Joe Hart has been linked with a shock move to Chelsea, should the Premier League leaders lose goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid this summer. Courtois has reportedly moved ahead of Manchester United stopper David De Gea as Los Blancos' preferred target once the transfer window opens.
A report from Joe Bernstein of the Mail on Sunday detailed how Hart has come to Chelsea's attention: "Hart, who turns 30 on Wednesday, is unwanted by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, and the club will sell him for around £25 million. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has had positive reports of Hart's form from contacts in Turin, where he managed Juventus."
In this context, Hart is seen as a likely winner of the fallout from Real's proposed pursuit of either De Gea or Courtois. The 11-time European champions have been linked with both stoppers, but Bernstein has indicated one is beginning to emerge as a favourite: "Courtois has edged ahead of his United rival in the affections of Real manager Zinedine Zidane, with Chelsea willing to do business provided they can land striker Alvaro Morata from the Bernabeu."
The mention of Alvaro Morata as part of any potential deal involving Courtois moving to the Spanish capital is significant. Morata has worked with Conte in the past, when the pair both won trophies at Juventus.
The striker has even recently said he will work with Italian strategist Conte again, per Sid Lowe of the Guardian. Conte may well welcome a reunion with Morata as a way of finding support for misfiring centre-forward Diego Costa, especially since Michy Batshuayi has struggled since signing from Marseille last summer.
However, the possibility of landing Morata will ultimately still hinge on Los Merengues choosing Courtois over De Gea. The latter will certainly try to influence Real's thinking, according to Bernstein: "De Gea is determined not to let his dream move back to Madrid disappear for a second time and has made it clear to Jose Mourinho he wants to be allowed to leave Old Trafford."
Either way, it seems highly likely Hart will be available this summer. Not only are the Citizens content to rely on other options between the sticks, but Hart's loan club won't be able to keep him beyond this season.
Yet even though Hart has impressed at times this season, it hasn't all been plain sailing for the Three Lions No. 1. In fact, the 29-year-old has also been guilty of more than a few gaffes during his time in Italy, according to OptaJoe:
5 - Joe Hart has made five errors leading to goals in Serie A this season; only Josip Posavec (7) has made more. Baptism.4/15/2017, 3:02:15 PM
Even so, few would doubt Hart is a quality stopper at his best. The question is would he truly be an upgrade on Courtois?
There is no doubt the Belgian has improved mightily this season after a rocky 2015/16 campaign. Courtois has kept the joint-most clean sheets in the league, along with Tottenham Hotspur ace Hugo Lloris, in 2016/17, per the division's official website.
Chelsea and Conte's best-case scenario would be for Courtois to stay at Stamford Bridge a little longer, even if Hart wouldn't be the worst alternative.