English Premiership

Hart free to leave City - Guardiola

Joe Hart (AP Photo)
Joe Hart (AP Photo)

Manchester - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola will not stand in Joe Hart's way if the out-of-favour goalkeeper decides to leave the club, he said on Friday.

Guardiola has left Hart on the bench for City's first two games of the season, with Willy Caballero starting instead, and is reportedly close to signing Claudio Bravo from his former club Barcelona.

Hart, 29, has been linked with Everton and Sevilla and although Guardiola is happy for him to stay and fight for his place, he accepts that he will not be able to keep the England international against his will.

Asked if Hart can leave the club if he wants to, Guardiola told reporters at the City Football Academy training complex in Manchester: "Yes, of course.

"I want happiness for the players. I don't want the players to stay here if they don't want to stay.

"All the players here have a contract. They decide their future because they have a contract. If they want to stay, stay, and we will fight together.

"If they want to leave because they prefer to play every game - not speaking about Joe, speaking about all the players in the squad - I want to live and work with the players who want to stay."

Hart has been City's first-choice goalkeeper for the past six seasons, contributing to two Premier League title wins, two League Cup successes and their 2011 FA Cup triumph.

But he had a poor Euro 2016 for England and was at fault for goals in their group-stage win over Wales and last 16 defeat by Iceland.

Guardiola was speaking ahead of his side's trip to Stoke City in the Premier League on Saturday.

Elaborating on his reasons for sidelining Hart, he said that it was due to concerns about the quality of his passing.

"The goalkeeper, the first thing you are looking for is (to) save, keep the ball. For me it's the most important thing," he said.

"But after, he has to play with the ball, he has to help us to create a good build-up. That's why I'm here."

Guardiola was also asked about Yaya Toure, who did not even make the bench for City's first two games - a 2-1 league win over Sunderland and a 5-0 victory away to Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League play-off round.

"I know he's trying. He loves football a lot," Guardiola said.

"I have a lot of respect for Yaya, a good relation. I know when he is going to increase a little bit his intensity without the ball, he will be part of the group, if he wants to stay."

Guardiola revealed that captain Vincent Kompany was now taking part in non-contact training as he continues his recovery from a thigh problem.

"I think he's in the last part (of the recovery process)," Guardiola said.

"I'm waiting for our doctor to say he's ready. Because I know when he's fit, how good he is."

Guardiola also revealed that Leroy Sane, a £37 million signing from Schalke, had returned to training after a hamstring problem.

The 20-year-old Germany winger is expected to return to action after the forthcoming international break.

City needed an 87th-minute Paddy McNair own goal to see off Sunderland last weekend and in Stoke's Bet365 Stadium they face one of English football's most intimidating venues.

The weather forecast for the trip to the Potteries predicts wind and rain, but Guardiola said he would relish the challenge.

"All the managers try to control as much as possible about their team, but the weather you can't control," he said.

"We're going to play with the conditions. If you want to win titles or fight for titles, you have to adapt. It's one ball, 11 v 11. You have to adjust."

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