Aching Hart feels the love

Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart applauds the fans after the team's 1-0 Champions League second leg play-off win over Steaua Bucharest at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart applauds the fans after the team's 1-0 Champions League second leg play-off win over Steaua Bucharest at the Etihad Stadium.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Out-of-favour stopper will find a 'solution' to his future after potential final match with City

LONDON • Joe Hart refused to deny that his Manchester City career is over after a 1-0 win against Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday confirmed Pep Guardiola's side a place in the draw for the Champions League group stage.

City's manager gave Hart a first start of the season, having dropped him as the side's No. 1 goalkeeper, and also made him captain. The fans showed their support throughout the match and at one point Hart almost seemed moved to tears.

However, City have confirmed that Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has signed for £17 million (S$30 million) yesterday to become Hart's replacement.

Asked about his future, Hart said: "It's not for me to say. It is what it is. You probably know better than me."

Hart has been demoted because Guardiola believes that he is not accomplished enough at playing the ball out with his feet.

When it was put to Hart that he had a 100 per cent pass completion rate against Steaua, the England international responded: "Well pigs do fly, don't they?"

With regard to whether he has been judged too soon, the 29-year-old added: "We have a top manager that the club has wanted for a long, long time and he will have his opinion on things and outside of the charade and all the rubbish that is being talked, we are dealing with it like men inside and we will come up with a solution."

Guardiola has said he had no doubt about his decision to drop Hart despite the player's distinguished history at the club he joined from Shrewsbury Town in 2006 for an initial £600,000 (S$1.07 million).

"I am here to take decisions. I make a lot of mistakes," Guardiola said.

"Some good and some bad, but I try to be honest. I can't deny what I feel.

"I was honest with Joe and all the players in the squad. Joe right now is a player for Man City and if he has to play he will play. I am so happy that today he played at the level he has."

Guardiola was unsure if Bravo would receive a good reception from the City fans.

"I don't know. They can express what they feel," the manager said. "I would like all my decisions to make everyone happy but it is impossible."

Hart, who may likely have made his last appearance for City, said that he was touched by the support he received from the club's fans during a match that was won by Fabian Delph's second-half header. City enjoyed a 6-0 aggregate victory.

"That was a really special night for me," said Hart, who may not even make the bench for tomorrow's home Premier League game against West Ham United as Bravo should start and Willy Caballero is likely to be named among the substitutes.

"(City) is a place I love to be but situations occur in football but we are men, we get on with it. I really appreciate the people of Man City and it turns out they appreciate me."

Barcelona yesterday completed the signing of Dutch international goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen from Ajax.

In a statement on their official website the Catalans confirmed they had signed the 27-year-old on a five-year contract for a fee of €13 million, rising to a potential €15 million.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 26, 2016, with the headline 'Aching Hart feels the love'. Print Edition | Subscribe