Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says England midfielder Kalvin Phillips was “overweight” when he returned to training from the World Cup.
The 27-year-old was a surprise omission from the City squad for Thursday’s Carabao Cup victory over Liverpool.
Guardiola’s initial explanation was to say Phillips, who joined City from Leeds in July, was not fit.
However, the City boss later stated: “He is not injured. He arrived overweight.”
When asked why, Guardiola replied: “I don’t know.
“He didn’t arrive in the condition for the training sessions and to play.”
Phillips played twice for England in Qatar after recovering from shoulder surgery, coming on as a substitute against Wales and Senegal.
He joined City in a £45m deal last summer but has made just one Premier League appearance this season, coming on as a last-minute substitute at West Ham in August.
When it was pointed out Phillips would have benefited from the best training and nutritional advice when he was on international duty, Guardiola said: “Absolutely.”
Guardiola refused to explain what he had said to Phillips about the situation, saying it was a private conversation.
In total, Phillips has made four appearances for City, all from the substitutes’ bench.
His last was against Chelsea in the EFL Cup on 9 November.
It is not known whether Phillips is in contention to face old club Leeds on 28 December but, despite his disappointing time at City so far, Guardiola says the 27-year-old will be welcomed back into his squad.
“When he will be ready, he will play,” he said. “We need him. We need him a lot.”