Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has ruled out selling England defender Joleon Lescott during the January transfer window.

Lescott has been linked with a move after being limited to just seven Premier League starts for the defending champions this season.

The 30-year-old has slipped to fourth choice under Mancini, behind Vincent Kompany, Matija Nastasic and Kolo Toure despite being a regular in the England squad.

There have been reports Lescott's former club Everton, who reluctantly sold the player to City for 22 million in August 2009, would be interested in re-signing him when the window opens on New Year's Day.

But Mancini appeared to rule out Lescott leaving after claiming he could not afford to sell any players in January because of injuries and the absence of three players at the African Cup of Nations.

Ivory Coast trio Kolo Toure, his brother Yaya and Abdul Razak are due to leave for the tournament, which begins in South Africa on January, 19 after City's home game with Stoke on Tuesday.

In addition, the likes of defenders Maicon and Micah Richards remain sidelined along with midfielder Jack Rodwell.

"We can't sell players. We don't have enough players to play if we sell players," said Mancini at a press conference in Manchester on Monday.

City begin 2013 in second place in the table, seven points behind leaders Manchester United, whose manager Sir Alex Ferguson celebrated his 71st birthday on Monday.

While Mancini paid his respects to Ferguson, he also insisted there is enough time for his side to make a successful defence of the title they won on the final day of last season.

AFP