[ MORE: What now for Joe Hart? ]
Guardiola spoke to the media at City’s training ground on Friday and as the rain drizzled down he painted a pretty simple picture for Hart.
If he wants to leave Manchester City, he can go.
Reports have suggested that the England international wants to leave the Etihad after being left out of their opening two games of the season with Willy Caballero selected instead, plus Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo set to arrive from Barcelona in the coming days.
The main topic of discussion was Hart’s future and ahead of City’s trip to the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday to play Stoke City (Watch live, 7:30.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBC Sports), Guardiola revealed that Hart is free to go on loan or seal a transfer away if that’s what he wants to do.
“Yeah, of course,” Guardiola said. “I want the happiness for the players. I don’t want the players to stay here if they don’t want to stay. All the players that are here have a contract. If they decide they want to stay, they are going to stay. They know the situation. I already spoke with them about the situation. They know. I spoke individually and I called the club with their managers. The situation, they know exactly what it is. I don’t know the players who are not happy here, or if they want to stay. They decide their future because they have a contract. If they want to stay, stay. We will fight together to achieve. If they want to leave because they prefer to play every game but I’m not speaking about Joe, I’m speaking about all of the players at the squad. I want to live, I want to work, I want to stay with the players who want to stay. There is no doubt on that.”
City’s new manager Guardiola insists that Hart knew the situation since day one when he arrived in China in preseason, and believes that if Hart stays at City his staff will improve the 29-year-old goalkeeper. After winning two Premier League titles, two League Cups, an FA Cup and being at the club for a decade, it is unclear whether Hart will want to stick around on the bench to bide his time and battle with at least two other goalkeepers for a starting spot.
The main issue with Hart is that Guardiola doesn’t believe he is good enough with his feet and until that improves he will not fit into his new system at City.
“I said to him on the first morning, if he stays here he is going to improve,” Guardiola said. “He is going to understand what we want from our goalkeeper. I met a lot of players in the beginning and had problems, I am not talking about the goalkeepers. So they had their problems at the beginning. After two months, three months, half a year, one year, they became one of the best players in that position. That can happen. But when Willy plays right now, in that situation he is better. Today. That doesn’t mean that is going to happen in the future. They have to decide if they want to stay or leave. If he stays here I want to help him and after every week I will decide.”
The Spanish coach went on to give a specific example of a player who struggled initially under his guidance at Barcelona but then flourished. He is hoping Hart will stay but at this moment in time he sees Caballero ahead of him.
“I have an example: I met Abidal, the left back at the beginning. The way we played he had his problems but at the end he became the best left central defender in Europe. Fast, intelligent, strong in the air. In the build up he was a masterclass but it took time. In the beginning it was not the best and we are demanding,” Guardiola said. “We are demanding from our central defender and goalkeepers that they have to play. They don’t have to only defend. They have to defend and they have to play.
“The goalkeeper, the first thing I am looking for is to be safe, keep the ball. For me that is the most important thing. But after, he has to play with the ball. He has to help us to create a good build up. That is why I am here. In the future of course he can do that but now, in the moment, because Willy was in the whole preseason and was in two, three more weeks than Joe because he was in holidays after the European Cup and because I saw so many things, in those games I decided to play with WIlly. But it doesn’t mean Willy is going to play all the season. It doesn’t mean Joe isn’t going to play. I explained that with Joe in China. I tried to be clear with my players. I know the quality from Joe. I have a lot of respect. It isn’t easy decision for me to say you are not playing but Willy is. But it is clear, what I am looking for, to help us, we are not an academy where you have time. Here you have time, but not too much.”
Now that Hart knows the situation and Guardiola has made it clear for everyone else to understand, an interesting 12 days lies ahead with the transfer window slamming shut at midnight on Aug. 31.
“I spoke with with Joe from the first moment we met in China and I tried to be clear with my players. I was so clear with him. I have a lot of respect for him as a person, as a goalkeeper. I know his value. I know his talent. It was clear what I was looking for. I am here at Manchester City and they contacted me to try and play the way I like. The way I grew up from 13, 14-years old. I am here to try and convince these players,” Guardiola added. “Until 31st of this month, everything is open. People are coming, people are leaving. When it is September you will know exactly which people who will live together, to fight together, to enjoy together, to discuss together.
“If Joe stays here it will be a player who is going to fight with other goalkeepers to convince me to play. It is simple like that. He knows from the beginning what I feel, what is the situation. After that of course I know maybe he stays, maybe he is leaving and it is the same case for other players.”