Joe Hart‘s future as a Manchester City player is in serious doubt and this situation will be a difficult, and perhaps painful one, to sort out.
It is almost certain that Hart, 29, will not be Pep Guardiola‘s first-choice goalkeeper at Man City.
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Hart was dropped for the Premier League opener against Sunderland and was again on the bench against Steaua Bucharest in City’s UEFA Champions League play-off win in midweek.
For now Guardiola has preferred veteran goalkeeper Willy Caballero to Hart but reports continue to link Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo to City and it is believed the Chilean stopper will arrive before the end of the summer transfer window as Pep wants a ‘keeper who is better with the ball at his feet.
That leaves Hart, the long-time first-choice goalkeeper for the English national don’t forget, with a tough choice.
Surely he has to leave City for his career.
Since he joined City as a 19-year-old, Hart has won two Premier League titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup and has been ever present in the most successful period in club history.
Yet, you get the sense that his position and power has been waning for a little while now. Over the past few years the odd shaky performance for City raised doubts over Hart and those were compounded by disappointing displays for England at EURO 2016 as he allowed Gareth Bale to score from a tame long-range free kick in group play and then let Iceland’s game-winner somehow slip underneath him as England were knocked out in the Round of 16.
It’s hard not to feel sorry for Hart because in so many aspects of the game he is one of the best goalkeepers in the PL. Yet, playing under managers who haven’t asked him to play out from the back consistently, he clearly isn’t as adept with the the ball at his feet as Guardiola wants him to be. That’s not Hart’s fault and for a goalkeeper those kind of changes take time to bring into your game successfully. Yet, Hart probably won’t be given the time to develop his passing game at City.
Numerous reports have linked Hart with a move to Sevilla in Spain on loan and with the likes of Everton in the PL, but other reports have suggested that Hart is happy to stay and fight for his place at City.
He shouldn’t stay. He needs to play somewhere. He needs to move on if he’s not City’s number one.
Where could that new club be? Well, Everton seems like the obvious choice. New Toffees boss Ronald Koeman stated that Everton needs three goalkeepers and although he didn’t confirm any interest in Hart in his press conference on Thursday, he didn’t exactly deny it either. He currently has Maarten Steklenburg in goal for Everton and anybody who watched Southampton closely last season will tell you he doesn’t make many mistakes but he won’t win you points over a season. The same could be said for Joel Robles who is second-choice at Goodison Park, but there’s no doubt that if Hart arrived then he’d be the undisputed number one.
If you look elsewhere around the league, Hart’s options are limited. Southampton have Fraser Forster. West Ham have Adrian. Stoke City have Jack Butland. Crystal Palace have just signed Steve Mandanda. Manchester United have David De Gea. Arsenal have Petr Cech. Chelsea have Thibaut Courtois. Tottenham have Hugo Lloris.
Everton, or possibly Liverpool, would be Hart’s best two options for a starting spot at big clubs with big ambitions. Let’s see how that pans out with just 13 days of the transfer window to go but it feels like something has to give for Hart to stay at City and Guardiola clearly has his mind made up about Hart not being his starting goalkeeper.
If Hart wants to leave, City should make it easy for him to do so. Yes, we all know this is a business and they should try to get the best deal they can get for him but in this ruthless industry where winning games is the ultimate goal, the way Hart has been cast aside is indicative of Guardiola’s famed ruthless streak and perhaps his desire to reshape City’s locker room, where Hart is a key figure after being at City for a decade.
Hart has been a huge part of City’s journey up until this point and many will lambaste the way he has been treated but Hart understands the game.
That’s why he must do what is best for himself and get a regular starting spot on another PL team as fast as he can.