Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini today said he does not know whether Carlos Tevez will play for the club again.
Tevez is now the subject of internal disciplinary proceedings after an investigation into his alleged refusal to play against Bayern Munich a fortnight ago concluded he does have case to answer.
Journalists at Mancini's pre-planned press conference ahead of tomorrow's game against Aston Villa were told Tevez discussion was off limits this morning but that did not prevent the subject arising.
When asked whether the 27-year-old Argentinian still has a future at the club, Mancini said: "I don't know."
That remark will undoubtedly be analysed for its meaning as Mancini said, more definitively, that Tevez was "finished" at City after the Champions League loss at the Allianz Arena.
Mancini claimed Tevez had refused to play as a substitute during the second half in Munich and the player was subsequently suspended for two weeks while the investigation was conducted.
Tevez returned from his suspension to train alone at the club's Carrington complex yesterday but Mancini was denied the opportunity to say whether he would be available for selection during the disciplinary process.
A City official read a statement saying: "We have been unable to allow questions about Carlos Tevez today, either to Carlos in general, his alleged conduct on the night in question, or the ramifications of that conduct.
"Questions also in relation to his future at the club are strictly off limits today and won't be answered. Breaches of this will result in the press conference being suspended."
Tevez's case may not be resolved until December if it runs its full course, which would include two rights of appeal.
However, Mancini did give an indication Tevez was not in his plans when he addressed how many strikers he had available for the Villa game.
"We have three strikers at this moment," he said, although he added he would not take risks with the almost fit-again Sergio Aguero after an adductor injury.
The Tevez saga, stretching back to the player's failed attempts to secure a transfer over the summer, has overshadowed City's season but Mancini has assured fans the rest of the team will not be affected.
He said: "It isn't a problem, the team is good enough.
"Our fans are fantastic - against Blackburn they were incredible.
"Before every player, every manager, there is a club and a squad."
And while Mancini has himself been under the spotlight throughout the affair, he insists he is immune to pressure having learnt well from his four years in charge of Inter Milan.
The Italian said: "If you speak with Rafael Benitez, with Marcello Lippi, with Leonardo - Inter Milan is a strong team for any manager.
"If you stay there for four years, you are strong enough to be at every club.
"I don't have any problems. I have had experiences in my life. Why should I have any pressure?"
Mancini also feels he has improved as an operator since he took over at City almost two years ago.
"I am a better manager now," he said.
"When you go to another country, you can work with different players in different situations, in a different culture.
"Every manager can improve. I am sure that I have improved in England."
For the rest of his press conference, Mancini tried to steer the subject onto what he feels are more pressing matters.
He said: "It is better that we talk about Aston Villa.
"Now it is important we focus on the next week. We have three important games - Aston Villa, Villarreal and Manchester United."