England goalkeeper Joe Hart has ended his Manchester City nightmare by agreeing to join Italian outfit Torino on a season-long loan deal. The ‘keeper was given permission to leave the England camp on Monday and flew out to Italy on Tuesday to complete a medical and the deal has now been confirmed by both clubs.
The deal puts an end to all of the speculation over the ‘keeper’s next move, a whole host of clubs were linked, for example, Liverpool, Everton, Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Sunderland and eventually Torino. However, despite all of the links, Hart has found offers relatively thin on the ground. Liverpool and Everton both signed new goalkeepers in the summer, Loris Karius and Maarten Stekelenburg respectively and given Stekelenburg’s excellent start to the season, Ronald Koeman’s interest has since cooled. Elsewhere, AC Milan seemed unwilling to stunt the progress of teenage sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Offers for Hart were limited
This left Hart with only two realistic offers. Sunderland and Torino were the only two clubs to declare their interest in securing his services. At the end of last season, it was simply unimaginable that Hart would find himself in this situation. He has gone from Manchester City number one, going into one of the most exciting periods in the club’s history and number one in an exciting young English team, going into Euro 2016 with high hopes to Euro embarrassment and having a choice between joining a team battling for survival in the Premier League and a team that finished 12th in Serie A last season. He had to choose between these two as staying at City and facing the prospect of not even making the bench was not even an option worth considering.
This is football though and in this game there are no guarantees, you can’t switch off or take anything for granted as Hart has found out. Strangely, in an interview in 2012, he seemed to state this exact thing. He said “I know from the inside how quickly things can change in football, I’m only where I am because someone else lost his place, so I’m fully aware that I need to play well to keep mine. Nothing is a given.” Hart’s own words have rang true and a poor European Championships, conceding four of the five shots he faced, have cost him his place. At 29, a goalkeeper should be in his prime but Joe Hart’s career has hit a crossroads and questions are starting to be asked about his ability, something you would expect to happen much earlier in a career.
Hart needs to respond to questions about his ability
Hart, who was recently boosted by keeping his place in Sam Allardyce’s first England squad, needs to use this move in a positive way instead as just a stop gap before putting his name out there in the summer and looking for a move to a big club. He needs to work on his game, most notably his reaction saves which let him down badly at the Euros, as well as his distribution if he is to ever please Pep Guardiola. Although, this is by no means the end for Joe Hart at the top level, we have to remember that this is a goalkeeper that is a double Premier League winner and has won 63 caps for his country. Perhaps it is his personal pride in these achievements that have led him to choose to leave England to pursue first-team football rather than staying in the country and dropping down to play for a side fighting relegation. He is obviously a very talented goalkeeper and there is no reason to suggest that he won’t be able to make the improvements to his game necessary and hold off Jack Butland and Fraser Forster to keep his England number one spot. He just needs to put the work in.
In fact, Italy could be an ideal place to work on the areas of his game that are lacking. The Italian game is played at a much slower pace than in England which could feasibly give Hart more time to get on the ball and play it out from the back rather than playing it long like Hart has tended to favour. Hart however, is not joining one of the giants of Italian football. Torino are nowhere near the dominant force they once were in the 1940’s. In recent years they have struggled having spent 12 years in Serie B before gaining promotion back to Serie A in the 2011/12 season. An excellent 7th place finish in the 2013/14 season did qualify them for the Europa League though, where they reached the Round of 16 but since then that success has taken its toll.
Hart could thrive out of the spotlight
Torino have slowly seen their best players depart the club. Matteo Darmian, Angelo Ogbonna, Ciro Immobile, Alessio Cerci have all departed and the club look set to lose star defender Nikola Maksimović in this window, with manager Siniša Mihajlović describing the player as “dead to me”. Mihajlović is a double Serie A winner as a manager with Lazio and Inter Milan so he could be just the man to rejuvenate Torino and Hart’s fortunes. The arrivals of Hart and Adem Ljajić from Roma have given the club’s fans hope of improving on last season’s disappointing 12th place finish, only 7 points ahead of relegation.
This move has certainly come out of the blue but after all of the media attention on him in the last few months, this could be just the move Hart needs right now. At Torino, who respectfully aren’t one of Europe’s major clubs, he has the chance to get away from all of the media spotlight that comes with playing for the top clubs and get his head down and work hard on his game. Pep Guardiola has told Hart he can leave but we have to remember that his replacement, Claudio Bravo, is 33 and if Joe Hart returns to the club a much-improved player then he may still be able to put pressure on an ageing Bravo and win back his number one spot at the Etihad. If not, there will certainly be a whole host of clubs chasing him next summer. Therefore, don’t read into this as the end of Joe Hart, this is his chance to prove himself all over again and let’s see if he can use this move as a springboard back to the top.