Pep Guardiola has apologised to Kalvin Phillips for not selecting him in the Manchester City team this season, but the Citizens boss has admitted that he "struggles to see" the midfielder in his plans.
After seven successful years at boyhood club Leeds United, Phillips decided to take the next step in his career by joining Man City for a reported £42m in the summer of 2022.
The 28-year-old had hopes of establishing himself as a first-team regular for the Citizens, but he has instead had to settle for a peripheral role at the Etihad Stadium, starting just five of his 29 appearances across all competitions.
Phillips is yet to start for Man City in either the Premier League or Champions League so far this season, making seven substitute outings across those two competitions, while his only start to date was in a 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United in the EFL Cup in September.
Defensive trio John Stones, Manuel Akanji and Rico Lewis were all preferred ahead of Phillips in the engine room, while Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes, who had just recovered from injury, came on as second-half substitutes as Phillips watched on from the bench.
Phillips has been strongly linked with a January exit from Man City and he admitted in October that he must "make a decision" on his future "over the next months" if his game time does not improve.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday ahead of Sunday's Premier League trip to Luton Town, Guardiola refused to rule out a potential departure for Phillips in the New Year.
"I don't know what's going to happen. I feel so sorry for my decision for him. I've said that many times," Guardiola told reporters. "He doesn't deserve what has happened to him and I'm so sorry.
"The only thing I can say about him is I am asking for good personalities and characters and he is a perfect example. And after that I have to give him something and I didn't do that.
"It's just because I visualise some things and visualise the team and things - and I struggle to see him.
"I'm not very pleased [with myself] and I am so sorry for him. I will not say that [to him] because it is a business and I have to be a professional.
"But if one guy behaves [poorly], I don't care. But the way he behaves with the team-mates and everyone, I care. So that's why hopefully it can turn around.
"And I've said many times, if it comes to January and he stays, I'm more than pleased because he trains really good and he's a lovely guy and character."
Phillips is under contract at the Etihad until the summer of 2028 and is believed to be valued by Man City at around £50m.