JOE HART has completed his transfer deadline day move to Torino on a season long loan and becomes the first English goalkeeper to play in Serie A.
Rather than a humiliating come down, as portrayed by sections of the Premier League obsessed media; the deal will rejuvenate Hart’s career.
England’s number 1 found opportunities at Manchester City limited under Pep Guardiola, who judged Hart as unsuited to the sweeper-keeper role Manuel Neuer performed for him at Bayern Munich and essential to his style of play. The signing of Chilean international Claudio Bravo from Barcelona, another goalkeeper comfortable with his feet as well as hands; meant Hart could search for a new club.
With Europe’s elite clubs already having goalkeepers in position for the coming season, speculation on Hart’s next move centred around Everton, Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund. Then, an injury to Vito Mannone meant David Moyes’ Sunderland looked to be his most likely destination.
Clear even before Torino’s interest, was that Hart needed to move to help protect his position as Sam Allardyce’s first choice going into England’s World Cup qualifiers. After an error strewn Euro 2016, and with the form of Fraser Forster and Jack Butland providing real competition, sitting on the bench at the Etihad was never an option.
“HUMILITY AND ENTHUSIASM”
It was no head-scratcher for the famously dandruff-free Hart when the opportunity to move to Serie A surfaced. Hart told Torino’s website:
“Torino’s offer came at the right moment for me, in the right manner, and I’m very excited to test myself in an important and beautiful league such as Serie A.
“Everyone knows the history of goalkeepers in Italy, and I’m sure I can learn in Torino. That’s why I accepted President Cairo’s proposal.
“The coach here wants humility and ambition. I like that. That’s how I want to be.”
Torino president Urbano Cairo, applauded the transfer as a coup for his club whilst praising Hart’s “humility and enthusiasm.”
Torino remain one of Italy’s best supported clubs despite the success of cross city rivals Juventus and Il Toro deserve a little more respect than the “Serie A minnows” tag kindly bestowed upon them by the Daily Mirror.
If you know your history, you’ll know of the triumph and tragedy of the Grande Torino side of the 1940s. Under Erno Erbstein, the Granata won a record 5 consecutive league titles before the tragic Superga air crash killed 31 of Torino’s staff including the entire first team in 1949.
Since then, Torino have enjoyed fleeting success including the 1975/76 Scudetto but have since endured relegation, bankruptcy and further tragedy with the death of their iconic forward Gigi Meroni in 1967.
Torino finished last season in 12th place under Serbian coach Sinisa Mihajlovic whilst on the other side of Turin, Juventus won their 5th consecutive league title equalling the record of Grande Torino.
Hart joins a club similar in many respects to the Manchester City he joined from Shrewsbury Town 10 years ago. Torino are a sleeping giant tired of living in the shadow of more successful rivals.
Press coverage leading up to the move focussed on Hart’s apparent humiliation. The story followed the familiar curve that sees England’s goalkeepers built up before being tossed aside as calamitous cretins. Peter Bonetti, Scott Carson and Rob Green all know the feeling.
The move to Torino follows a forgettable summer following mistakes against Wales and Iceland. However, rewind a few months to Manchester City’s run to the semi-finals of the Champions League and at times Joe Hart was his club’s outstanding player.
The shaming of Hart in the national press gained a new angle with the arrival of Guardiola and Bravo. Sports editors and photographers have been deprived a “benchwarmer” story for the next few months and most won’t bother tuning away from the Premier League to see how he does in Serie A.
Hart will relish his switch to Serie A and the opportunity to face great Italian clubs Milan, Internazionale and Roma, all of whom fortified by foreign investment.
Stopping arch-rivals Juventus from surpassing the immortal record of Grande Torino, will ultimately be outside of Hart’s direct control but then again, he has been used to being a “noisy neighbour” in the past.
Torino have taken a calculated gamble on Hart and whilst the English have had mixed success in Italy, the signing is a statement of intent, even if only a temporary move. With 63 caps for his country, 2 Premier League winners medals and Champions League experience under his belt before his 30th birthday, few stand a better chance of Serie A success than Joe Hart.
At 29 years of age, Joe Hart is still a pup in goalkeeping standards compared to former England ‘keepers Peter Shilton and David Seaman. For an international goalkeeper, at a turning point in his career, could there be anywhere better to hone your skills than in the land of Zoff and Buffon?
Consider the experience, new ideas and tactical education available in Italy compared to that of another Premier League campaign, albeit at the other end of the table at Sunderland. Whilst County Durham may have it’s home comforts, the adventure of an Italian job in Turin will stand Hart in good stead for the next half of his career.
City fans bade adieu to Hart during their Champions League victory over Steua Bucharest with an emotional send off that shows that the Sky Blue faithful have left the door open for his return even if Pep may have other plans.
Whether he returns to Manchester remains to be seen. Whatever happens over the next year in Turin, Joe Hart may find a wider choice of clubs in front of him next season.
Forget the negativity, Joe Hart’s year in Turin will be the absolute making of him.
What do you think of Hart’s move to Italy? Should more British players move overseas and what effect would it have on our domestic leagues if they did?
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