Pep Guardiola has selected Willy Caballero ahead of Joe Hart for Manchester City’s opening Premier League game against Sunderland, plunging the England goalkeeper’s future at the Etihad Stadium into further doubt.
Hart endured a wretched Euro 2016 and now appears to face a fight for his future at a club where he made his debut in 2006.
Caballero started last Sunday’s concluding pre-season friendly versus Arsenal in Gothenburg and he will do so once more against David Moyes’ side.
Speculation over whether Hart would retain his position as City number one has been rife since Guardiola succeeded Manuel Pellegrini for this season, with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach understood to prefer a “sweeper-keeper”, who can help to build attacks with his defence from the back.
City have been continually linked with a move for Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Hart’s omission will do nothing to quell those reports.
Speaking to reporters on the eve of the Sunderland match, Guardiola suggested Hart would have to improve with the ball at his feet to improve his chances of selection.
“Joe is a goalkeeper and with a goalkeeper I talk to him and said, ‘Here is the ball at your feet’ and about what he has to do rather than what he has to do with his hand,” he explained.
“We have Xabi Mancisidor [City’s goalkeeping coach] for that. So we have had a chat.
“He’s comfortable. He has quality and he can do that… with time. I’m not saying he’s unable to do it.
“Maybe there are other goalkeepers with more quality at that. But Joe, with training, he can do it – with time. But his time is now. It’s not about what happens in six months, seven months.”