Good enough to start both England's World Cup qualifiers earlier this month, the 30-year-old was left kicking his heels on the bench in Madrid as Mancini preferred teenage Serbian Matija Nastasic.
It seemed like a significant move. Yet Mancini insists it was not.
"No," he said. "We have played six games this season and all the players have played two or three.
"The problem was because we started pre-season in a different moment.
"Joleon came back very late. He is an important player for us but we have 23 good players. Sometimes I can change them."