As far as careers of a goalkeeper go, Joe Hart hasn’t had a bad one. Though, it hasn’t been a superb one, either. The Manchester City stopper’s fall from grace has been rather rapid and alarming.
Pep Guardiola’s arrival would always be a concern for Joe Hart. Yes, he’d be playing under one of the world’s best coaches… if he was wanted.
Guardiola’s first season in England didn’t go to plan, with speculation surrounding his choice selecting Claudio Bravo as number one and his credentials as an upgrade on Hart after a disappointing campaign.
Ederson Moraes’ has had a much more positive, blemish-free introduction to the English top-flight, and his performances have cemented what Hart had feared had been coming for some time.
Where did it go wrong?
Hart was one of the first names on the City teamsheet during the 2011/12 title-winning campaign, in which many believe to have been his breakout season.
The blue half of Manchester then continued to gather steam and consistently challenge for top honours, and Hart was the number one choice during the 2013/14 title run, too.
Safely established as England’s number one choice between the sticks, Hart seemed destined for a long, healthy run at the top of the game.
But a couple of seasons on, City were stuttering. Leicester City romped to the Premier League title, and City were left wondering what might have been.
Hart, by his recently high standards, had begun to wobble.
He will forever look back on Euro 2016 being his career turning point, with two shots, two incidents potentially costing him his career.
After allowing a Gareth Bale free-kick to creep into his bottom corner in the group stage match with Wales, Hart then saw a tame effort roll into the same side to give Iceland the crucial game-winning goal in the last 16 of the tournament.
It was a torrid, horrible time for Hart who knew, deep down, that his days were numbered.
The slippery slope
Hart’s negative reception back in England and in the British media had almost forced Guardiola’s hand. He had to make a call, and Claudio Bravo was given the chance instead for the upcoming season, with Hart being told he was no longer wanted.
A surprise-though perhaps wise-loan move to Serie A side Torino followed, an escape from the British media, the public eye.
Hart’s every move in Turin, though, was scrutinised and analysed; a pack of vultures waiting for a mistake to happen.
His season got off to a disastrous start, with a couple of mistakes costing his new team points early on and Hart was sliding down a slippery slope.
Having managed to see out the remainder of the season in relative peace and normality, Hart returned to the Etihad Stadium to find that Ederson had been drafted in and that he was even further down the pecking order.
Another loan move, then. This time to West Ham United where he was initially deemed first-choice over Adrian. After a poor run of form across the whole team, West Ham had seen enough and Hart was relegated to the bench once more, unable to regain his place until the latter stages of the season.
National team nightmare
No top-flight footballer wants to have a poor season in a World Cup year.
Unfortunately for Hart, that’s exactly what had happened. Despite playing a part in getting England to Russia, a changing of the guard in the England dugout did him no favours.
Gareth’s Southgate’s intention to rejuvenate and rebuild the recently failing national side meant that changes were in the offing and Hart’s name was high on the hit list.
Perhaps Southgate will be credited for making a decision that others before him wouldn’t have made, but Hart, and England fans, knew his time was up.
Having been omitted from the squad entirely, it was time for the new generation of England’s goalkeepers to take their chance.
Jordan Pickford’s performance in Russia went a long way in justifying Southgate’s decision, and youth and inexperience did indeed prevail.
Hart made 75 caps for his nation, but it will take a miracle to make it 76.
What's the next move?
Guardiola has made it clear to Hart, and to City fans, that his time at the club is all but over.
Comfortably third choice, there is no future for him at the Etihad, though Guardiola has insisted he wants the best for Hart and would rather move him on than allow him to run down and waste the final year on his contract.
The issue for Hart now is finding an interested party. With City unlikely wanting a loan deal, Hart may struggle to find a club who are willing to pay for his services and pay the wages he has been used to receiving - not to mention the obvious concern over his extended loss of form.
All the recent interest has rumoured to come from abroad, but Hart has been quiet about his intentions and any desire to leave England for the second time.
Premier League clubs that would be able to take Hart onto their wage bill already have an obvious first choice goalkeeper, and why pay over the odds to have him sit on the bench?
Hart’s options are limited, and a move abroad may well be the next course of action. This time though, the chances on a return to the Premier League will be slim-to-none.
What do you make of Hart's chances of staying in England? Let us know in the comments below.
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