The arrival of Pep Guardiola was announced amid much fanfare midway through the 2015-16 season with Manuel Pellegrini at the helm of Manchester City.
It resulted in City capitulating in their title charge with subpar performances aplenty, eyes already on next season. It was later revealed by Pellegrini that the announcement of Guardiola played a negative role in how the season ended for The Citizens.
All was forgotten in the brouhaha that followed Guardiola being announced next season and Jose Mourinho taking over at the Old Trafford. It was the revival of rivalries between the two legendary managers of the game; El Clasico a-la Manchester.
It is common knowledge now that the Catalan apart from being an astute tactician, soft-spoken and oozing class when he’s not riled up by a certain Jose Mourinho(“he is the chief…“) and baited by the press is as ruthless as it gets. One of his first managerial decisions after taking over at The Etihad was to let Joe Hart know in unambiguous terms that he was not a part of his plans.
The England number one was quickly sent packing to Torino. Guardiola was set on revolutionising the English game with his ideas and wanted a sweeper-keeper of sorts capable of starting attacks from the back and bought Claudio Bravo from Barcelona in a £17m move.
The move backfired almost hilariously as the Chilean goalkeeper couldn’t cope with the pace of the English game and committed blunder after blunder costing City the title in the process and was eventually dislodged from the first eleven by Willy Caballero, their backup goalkeeper.
Joe Hart meanwhile wasn’t faring much better at Torino with a horrendous debut away to Atalanta that saw Torino lose 2-1. There was the howler committed against Inter the following month and the fumble against Cagliari in November which did the goalkeeper’s reputation no good.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Stats show the England goalkeeper was personally culpable for only two goals conceded by his team. According to Torino coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, Hart’s “presence makes the rest of the team feel more confident”. It is a sentiment that is corroborated by his teammates and club sources alike.
He is a popular figure among the club’s fans and a big character in the team according to Gianluca Oddenino, club correspondent for the Turin-based newspaper La Stampa. “Hart is having a good season in Italy, often making decisive saves despite the many goals conceded by Torino,” Matteo Pedrosi, Torin supporter and journalist tells Sky Sports. “They have the fourth-worst defence in the league.”
According to Oddenino, Hart would rank right after Buffon and Donnarumma in the Seria A if personal performances were the criteria. Torino has signed erstwhile PSG Goalkeeper, Sirigu opting not to sign Hart permanently after the arguably successful loan spell.
He is set for a return to the Premier League with the likes of Newcastle United and Manchester United interested. Rafa Benitez is said to be looking into the availability of the player and with De Gea set to switch to Madrid, Hart could be very good competition to Sergio Romero.
Hart would be the first player to make the switch to the cross-town rivals since Owen Hargreaves went the other way. As reported, Guardiola has no qualms about letting Hart join the red half of Manchester in a move that could generate a lot of controversy and reams of newspaper. It would make for interesting viewing if the move goes through with subplots aplenty and could go on to further sensationalise an already hyped Manchester Derby.
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