Former Barcelona and Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has joined Manchester City for a fee believed to be in the region of £17m. The agreement between Ajax and Barcelona for the transfer of Jasper Cillessen earlier in the week had given the green light for the much-anticipated transfer to go ahead. The ‘keeper arrived in Manchester on Tuesday ahead of signing his 4-year contract today.
The move is the final nail in the coffin for Joe Hart’s Manchester City career. While he was in a battle with Willy Caballero there was always the possibility that his quality would eventually see him win his place back but with Pep Guardiola signing such an established name, Joe Hart will know that his days at the Etihad are numbered. He clearly said his goodbyes and received a standing ovation from the club’s fans during and after the match against Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday. The Cillessen deal also quashes any rumours of some kind of swap deal that would have seen Hart move to the Nou Camp as Bravo’s replacement.
Hart has been allowed to leave City
We knew to expect major headlines from Manchester City and that Guardiola would be ruthless in his pursuit of success but the decision to drop Hart came as a shock to many. Rumours are circulating that even the City hierarchy had promised Hart he would be given a chance by Guardiola. The only shred of comfort for Hart in this whole saga is that he will be allowed to leave the club, with Guardiola stating “I don’t want players to stay if they don’t want.” In response to rumours that Joe Hart is pushing the club to allow him to leave on loan to secure first-team football.
As well as this, England manager Sam Allardyce confirmed in a press conference that Hart will definitely be in his next squad. He added “I think so. He’d be in the squad definitely but I won’t know what we’re going to do until I speak to Joe and that will be the same for most of the players.” With his England number 1 spot on the line, Hart will be desperate for a move but a loan looks most likely considering the time remaining in this window, with clubs such as Everton and Sevilla interested in his signature. Hart’s miserable summer has truly been compounded by Guardiola, it started off with him palming Gareth Bale’s tame free kick into the net against Wales at Euro 2016 followed by allowing Iceland’s Kolbeinn Sigþórsson’s shot to squirm under his hand, condemning England to one of their most embarrassing ever defeats.
Bravo spent his summer lifting the Copa América trophy
In stark contrast, Claudio Bravo had a magnificent summer. The ‘keeper is first-choice for his national side, Chile, who were in action in the Copa América Centenario. Bravo cemented his place in Chilean folklore as his save from Argentina’s Lucas Biglia in a penalty shootout saw his country claim a second consecutive Copa América win, after also beating Argentina on penalties in 2015.
Prior to the tournament, Bravo had spent the season as Barcelona’s first-choice goalkeeper, meaning he kept goal in the club’s league matches. With Marc-André ter Stegen deputising in all cup competitions, this must have been very frustrating for Bravo considering his success in the league. He kept 16 clean sheets in 33 league matches, a success rate of over 50% and was a key reason why Barcelona only conceded 29 goals in the season, the second-best record in the league. The previous season, Bravo tore up the record books, keeping a record 22 clean sheets in 37 as well as setting the record for the longest time without conceding a goal from the start of a La Liga season (776 minutes).
The offer he received from Manchester City appeared to be far too good for him to turn down. At Barcelona, he had two years left on his current deal, with no guarantee of a fresh one, while the Manchester club offered him a 4-year deal, which will run until he reaches the age of 37. He also jumped at the chance to work with Pep Guardiola and become the club’s undisputed number one.
Bravo has smashed records in La Liga
Following the departure of Víctor Valdés in 2014, Barcelona decided to bring in two world-class goalkeepers. Claudio Bravo from Real Sociedad and Marc-André ter Stegen from Borussia Monchengladbach. Knowing that neither ‘keeper would settle for playing second fiddle to the other, Luis Enrique decided on a system of separation to try to appease both men. Claudio Bravo would play in all league matches while ter Stegen would play in all cup competitions including the Champions League. Such a system must have been incredibly frustrating as both men knew that their performances would never be enough to secure a spot as undisputed number one that all goalkeepers crave. In fact, ter Stegen has already moved to clarify, in the wake of Bravo’s departure, his desire to play in all competitions for the club. City’s offer of Champions League football clearly proved too tempting as Bravo rejected a last-minute offer of a pay rise from the club to instead link up with Guardiola at City.
Having said all of this, Joe Hart has played for Manchester City for a number of years and has put in plenty of inspired performances. Undoubtedly, the real reason Guardiola has splashed out on Bravo is his style of play. Bravo is what’s known as a sweeper-keeper. He is adept at rushing out of his goal to break up attacks as well as receiving the ball to start attacks. Building from the back and retaining possession is fundamental to Guardiola’s footballing philosophy. He appears to be less than impressed with Hart’s distribution. In the past two seasons, Hart has attempted 1119 long passes and 406 short passes compared to Bravo’s 586 long passes and 1055 short passes. Hart’s success rate for these passes pales into insignificance when compared to Bravo’s, Hart completed only 49.97% of these passes while Bravo completed an astonishing 82.39% of his. As was said earlier, Guardiola will be ruthless in his transformation of the club’s playing style.
While many City fans will be disappointed to lose club hero Joe Hart, they can rest easy now that they know they will not have to suffer through a season with Willy Caballero as the club’s number one. Between the sticks will be an internationally acclaimed world class goalkeeper who has excelled at one of the best clubs in the world. While the fans can begin to get excited about Bravo’s arrival, the message is clear to all of the club’s players. Either you play the Guardiola way or you’re out!