Costel Pantilimon is expected to start Manchester City’s next match away to Newcastle on Wednesday night. This is nothing new. Pantilimon has started the majority of City's cup ties in recent seasons. However, providing he comes through the match without any glaring deficiencies being exploited, many observers expect him to start his first league match for City on Saturday at home to Norwich. It would seem Manuel Pellegrini’s patience with Hart's poor form may have evaporated.
Hart’s list of errors is long. Too long to be an automatic choice, despite the lack of strong competition he faces. Two goals against Bayern, a couple at Cardiff, the winning goals in matches away at Aston Villa and Chelsea—all can be attributed to Hart, and that’s before we go back and look at last season.
Rarely has a player’s confidence collapsed quite so spectacularly. Only the situation with Fernando Torres, who went from the most feared No. 9 in Europe to a broken man almost immediately after his £50 million move to Chelsea, compares in terms of drastic deterioration of form.
Iker Casillas, a World Cup winner with a reputation as being one of the top three goalkeepers in Europe, is no longer the No. 1 at Real Madrid and hasn’t been since last season. He lost his place to Diego Lopez toward the end of Jose Mourinho’s crumbling tenure, and Carlo Ancelotti’s appointment has done little to change that.
Ancelotti has adopted the rather odd policy of playing Casillas in Champions League matches and Lopez in La Liga. Three starts so far this season isn’t what Casillas deserves, and he will surely be looking at his options ahead of the January transfer window.
City would be foolish not to look at the possibility of bringing Casillas in. Casillas has a gentleman’s agreement with Madrid president Florentino Perez, according to talkSPORT reports, that means the ‘keeper can leave the Bernabeu if he hasn’t recovered his standing as Madrid’s No. 1 by January.
Arsenal are also thought to be interested in signing him, but with Wojciech Szczesny performing exceptionally well, Arsene Wenger, known for his prudence, may opt to stick with what he’s got.
Casillas is largely unparalleled in the modern game in terms of experience. He has over 150 caps for Spain and is winner of a World Cup and two European Championships as well as two Champions Leagues and five La Liga titles. His reputation sees him considered as one of the all-time great goalkeepers, and rightly so.
At 32, most of his career is now behind him, but he can realistically be expected to offer at least another three years at the top given the opportunity.
Victor Valdes is another high-profile Spanish goalkeeper potentially on the move. His contract expires in the summer, and he seems certain to move on, and James Dickenson of the Express has credited Monaco with strong interest. The report also suggests Barcelona have already lined up his replacement, with a deal for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Borussia Monchengladbach’s 21-year-old ‘keeper, apparently already done.
Valdes is an underrated ‘keeper who has been consistently excellent for years. His reputation as a flapper is unjustified, and his height (he's just six feet tall) has rarely caused him a problem thanks to his agility.
City could do much worse than pursue his signature. His confidence and commanding presence is the antithesis of Hart's game right now, and he would slot straight in at City. He is 31 years old, but his performances this season are proof that he is still very much on top his game. He's a fine 'keeper.
For City fans who remember Joe Hart’s excellence during their FA Cup and title-winning campaigns, considering replacing him still seems odd. He was supremely confident and playing so well it seemed City were dead set to have one of Europe’s top goalkeepers in their ranks for years to come. However, his dramatic collapse over the last 18 months can no longer be ignored, and a replacement has to be considered.
Spain’s top two goalkeepers are seemingly available. I would suggest going and getting one of them.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.