From keeping City in the UCL semis to putting on a horror-show against Iceland
Joe Hart’s fall from grace has been swift and unmerciful. As recently as two springs ago, he made a series of remarkable saves in goal to single-handedly keep Manchester City afloat in the 2016 Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid, which City wound up losing 0-1 on aggregate. Just over a year later, he’s the third-choice goalkeeper at the Etihad under Pep Guardiola, having just returned from an unmemorable season-long loan spell in Serie A at Torino. The 30-year-old keeper, England’s first-choice man in goal for nine years, struggled mightily at the Euros in 2016 en route to an early exit at the hands of Iceland for the Brits.
Now, finally, it appears there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for Hart. It’s been reported that West Ham is set to take in the out-of-favour keeper on-loan for the season with an option to buy, which is really a best-case scenario for all parties involved—West Ham, City, and Hart himself.
It’s been shocking how quickly Hart found himself the odd man out at Man City. A strong shot-stopper but awkward with the ball at his feet, he didn’t fit the ideal of a typical Pep Guardiola “sweeper keeper,” and when the manager arrived from Bayern, he elected to make City backup Willy Caballero his first-choice man almost immediately. Thus began a bizarre saga that saw Guardiola bring in Claudio Bravo from Barcelona—who wildly underperformed in 2017—and ship Hart off to Italy on a rather awkward Deadline Day loan. Hart failed to impress at Torino, and never seemed quite comfortable with the concept of playing outside of England.
Even as his loan spell ended, the writing was on the wall as Guardiola elected to spend big bucks on Benfica goalkeeping prodigy Ederson once the summer transfer window opened. It appeared that Hart, a risky signing for any club due to his massive wages, would be relegated to spending another year out on an awkward, City-subsidized loan—or worse, warming the bench as a third-string keeper at the Etihad.
West Ham came to Joe Hart’s rescue
Now, West Ham seems to be his likely permanent home, with the move beginning as a loan spell so that the clubs can split the wage bill. It would be a wonderful move for West Ham, who saw some iffy performances from long-time keeper Adrian last season, and have been in the market for a potential replacement. It will be a relief for City, who clearly were not going to include Hart in their short-term or long-term plans and will be happy to have half of his salary off their books.
But most importantly, it would be a wonderful move for Joe Hart, who has handled his year-long slide from being considered one of the world’s top keepers to an also-ran with all the grace in the world. Hart would get to stay in England and compete for the number one spot at a club that is, remarkably, only one year removed from Europa League football. And perhaps, if his performances merit it, he can go a long way towards repairing his once-proud reputation. He deserves the chance, if nothing else.