Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola once again professed his admiration for Joe Hart’s abilities but will not stand in the way if the out-of-favour goalkeeper wishes to leave the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola opted to select Willy Caballero as his starting keeper ahead of Hart in last weekend’s opening 2-1 win over Sunderland and the Argentinian retained his place, with Hart looking on from the bench once more as City dispatched Steaua Bucharest 5-0 in Tuesday’s Champions League play-off first leg.
Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has also been heavily linked with a move to City but, speaking ahead of Saturday’s trip to Stoke City, Guardiola spoke warmly of Hart as a goalkeeper and a person following speculation over a personality clash with the England international.
Nevertheless, the former Bayern Munich boss maintained Hart will be allowed to leave if he desires, a possible message to other senior professionals yet to feature competitively during his reign such as Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony and Eliaquim Mangala.
Guardiola told reporters: “I spoke with Joe the first moment we met in China [on City’s pre-season tour]. I have a lot of respect for him as a person and as a keeper. He’s valuable.
“I want happiness for the players. I don’t want players to stay if they don’t want.
“Until [August] 31st, everything is open. If Joe is still here he will be a player to fight with the other goalkeepers for a place.
“If he stays he is going to improve. He’s going to understand what we want now from a goalkeeper.
“They [players not picked for City’s opening two matches] are not out of the group. Everyone is the same but I have to make the list of 11 players.”