Joe Hart did little to shift the air of finality around his appearance for Manchester City in Wednesday’s 1-0 Champions League win over Steaua Bucharest, with the England goalkeeper labelling the furore around his playing future as a “circus” and a “charade”.
Hart was an unused substitute for City’s first three games of the season, with Willy Caballero preferred by Pep Guardiola, and his recall with City 5-0 up in their play-off tie from the first leg in Romania came with Barceolna keeper Claudio Bravo on the verge of completing a move to the Etihad Stadium.
The ground where Hart has plied his trade over a decade where City’s fortunes have changed from also-rans to major title winners was a venue backed with emotion, as an uneventful game settled by Fabian Delph’s second-half header became almost a sideshow to terrace tributes for the club’s longest-serving player.
“That was a really special night for me,” Hart told BT Sport. “I’ve had a lot of good nights in football but it was a really nice night
“We all know there is a bit of a situation going on but I feel that outside of the circus we are handling it well, as a good team with a good management staff.
“I enjoyed tonight. I’m really happy that we Fabian scored. He’s scored a header, won us the game and put us in the Champions League.
“It’s a special night for us and it’s really nice night for me.”
Hart appeared visibly moved by a sustained period of singing for him shortly after Delph’s 56th minute goal and seemed to acknowledge his ongoing “situation” and the nearing end of the transfer window means this could be goodbye.
“It does [bring a lump to the throat],” he said. “This is a special place for me. I’ve never made any secret of that.
“It’s a place I’d love to be but situations occur in football. We’re men and we get on with it.
“Tonight was really nice. I really appreciate the people of Manchester City and it turns out they appreciate me, so that’s a nice feeling.”
Hart’s perceived lack of quality with the ball at his feet is widely understood to be a reason for Guardiola being seemingly ready to discard him, meaning the goalkeeper was able to wryly acknowledge his completion of 16 out of 16 passes on a routine evening
“Wow, pigs do fly, don’t they?” he said.
“It’s a situation. We’ve got a top manager that the club has wanted for a long, long time and he’s going to have his opinion on things
“Outside of the charade and all the rubbish that has been talked, we’re going to deal with it like men and come up with a solution.
“Tonight I played for Manchester City, I enjoyed every moment of it and I have done every time I’ve played for Manchester City.”
Asked where his future lies, Hart added: “That’s not for me to say. It is what it is.”