ETIHAD STADIUM, MANCHESTER — Writing for Mirror Football Monday, Alan Nixon claimed Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is prepared to let Joe Hart leave on loan in January. Nixon believes Hart could be sent to Stoke for the remainder of the season, with Asmir Begovic moving in the opposite direction for a fee of £15 million.
However, at Tuesday’s press conference at the Etihad Stadium, where Pellegrini addressed the media ahead of Wednesday night’s Champions League match with Viktoria Plzen, the City boss insisted Hart won’t be moving anywhere in the next transfer window.
“There is a lot of news about five, six, seven goalkeepers that we want to buy, but it’s not true. Of course he stays. There is no chance for Joe Hart to go out from this squad in January.”
Despite Hart's startling loss of form over the past 12 months, it would be premature to get rid of him, certainly on a permanent basis. That's not to say bringing in a goalkeeper to strengthen City's hand in the short-term isn't the right thing to do, but Begovic is not City's best option.
For now, a player like Julio Cesar—experienced, excellent and available on a free, as per David Wright of the Daily Star—would be the ideal player to come to City and provide competition for Hart. He is a brilliant goalkeeper capable of pulling off miraculous saves, and he has played at the highest level during his time with Inter Milan and with the Brazilian national side.
He has a point to prove after the debacle of his time at Queens Park Rangers, where he was part of a relegated side and then dropped by Harry Redknapp in the Championship. Redknapp has made him available on a free, and Manchester City should offer him a six-month contract.
He is eligible for the Champions League, and with a World Cup in his home country looming, he will be extra motivated to play well between now and the summer.
Costel Pantilimon isn't good enough to provide the kind of competition City and Hart need, and a move for Cesar would rectify that.
If in the summer it is decided a longer-term option is needed—a permanent replacement for Hart—City should opt for Victor Valdes, the Barcelona goalkeeper set to leave in the summer when his contract runs out, as per Steve Bates of Mirror Football. It's rare a goalkeeper of his calibre is available for nothing, and City should attempt to capitalise.
However, the ideal scenario for City would be Cesar helping them through the next six months while Hart rediscovers his excellent form of old.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise stated.
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