LONDON (AFP) - Pep Guardiola has reassured Sergio Aguero that he has a future at Manchester City.
Aguero has been through a tricky October, with his early-season run of goalscoring form grinding to a halt and his place in City's starting line-up called into question.
Guardiola dropped the forward to the bench for recent games against Everton and Barcelona, although he did start Sunday's 1-1 Premier League draw at home to Southampton - a result that left City top of the table on goal difference.
The manager seemed to suggest last Friday that Aguero was free to leave the club if he wanted to, saying that "when he decides to leave City, it will be his decision".
However, Guardiola - whose side visit Manchester United in the fourth round of the EFL Cup on Wednesday - has insisted the Argentina international remains a significant part of his plans.
"Sergio played really well in the last games," he said on Tuesday. "I am so happy with Sergio and hopefully he can stay for a long time.
"When I said it depends on Sergio, I was not saying I don't want him. I want from deep in my heart for him to can stay here."
Aguero has acknowledged he has been struggling for form of late, both for club and country.
He suffered a calf injury while playing for Argentina in a 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw in Peru on Oct 6, and then declared himself fit for their next qualifier at home to Paraguay five days later, only to have a penalty saved as his side lost 1-0.
To compound his frustrations, Aguero had another penalty saved after coming on as a substitute as City drew 1-1 at home to Everton in the Premier League on Oct 15.
Guardiola has refused to give any credence to reports that there have been tensions between him and Aguero this season, instead choosing to talk up the striker's qualities.
"He is a special player," the Spaniard said. "He is a striker who has scored millions of goals in his career. We cannot forget how many goals he scores for us.
"I am here to help him. When a team does not win, for a short time, I always think about what I can do to help them individually and collectively."
City are in the midst of a demanding run of fixtures, which includes a Champions League Group C home match against Barcelona, the club where Guardiola made his name as a manager and player, on Nov 2.
Guardiola is hopeful Kevin De Bruyne will be fit to play in that match after suffering a calf injury against Southampton on Sunday.
The winger is not fit to face United at Old Trafford on Wednesday, but could be ready for Saturday's league trip to West Bromwich Albion.