Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany has not been given any guarantee over his first-team place when he finally recovers from his groin injury.
Kompany, 30, suffered the injury against Real Madrid on 4 May.
City manager Pep Guardiola says the defender is close to full fitness but not in time for Saturday’s Premier League game against Bournemouth.
“The players must compete with each other,” said Guardiola. “We’ll see on the pitch what is best for each game.”
Kompany has been an automatic choice since his arrival from Hamburg for around £10m in 2008.
He replaced Carlos Tevez as City captain following the 2011 FA Cup final victory over Stoke and in his 298 appearances for the club has led them to two Premier League titles and two League Cup final victories.
In recent seasons though, he has suffered a number of muscular injuries.
Last year he was missing for over a month on four occasions prior to the injury that ended his season and meant he was not able to play for Belgium at Euro 2016.
His highest number of Premier League appearances in the past four full seasons was 28 in 2013-14 and he only played half that number of games last term.
So, with City chasing an eighth successive win – which would be a club record from the start of the season – against Bournemouth this weekend, and £47.5m new signing John Stones excelling alongside Aleksander Kolarov and Nicolas Otamendi in defence, Kompany cannot take his return for granted.
“I know Vincent’s quality,” said Guardiola. “I need him to put pressure on John Stones, Nico Otamendi and Kolarov.
“They have to know if they don’t play good that there’s another one beside me and the next time he is going to play.”
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