Stevan Jovetic's Manchester City career was cast into doubt yesterday, after the striker was omitted from the club's Champions League squad in order to make way for new £28million man Wilfried Bony.
City boss Manuel Pellegrini was forced to axe one foreign player from his 21-man squad having brought in the former Swansea striker, and it's Jovetic who has paid the price.
The decision raises further questions over the future of a player who has long been linked with a return to Serie A having failed to impress at City following a big money move from Fiorentina.
Pellegrini makes a tough call
With the Champions League set to get back under way this month, managers were given the chance to revise their original squads to make way for January signings or players who'd previously been out of favour.
Having spent £25million on Ivory Coast international Bony, Pellegrini was always likely to want to include his new signing in City's last 16 clash with Barcelona, but it would mean sacrificing someone else.
Why did City have to drop a player?
City's permitted squad had been reduced from 25 to 21 due to Financial Fair Play sanctions, while the number of foreign players allowed had dropped from 17 to just 16.
That was one of the reasons used by Pellegrini to explain Alvaro Negredo's summer departure, and his latest decision could see Jovetic follow Negredo through the Etihad exit.
Jovetic was the logical choice
With Bony a certain inclusion, Pellegrini had to pick one of the existing 16 foreign members of the Champions League squad to be axed.
While the likes of Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany were never going to be left out, others were far less assured of their placed in the 21-man squad.
Likewise, defenders Gael Clichy and Dedryck Boyata weren't up for the chop due to being registerd as home-grown and club-trained respectively.
That meant Pellegrini was likely chosing between the following stars - Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna, Aleksandar Kolarov, Edin Dzeko and eventual casualty Jovetic.
Leaving out Cabellero would have left only youngsters Ian Lawlor and Angus Gunn as back-up to Joe Hart, while Sagna and Kolarov are seen as genuine contenders to take the place of Pablo Zabaleta and Clichy.
That left Pellegrini making a straight choice between Dzeko and Jovetic, and it came as no surprise that the Montenegrin was the the man to make way.
What does it mean for his career?
Having already been demoted to fourth choice striker due to Bony's arrival, the latest snub is likely to signal the end of the road for Jovetic.
The 25-yaer-old has struggled with injuries since his £22million arrival, but even when fit he's failed to fulfil his undoubted potential.
Despite having another three years left on his existing deal, he could now return to Italy this summer, with Juventus likely to follow up their January interest.
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