'Upset' Hart's career at City looks broken beyond repair
Man City 2 Sunderland 1
Published 15/08/2016 | 02:30
Joe Hart fears his Manchester City career could be over and that there is no way back for him under Pep Guardiola, with the club thought to be willing to listen to offers for the England goalkeeper.
Hart was dropped to the bench for City's opening Premier League game against Sunderland on Saturday and believes Guardiola - who admitted the goalkeeper was "sad, upset and unhappy" at being axed - is prepared to offload him before the close of the transfer window a fortnight on Wednesday.
Guardiola is expected to keep faith with Willy Caballero for the first leg of their Champions League play-off tie against Steaua Bucharest in Romania tomorrow, with City keen to avoid Hart being cup-tied in the competition in the event he is sold or loaned out.
Sevilla are thought to be interested in signing Hart either permanently or on loan and Everton are reportedly among the goalkeeper's potential Premier League suitors.
Reports in Spain yesterday claimed City were moving closer to signing Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, amid continuing frustration in their efforts to buy his club team-mate, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, since the Spanish champions are keen to keep hold of the German.
Guardiola wants a so-called "sweeper keeper" who is good with his feet and has harboured doubts about Hart's ability to fulfil that role for some time, although the prospect of him parting company with the 29-year-old - a figurehead for City and central pillar in the club's two Premier League titles - would still be a bold move.
Hart cut an impassive figure on the bench but stopped to sign the goalkeeper shirt of a young fan and give the boy a replica jersey before leaving the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Contrary to suggestions of frosty relations between the pair, Guardiola has insisted he has no "personal problem" with Hart, or midfielder Yaya Toure, who was omitted entirely from City's 18-man squad against Sunderland when Paddy McNair's 87th-minute own goal earned Guardiola a first win after Jermain Defoe had cancelled out Sergio Aguero's early penalty.
But despite describing Hart as an "amazing goalkeeper", Guardiola said he picked Caballero because he needed a goalkeeper who could build up the play more quickly from the back and that the Argentine had the benefit of a longer pre-season than Hart, who returned later to training after representing England at the European Championship.
"I'm pretty sure he's not happy," Guardiola said when asked how Hart had responded to being dropped.
"All the players who didn't play, they're sad, they're upset, of course. I would not like them to be happy if they didn't play. We have 28 players so there are a lot that have to convince me on the pitch, it's the only way.
"It's not a personal problem with any player.
"Today he (Caballero) was the first choice. Maybe the next game there's a change or maybe not. I needed to build up and to use the goalkeeper to play quicker, to get the ball behind the lines, and Willy has this quality first of all and he has had more time.
"I know the quality of Joe. He's an amazing goalkeeper; he plays for the national team and he was so important to win the two Premier League titles - the personality, the character - I know him. But I have to decide and today I decided in that way."
The news is another crushing blow for Hart in a summer when he performed dismally at the Euros for England, but there was little sympathy from Caballero, who is determined to make the No1 spot his own after being told "during the week" that he would start against Sunderland.
"It is really important for me, really good for me - I wanted this opportunity," he said. "For sure, it's very tough in this situation for me, for Joe, for the fans, but I just tried to enjoy this opportunity. I think he (Guardiola) spoke with Joe a lot of times but, with me, I just trained every day in the whole of pre-season.
"I know it is a new style (of play) but I know from myself I can prove I can do it. Sometimes we are taking risks when we pass from the back and my first pass was really complicated because they could have scored but, after that, we played much better from the back and can start playing as the boss wants."
All of City's squad had to attend a post-match meal after the game and several players were seen eating nuts from paper cups as they left the dressing room on Saturday. "It's another change and it's good for us," Caballero said. "The menu is the same as pre-season and when he arrived here. This is all good for team spirit."
David Moyes, the Sunderland manager, remains confident of keeping hold of Lamine Kone and claimed the Ivory Coast centre-half was unaware of a statement in which he asked to leave the club and that no transfer request had been forthcoming.
Moyes's former club, Everton, want to sign Kone but Moyes said he had "a private conversation" with Bill Kenwright, the Merseyside club's chairman, about the matter. (© Daily Telegraph, London)