MANCHESTER -- Pep Guardiola has backed Leroy Sane following criticism about his body language, despite dropping him for Manchester City's last game.
Germany teammate Toni Kroos praised Sane's quality following his shock omission from the World Cup squad, but claimed that his body language made it appear as if he didn't care if he won or lost.
Sane, who was named last season's Young Player of the Year, was left out of the squad for City's last game against Newcastle United but Guardiola said he will be a key player for him.
"His body language is the same as last season and he was the best young player in the league," the City boss told a news conference ahead of Saturday's clash with Fulham.
"Leroy was so important, is so important, and will be so important for the club. There's no doubt about that.
"It's a challenge for him -- not just for him, for everybody. There's a lot of nice strikers and midfield players and the season will be judged in 11 months, not just in three weeks or one month.
"He's a nice guy, so I don't have any bad words about him -- we are here to try to help, not just him, but everybody."
Sane, 22, has not started a game for City this season and has played just 75 minutes in their opening fixtures.
The winger also started just one of their first six matches last season with Guardiola saying he didn't have a good preseason, but the Catalan says he isn't concerned.
"For some players it's like this," he said. "Some players, at the end of the season, are a little bit down. We cannot forget he's 21-22 years old.
"All our strikers, except Sergio [Aguero], are so young. Bernardo [Silva], Gabriel [Jesus], Raheem [Sterling], Leroy, Brahim [Diaz] -- the average is 21-22.
"Sometimes you need to see the situations. He will grow up. The most important thing and the most important issue we have is to help them to grow."
Sane faces more competition for a starting place following the arrival of club-record signing Riyad Mahrez in the summer, but Guardiola believes he will thrive on the rivalry in the squad.
"Of course, he's going to respond in the right way, he's a competitive guy," he said. "He was so professional last season and he had competition as well -- because Sterling could play in that position on the left.
"It's a challenge for all of them and it's a challenge for me, the manager, to keep the level and it's a challenge for the players to keep their level and compete with their mates. It's the only way to maintain the level we achieved last season.
"It's not about 'I don't like you anymore' or 'I prefer this one or the other one' -- it's not. I know them. When I don't like one player, at the end of the season I go to the club and say I don't want to work with that guy if it's possible and I want to change them. That is not the case.
"Everybody is here because after three seasons I want to work with them and I think they want to work with us."