Where does Joe Hart go from Burnley?
Beckground image: Adam Haworth, CC BY 2.0
Burnley goalkeeper Joe Hart was an unused substitute for the 11th consecutive Premier League game on Sunday, watching on as the Clarets slumped to defeat at Anfield. Dropped after conceding five goals against Everton on Boxing Day, the 31-year-old's Turf Moor future sinks in doubt.
Hart’s deal at Burnley expires in 2020. It’s looking unlikely he’ll be handed a contract extension when he can't command a starting place. The former Manchester City goalkeeper won’t want to waste his final season at Turf Moor as a No.2 to Tom Heaton or Nick Pope. He faces a big decision in the summer.
Dramatic career decline
After Pep Guardiola considered him surplus to requirements at City, Hart joined Torino on loan for the 2016/17 season. He made 37 appearances for the Serie A outfit, conceding 64 goals, keeping only five clean sheets.
He joined West Ham on loan the following campaign but didn’t fare much better, surrendering 30 goals in 14 Premier League games before losing his place.
Despite his obvious decline, Sean Dyche took a gamble on Hart, bringing the former England international to Burnley to compete with Tom Heaton and Nick Pope for a starting place this past summer. Hart claimed the number one role between the sticks in the season's first half. Dyche made a change after Hart shipped 41 goals in 19 games, shutting out only four sides.
What should Hart do this summer?
The veteran stopper finds his career at a crossroads. Since leaving City, he yields nearly two goals per game, 142 in 74. Torino declined to extend his loan. West Ham and Burnley dropped him. Finding another Premier League club won't be easy. He took a pay cut from his £120k-per-week wages before joining the Clarets. His numbers don't justify such an expenditure for another club.
A player like Hart won’t settle for a secondary role just to stay in the English top-flight. His future at Turf Moor could rest on him being given assurances about playing time by Dyche. He could move abroad again or drop down to the Championship.
His international career all but ended when he turned 30. His final Three Lions cap came in November 2017. But few could imagine Hart would devolve into one of the worst keepers in Europe's top five divisions. Only four keepers from those 98 clubs pick the ball from their goal more often.
Dyche was open to selling Hart in January. A move didn’t materialise. Major League Soccer has been raised as another possibility. Wayne Rooney revived his career at DC United.
Heaton and Pope will compete for the Clarets' number one role next season. Hart only complicates matters.
For a player who made 75 caps for England while winning two league titles and three domestic cups for Manchester City, a career in freefall both shocks and saddens. The former Chesterfield man shares the record for most Golden Glove awards in the Premier League with four but his career is now badly tarnished.