for £52 million in July 2017.
Earlier in the campaign, Guardiola encouraged the French World Cup winner to “forget a little bit the social media” to concentrate on his football.
However, the Catalan coach has admitted defeat in that battle and is embracing Mendy’s much-loved character among his teammates.
“I’m not unhappy about Mendy,” said Guardiola. “I’m not here to change his mentality because the way he lives is what it is. We knew that when we bought him.
“He’s active on social media and it is what it is. We’ve tried to convince him but I’m not his father. I am delighted with Benjamin but sad because he couldn’t play, injuries happen.
“But the way he trains, the way he is in the locker room, you cannot imagine how much the people love him and like to be with him.
“The only thing I want is that we can use him more. We focus on the job and what he has to do. He is young and has incredible potential and he can be one of the best left-backs, but it depends on him.”
Mendy’s injury absences have caused Guardiola a headache with no other natural left-back in City’s expensively assembled squad.
Fabian Delph, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Aymeric Laporte have all deputised in that role, but the return of the attacking thrust offered by Mendy will be a huge boost to City’s challenge on four fronts in the second half of the season.
“I have a feeling he can give us something extra and hopefully in the last part of the season, we can use him,” added Guardiola.
“When he pushes from the outside, he is unstoppable and especially in the last third. He is so clever.
“It’s not simply cross to cross, it’s clever when he does these kinds of actions.”
– De Bruyne to start –
Mendy is likely to only feature as a substitute when City complete the formality of their passage into the League Cup final, defending an unprecedented 9-0 first leg lead over third-tier Burton Albion in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
However, Kevin De Bruyne will start at the 6,000-capacity Pirelli Stadium as the Belgian builds up his match fitness after two lengthy lay offs due to knee injuries this season.
Phil Foden and goalkeeper Arijanet Muric will also start while five teenagers — Felix Nmecha, Luke Bolton, Iker Pozo, Ian Carlo Poveda and Taylor Richards — are in the first-team squad for the first time.
“Some players need rhythm and are going to play,” said Guardiola.
“The guys who’ve had a lot of games will rest. They will do what they need to be fit, but the ones who’ve not played too much or are back from long-term injuries are going to play.
“We are going to play some youngsters and some will be on the bench. Two or three will play and two, three or four will be on the bench, but Kevin is going to play.