Manuel Pellegrini has cast doubt over Joe Hart’s immediate future by suggesting he may be dropped for Manchester City’s upcoming game with Norwich.
As reported by Sam Cunningham of the Daily Mail, the Chilean boss confirms he has a major decision to make:
I think that we will talk tomorrow (about the team selection). One goalkeeper can play but the other will have our full support. We will think about it.
When pushed further about whether Hart or Costel Pantilimon will start the Premier League game, Pellegrini bluntly responded: "I have just told you I will think about that tomorrow."
Such a turn of events has been coming for Hart.
The England No. 1, who played a major role in Manchester City’s 2011-12 title-winning campaign, has suffered inconsistent form since lifting the Premier League trophy.
His errors have already cost the Etihad team points this season. Most recently, his mistake against Chelsea saw Fernando Torres wrap up a late 2-1 win for City’s title rivals.
Pantilimon played 90 minutes in the Sky Blues’ 2-0 Capital One Cup win over Newcastle.
The Romanian performed admirably and made three key saves with the score at 0-0. At 6’7”, his imposing figure could be difficult for Hart to move should the 26-year-old be afforded a run of games in the first-team.
Edin Dzeko was full of praise for the giant goalkeeper, per Cunningham’s report, saying: "He was great, he’s been working hard in training. It’s his second clean sheet in the Capital One Cup so he’s definitely improving."
Pellegrini’s decision could reverberate further than the Manchester City camp.
Should Pantilimon take up residency between the sticks and establish himself with a run of performances, Hart’s place in the England side will also come under threat.
The likes of Fraser Forster and John Ruddy are waiting for an opportunity with the Three Lions. Roy Hodgson is unlikely to select an individual who isn’t playing at club level, ensuring the next few weeks could be the most important of Hart’s career.
One thing's for sure: every time Hart makes an appearance, he will be heavily scrutinised by the fans, press, and indeed, his manager.