Joe Hart is a Champions League goalkeeper. That is obvious from the fact that he has spent five years as a regular in the competition, reaching the semi-finals in the latest and keeping three knockout-phase clean sheets, with Paris St-Germain and Real Madrid among the silenced.
The problem is that any Champions League club worth joining is too professional to get to the final days of the summer transfer window without having their first-choice shot-stopper in place, so it is highly unlikely that he will receive any appetising offers which keep him in the competition.
It is a similar story with the Premier League’s elite. The club for whom the position was the biggest concern, Liverpool, acted early, and the likes of Leicester and Chelsea have enriched their pools too. Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United have established and admired number ones.
And so it is that Joe Hart’s leading options ahead of Wednesday’s transfer deadline appear to be to stay at Manchester City on the bench or move to Sunderland on loan, with the latter prospect being described as an embarrassing fall from grace.
But why is it? It is a switch that enables him to play Premier League football weekly until an opening as a guaranteed starter at a Champions League side arises.
The 29-year-old has already done it once in his career to know that it is a smart solution. He was the Citizens’ man between the posts for the first half of 2008-09, lost the gloves to Shay Given and went out on loan to prove his worth instead of feeding off EFL Cup scraps.
On that occasion, he could have been perceived as selling himself short by choosing promoted club Birmingham, yet performed so well there that they not only exceeded all expectations to finish ninth, but he got into the PFA Team of the Year and straight back into the Man City line-up.
That conclusion might not be repeated – though there is always a possibility that Pep Guardiola fails miserably and is gone when Hart returns – but coming off a hot season where he gets a chance to shine and when more clubs are reviewing their goalkeeping rosters is a far better situation for sorting a permanent transfer than after a disappointing summer and weeks of harsh scrutiny.
Two other positives of Sunderland as a short-term home is that David Moyes’ ability to construct a sturdy defence enables his custodians to look effective. Think of how capable Tim Howard was seen to be under the Scot at Everton, compared to how his reputation crumbled under Roberto Martinez.
The main reason that Hart needs immediate action is that he is fighting for his England spot for the first time in years following the underperformance at Euro 2016, and he can’t do that from the dugout.
At Sunderland, he would be increasing his standing at the expense of a long-term adversary because, with Vito Mannone sidelined, England U21 keeper Jordan Pickford is in line to profit, presenting him with a chance to dive into contention like Jack Butland did at Stoke when Asmir Begovic exited.
Moyes has a history of top-half finishes and, though the Black Cats have kicked off with successive defeats, they are 8/1 to recover to wind up 10th or higher.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.