From the official website statement that bid Joe Hart farewell from Manchester City as he joined Torino on a season-long loan, it was hard to think why they were letting him go.
‘No goalkeeper has won more Premier League Golden Gloves titles than Joe’s four’ it read, ‘he’s also been named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year twice and is well clear of more than a century of clean sheets for the Blues.’
Hart departs City after a decade with the club and has won the Premier League twice.
Despite Pep Guardiola’s misgivings about his ability to play out from the back, there is a feeling that City have let go somebody well-thought of and respected within the club.
The manner of the goalkeeper’s departure, accelerated after Guardiola suddenly decided Hart would start the season on the bench before signing Claudio Bravo from Barcelona to take-over as number 1, has intensified the feeling of regrettable ill-treatment for a club hero, but the Catalan’s ruthlessness should leave no margin for sentiment.
Guardiola’s seismic track record of success at Barcelona and Bayern Munich gives him license to make such calls and Bravo, a ‘keeper incredibly comfortable with the ball at his feet, will offer what Hart couldn’t.
Guardiola is insistent on his teams being able to play patiently out from the back and Bravo, who completed 84% of his passes for Barcelona last season, will aid that.
As a ‘keeper not as accustomed to the importance of short and intelligent distribution from the back, Hart has become a victim of circumstance but Torino, beneficiaries of a player being made available so late in the transfer-market, have made an astute signing.
The 29 year old, after being installed for so long as number 1 for City as well as England, arrives in Italy with a point to prove as well as an opportunity to improve in a different culture, away from the pressures and the scrutiny of the Premier League.
Hart will again link-up with Attilio Lombardo, part of Roberto Mancini’s coaching team at City when they won the title in 2012 and who is now assistant to Sinisa Mihajlovic at Torino.
Hart has already taken a shine to Mihajlovic, “the Coach wants humble but ambitious players – I also really like that, that’s how I want to be” he said, while the manager has set the club the target of returning to European football within two years.
Hart will relish signing up to such a challenge while he remains aware that Guardiola will possibly be monitoring his progress from afar.
Hart will battle Alfred Gomis and Daniele Padelli for the number 1 spot but after Mihajlovic changed his mind early on Gomis after a difficult start before turning to former Liverpool goalkeeper Padelli who enjoyed a similarly torrid time, he is memorable for scoring an embarrassing own-goal in the defeat to Empoli last year, he should not find it difficult to establish himself.
Part of a rejuvenated project
Mihajlovic has signed Lorenzo De Silvestri, Luca Rossettini and Arlind Ajeti this summer while Leandro Castan arrives on loan as the Serbian seeks to bolster a defence that conceded 55 goals last term, the most in Serie A’s top 15.
The loss of Kamil Glik to Monaco for £9 million is a blow, but the arrival of Hart will fill the experience deficit at the back.
Attackers Adem Ljajic, for £7 million, and Iago Falque, on loan, come in from Roma and, together with the big-name acquisition of Hart, symbolise the project in place in the Santa Rita area of Turin.
“The move makes us proud, and demonstrates our willingness to build a more competitive team” said club president Urbano Cairo.
The season started with a narrow defeat away at AC Milan before a sublime attacking performance saw off Bologna 5-1.
The addition of Hart’s authority to Mihajlovic’s back-line will increase confidence they can finish higher than last season’s twelfth place.
The optimism surrounding the Grande Torino is what swayed Hart’s decision to move to Italy rather than accept Sunderland’s offer.
“Torino’s offer came in the right moment, in the right manner”, he said, “I am very excited to test myself in an important and beautiful league such as Serie A.”
The 29 year old will now fly back to reunite with Sam Allardyce’s England squad with the chances of retaining his place as his country’s number 1 appearing a lot brighter than when the new coach warned Hart that his role may be under threat the longer he stays on City’s bench.
An arm injury to Fraser Forster is likely to see Hart begin the Allardyce era in England’s goal against Slovakia.
A brave move
It is a brave move that would have appeared to Hart as the correct one as he held aloft the green goalkeeping jersey of Il Toro to crowds of cheering fans from a balcony on the streets of Turin.
Hart left behind a heartfelt statement that spoke of his “amazing memories” from his time at City and expressed his gratitude to the City fans that have built an affinity with him over the years.
They will understand the reasons behind his exit, but will watch his Italian job in the hope that one day in the near future they may see their beloved Hart restored.
Written by Adam Gray
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250
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