LONDON: Manchester City’s goalkeeping situation is starting to resemble a transfer market version of Piccadilly Circus which will only increase the scrutiny on whoever is given Pep Guardiola’s nod of approval to start the new Premier League season as first choice.
Even before Guardiola arrived as City manager a year ago it was no secret that he considered England’s Joe Hart inadequate for the style of sweeper-keeper which he demands. Hart was a shot-stopper – and not always faultless at that – and Guardiola made Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo one of his first signings.
Hart made only one appearance, against Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League preliminaries, before being loaned to Torino. However Bravo proved a less than successful replacement. Other clubs quickly realised that City were vulnerable to pressure on the keeper and Bravo’s confidence was damaged so badly that he had to give way to reserve Willy Caballero for much of the season.
Hart returned to City at the end of the Serie A campaign but without hope of staying. Hence he has now been loaned out again, this time to West Ham, while Guardiola and City have gone back into the market for more new goalkeepers.
Ederson has arrived from Benfica for £35m and, with Caballero having departed for the reserve bench at Chelsea, City are pursuing Pepe Reina for the No2 role.
Reina is a close friend of both Guardiola and coach Mikel Arteta and would cost around £5m from Napoli. The prospect of returning to a title challenger appeals even more to Reina than his other option, of rejoining his old Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez at promoted Newcastle.
Guardiola signed Bravo for £17m and City are resigned to making a loss on the deal by selling the Chilean who put himself powerfully in the shop window with his penalty-saving heroics when La Roja finished runners-up at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia earlier this month.
A clear hint that Bravo’s future lies away from Manchester was his absence from the squad who flew to the United States earlier this week for City’s pre-season tour. Other absentees and likely departures – either for sale or loan – included central defender Eliaquim Mangala, midfieders Fernando, Fabian Delph and Samir Nasri as well as forwards Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfried Bony.
Hart will cost West Ham £4.5m made up of a £2.5m salary with the London club also paying a £2m loan fee which will go to Hart to make up a shortfall in his weekly wage.
The 30-year-old, only too well aware of the World Cup coming up, said: “It’s important for me to play regular football and to get the opportunity to come to West Ham is absolutely awesome. It wasn’t a hard decision.”
** Antonio Conte has ended uncertainty over his future at champions Chelsea by signing an improved contract, up until 2019, worth £9.5m-a-year.