Pep Guardiola has refused to give John Stones any guarantees over his Manchester City future.
Stones has fallen down the central defensive pecking order at City and is now behind Aymeric Laporte, Fernandinho, Nicolas Otamendi and Eric Garcia.
Injuries have made this a season to forget for Stones, who has made just 10 Premier League starts and not featured at all since football resumed last month.
An automatic pick for England on their run to the World Cup semi-finals two years ago, Stones has since lost his place in Gareth Southgate's squad.
The 26-year-old, who joined City from Everton for £50million in 2016 and has two years left on his contract, has been linked with a return to his old club this summer.
With City poised to sign a centre-half to partner Laporte, Stones is likely to be offloaded to make way for the new arrival.
“After two or three training sessions he was injured and didn’t train until last week," said Guardiola, who confirmed Stones will play on Wednesday night against Newcastle.
"But he's going to play (against Newcastle).
“Of course, what we want is for him to come back and play and to be able to play two, three or four months with no injuries.
“He’s struggled with injuries, he has to come back, but of course, when they can’t play they're sad and worried. What we want is the best for him.”
Guardiola once said as long as he was at City, Stones would remain there, but that stance has softened with his persistent injuries and lack of availability.
“He’s there, but in the transfer market, we speak at the end of the season,” said Guardiola.
“I’m more than delighted with John as a person, as a professional, everything. What I want is the best for him.
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“We’ll speak at the end of the season. My wish is [maybe] not the wish of the players and, in that moment, I will feel it. If we have to change, we’ll tell them. He’s a young player and we want him to be consistent.
“There are players who can play every three days, but others who struggle more to be fit – we have to try to find the key to him playing every three days.
Guardiola admitted Stones had lost confidence and belief as a result of his injuries, but said he had never doubted his ability as a defender.
“The quality of John is there, I never doubt it,” said Guardiola. “It’s just when you don’t play, you're rotated and injured again.”
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