England number one Joe Hart appeared for Manchester City in the Citizens 1-0 victory over Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League play-off on Wednesday night.
Many speculated that the game could be his last in a City shirt, after intense speculation about the 29-year-old’s future with the club.
The game against Steaua was his first competitive appearance of the campaign, having been dropped to the bench as Pep Guardiola has favoured Willy Caballero in-between the sticks.
Not even second choice
If being dropped was not bad enough for the goalkeeper, he could now find himself as City number three with Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo on the verge of completing a move to the Citizens from Barcelona.
The 33-year-old ‘keeper is regarded as a better sweeper-keeper than Hart, who is not great with the ball at his feet. The Chilean has proven with his stats during his time in Spanish football that he is very accurate with his feet and is Guardiola’s sort of ‘keeper.
For Guardiola, a sweeper-keeper is very important in how he plays. The Catalan boss knows exactly how he wants his team to play and the goalkeeper is not just somebody to keep the ball out of the back of the net for him. He is a player to be involved in building up from the back.
Hart’s main talents lie in shot-stopping and his athleticism, so he does not fit into the Guardiola mould for a goalkeeper.
Hart has to be questioned
Joe Hart is a good goalkeeper there is no doubt about it, but he is often overhyped by the British media simply because he is English. The 29-year-old is confident, but sometimes comes across as over-confident and seems to believe that he is better than he is.
For all the hype he is not in the same league as the likes of Manuel Neuer or even David De Gea of Manchester United.
However, Hart has been Manchester City number one for eight years and has kept over 100 clean sheets in the Premier League. Hart has also won a Premier League record four Golden Gloves awards for numbers of clean sheets in one campaign.
Despite those achievements, there is always a sense that Joe Hart lacks concentration. Every goalkeeper makes mistakes as they are only human, but a ‘keeper is judged on how he recovers and keeping those mistakes to a minimal.
Mistakes seem to have increased in recent years and months for Joe Hart. England fans have questioned his position for a while, despite him seemingly being undisputed number one for the Three Lions.
The likes of Southampton’s Fraser Forster and Stoke’s Jack Butland when he recovers from injury are breathing down Hart’s neck for the number one jersey with England. England boss Sam Allardyce has stated he will still pick Joe Hart for now.
One thing is for sure hardly anybody expected the England goalkeeper to be relegated to the bench, despite murmuring prior to Guardiola’s arrival in Manchester.
What happens now to Joe Hart?
The player himself has talked about ‘finding a solution’, which seems to mean he will move on before the deadline, as he definitely does not fit into Guardiola’s plans. The City boss has praised Hart, but it seemed to be through gritted teeth.
Everton were believed to be interested in signing the goalkeeper on a season-long loan, but City are reported to be looking for a loan fee of around £7million for a season, which even in these crazy days of transfer fees is steep for a loan deal.
Despite the reported loan fee, the Toffees are favourites to be Hart’s next club at odds of 4/11. Spanish club Sevilla were mooted as a possible destination, but noises coming out of Spain suggest the Andalusian club may look elsewhere.
Pep Guardiola is no respecter of reputations, as he proved at Barcelona by selling world stars like Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o. They were far bigger names than Hart and the Catalan bosses decisions were proven spot on at Barcelona.
It is a massive statement from Guardiola to axe Hart, who is a big voice in that dressing room. The England ‘keeper leaving is a sign that City are entering a completely new era and that if you do not fit the bill then you will be moved on, no matter how good you believe you are.
Where will Joe Hart be plying his trade this season?