With Joe Hart set to return to Manchester City following his season-long loan at Torino, Michael Hincks looks at what the future holds for the England No 1…
Hart’s season in Italy ended with an eventful 5-3 victory over Sassuolo on Sunday, as Torino finished the season ninth in Serie A.
Only three clubs shipped in more league goals than the Turin-based club, with Hart himself conceding 62 goals in 36 games – keeping five clean sheets in the process.
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With a testing campaign over, Hart is preparing for a return to City. However, it’s likely to be no more than a short stopover following reports that another goalkeeper touched down at Manchester Airport.
The news that City are in talks with Benfica over a world-record move for Ederson broke the morning Hart wrote a farewell message to Torino on Instagram.
It appears that we could well find Hart penning another emotional goodbye in the coming weeks – having played an integral role in City’s two Premier League triumphs in 2012 and 2014 – but where could he possibly end up?
We assess the 30-year-old’s options…
A move for Hart never materialised last summer despite Ronald Koeman’s stating that Everton were in the market for a third goalkeeper alongside Maarten Stekelenburg and Joel Robles.
Everton are favourites with Sky Bet to sign Hart this time around, and it’s difficult to see Stekelenburg or Robles preventing the four-time Premier League Golden Glove winner from being the main man at Goodison Park.
Hart was often accused of sitting too comfortably in his No 1 spot at City before his departure to Torino, but he could well favour a prolonged and unopposed stint between the sticks in a season which should end with England at the World Cup in Russia.
A move to Stamford Bridge would only really transpire as part of a goalkeeping merry-go-round this summer.
The transfer to set it all off would be Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid, with the Chelsea shot-stopper continuing to be linked with the Liga champions.
However, Sky Sports News HQ understand Courtois wants to remain at Chelsea – with contract talks said to be ongoing – making Hart’s chances of joining to the Premier League champions unlikely.
Jurgen Klopp struggled all season to shrug off questions regarding current goalkeepers Loris Karius and Simon Mignolet.
The pair both enjoyed spells as No 1 at Liverpool, with Karius failing to convince when stepping in for Mignolet, who somewhat impressed on his return to the side.
Liverpool’s goalkeeping headache meant Hart’s name was never far away from the gossip columns on Merseyside, to the point where Klopp felt the need to address the matter in April.
“Extra competition? You ask about goalkeepers but even though you don’t say the name, is it about Joe Hart?” said Klopp.
“We don’t usually talk about these sort of things but in this particular case I think we can.
“He is a fantastic goalkeeper, the goalkeeper of the English national team, the highest quality, but we have highest-quality goalkeepers.”
In similar fashion to the Chelsea link, United moving for Hart would only materialise if David De Gea left Old Trafford to join Real.
But would Hart be willing to switch to the red side of Manchester? The Independent reported in April that he would relish the opportunity to join United, particularly as he would prefer to remain in the north west of England.
Few players have crossed the Manchester divide in recent years, with just Carlos Tevez, Owen Hargreaves, Andrew Cole, Peter Schmeichel and Andrei Kanchelskis doing so in the Premier League era.
The likelihood of Hart becoming the sixth player on that list ultimately hinges on De Gea, while his current deputy, Sergio Romero, demonstrated that he is more than capable of claiming the No 1 jersey should Real make their move.
Hart is not the only goalkeeper linked with United. The Manchester Evening News reports that Jose Mourinho is lining up a move for Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel – should De Gea leave the club.
The Dane could follow in his father’s footsteps at Old Trafford, and this chain reaction would leave a spot open at the King Power – a position which Hart is certainly qualified for.
It’s set to be a summer of change at Leicester, but Hart’s arrival would at least bring stability in one role.
Hart said “Bye for now” to Torino in his latest Instagram post on Monday, and a return to the Serie A club is out at 12/1 with Sky Bet.
A second jaunt in Europe certainly appears to be an outside bet, and you can get long odds on Hart heading abroad once more, with Juventus (33/1), Napoli (40/1), PSG (40/1) and Sevilla (40/1) all behind a host of Premier League clubs..