Mooted moves to Liverpool and Newcastle in January failed to materialise and, thanks to Shaun Wright-Phillips's three-game ban, he is likely to start when City visit Fratton Park on Saturday.
Hughes attributes the sea change to the Brazilian's improved attitude after six turbulent months which even included a £40,000 fine for the player after he expressed his unhappiness at being overlooked in a television interview.
He said: 'What I've noticed of late is that Elano understands now it's a squad game here. We're looking to build a squad and he's very much part of what we're trying to do.
'There are some games where I decide he can make a difference and he'll start and there's other games I'll make the decision to go with different personnel. He's more comfortable with that than he initially was.
'He doesn't take not starting a game very well. There are lots of players like that, players who find it more difficult to accept. We're all different and different people react in different ways. I've been pleased that he now understands where we're at. Before Christmas, for example, he found it more difficult not to be in the team.
'But there's no doubting his talent and that is something we all recognise. He had a real impact in the first half of last season and you can see that his football's not been affected by not starting games. He knows where we want to go and we want him to be part of that.'
City would also be delighted should Daniel Sturridge want to remain in their plans, but such a denouement to his long-running contract saga seems a long way off. His current deal expires in July and City face the prospect of losing one of England's brightest prospects on a free, should they fail to meet his reported £75,000-a-week wage demands.
Hughes said: 'At the moment we're not close to an agreement. We feel this is the best place for him to develop as a player but other things are more important to the people around him.'