Examining Manchester City's Keeper Options for the Future
Joe Hart's unchallenged status as first-choice goalkeeper for Manchester City has come under increasing scrutiny this season after a series of wobbly moments.
The mix up with Matija Nastasic at Chelsea that led to the winning goal for the London club was the straw that broke the camel's back as far as Manuel Pellegrini was concerned.
For now, Hart has been replaced by Costel Pantilimon, who has been biding his time since joining in August 2011 outside of a few cup appearances.
The question is, what is the future between the sticks for City?
Is Hart to regain his spot? Is Pantilimon to keep him at bay? Will one of the media's supposed transfer targets come to pass?
Let's ponder the options.
The 31-year-old Spain international has told Barcelona he is quitting the Nou Camp this summer, per the Daily Mirror, leading to chatter that City will make a move for the man who wants to supplant Iker Casillas as his country's No. 1.
Valdes will be well-known to City's former Barca-employed hierarchy in chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain, he's seemingly available and City have the resources to fund a move—hence the speculation.
Pellegrini will have seen a bit of Valdes up close and personal in La Liga. If—and that's a big if—he really wants an experienced new keeper, then Valdes fits that description.
According to the Daily Star, Pellegrini is looking to former club Malaga for a Hart replacement.
Specifically, Los Boquerones No. 1 Willy Caballero.
Jeremy Cross says City have "admitted defeat" in their pursuit of Valdes, so Caballero fits the bill.
At 32, the Malaga man is in the prime of life for a goalkeeper. With his links to the City boss, he makes sense as a target.
Casillas has been on the sidelines at Real Madrid this season, bar a few Champions League appearances. However, many believe the Spain international should be starting for Los Blancos.
Bleacher Report's own Samuel Marsden summed up the situation by listing three reasons Casillas should be restored to the first team.
As long as City have money, and as long as players like Casillas appear available, stories such as these are bound to hang around.
Is the lanky Romanian a viable option in the long term?
Having made an impression against City for Timisoara in the Europa League, he moved to the club a year later and was subsequently grilled by the club's inquisitive CityTV crew and interviewer.
He only ever felt like a decent No. 2 in case something drastic ever happened to Hart—not someone to really push the England international with the fear of losing his place to someone of proven quality, as was the case when Shay Given was around.
Even so, Pantilimon has now found his way into the starting lineup.
After the easiest of easy rides against Norwich, he and the rest of his team had a tough time at Sunderland, where his positioning could have been better for the goal that saw City defeated.
The question is, will Pellegrini stick with him after the international break?
The Daily Star says Roy Hodgson will pick Joe Hart for one of the forthcoming friendlies against Chile and Germany. Therefore, he will at least have had some match practice by the time City return to training afterwards.
Pellegrini said Hart needed "a rest" when explaining why he'd dropped him, per BBC Sport.
Known for his man-management, the Chilean seemed to genuinely want the best for his player. Compare and contrast that with the abrasive Roberto Mancini, who threatened Hart with the axe in February, per Sky Sports.
It's tough to call whether Hart will be back for the game against Tottenham. Pellegrini gives away very little in his few utterances to the media—unlike his predecessor—but is sure to be grilled on the matter beforehand.
What he says—or does not say—in the lead up to Spurs will provide a few crumbs on whether Hart's time on the sidelines is over.
What do you think of City's options in goal? Who do you think should be the Blues' keeper? Let us know @br_uk on Twitter.