Pep Guardiola insisted on Tuesday that he will continue working with Joe Hart at Manchester City, even as Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo flew in to replace the unwanted England international.
Hart has been the most high-profile victim of Guardiola’s new reign as manager of the Premier League club, with the City boss publicly announcing his preference for a goalkeeper who can play better with the ball at his feet.
Willy Caballero replaced Hart for City’s first three competitive games, all victories, that Spanish manager Guardiola has overseen.
Bravo flew in to Manchester from Barcelona on Tuesday to complete his reported £17 million ($22 million, 20 million euros) transfer from the Spanish club, a move that will see Hart, England’s undisputed first-choice goalkeeper during this year’s European Championships, relegated to third choice at the Eastlands.
Hart’s plight has been compounded because potential moves to Everton and Sevilla appear to have fallen through, at least in part due to his high salary which makes even a loan move prohibitive for many potential suitors.
“I have an excellent relationship with Joe. We are clear –- him with me, I with him. We spoke about football,” said Guardiola who was photographed talking to Hart during training ahead of City’s Champions League qualifying tie with Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday.
“So I can’t deny what everybody knows. Barcelona, seven to 10 days ago, were the first ones to announce contact with Manchester City.
“But I’m sorry guys, until the deal is complete or not complete (I can’t speak), but at the moment the player (Bravo) is not our player,” Guardiola also told reporters.
“Until August 31, all the players here are my players, and I will work with them like there is no end, so after that we can speak about everything.
“The situation with Joe, I spoke about in the last two press conferences. I am not able to speak about negotiations.
Meanwhile, Guardiola has backed forward Raheem Sterling to cope with the abuse he is receiving from opposition supporters after he was roundly booed in the weekend victory at Stoke.
Sterling suffered more than most from England’s disappointing European Championship campaign and attracted unwanted attention off the field, but Guardiola has no doubt his player will prevail.
“The fans may boo because they know how good he is,” said the manager. “He has shown us, he has shown me, that in this team he is mentally strong and can focus on his job from the beginning of the game.
“He will make good things happen for us and for the England national team, I’m pretty sure of that,” the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss added.
“When people stop talking about him for what happens off the pitch and talk about him for what happens on the pitch then everything is going well.”
The City manager has made an impressive start to the new campaign despite being without injured captain Vincent Kompany and pre-season signings Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane, although he expects the trio to be available for the Manchester derby on September 10.
“Now we have this week and then 10 days to work with them in training sessions to improve their physical condition,” said Guardiola. “Hopefully when we come back from the international break they will be fully part of our training sessions.”