Pep Guardiola says he will not stand in Joe Hart’s way if he wants to leave Manchester City.
But the new City boss claims he can help the England international become one of the world’s best goalkeepers if he stays at the Etihad Stadium.
Hart’s future has become the subject of considerable speculation after Guardiola left the 29-year-old on the bench for City’s first two games of the season against Sunderland and Steaua Bucharest.
It is a remarkable change of fortune for Hart, who has been one of the mainstays of City’s successes in recent years and was one of their most consistent players last term.
Everton and Sevilla are reportedly monitoring the situation, while City have also been linked with other keepers.
Asked if Hart would be allowed to leave, the Catalan said: “Of course. I want happiness for the players. I don’t want the players to stay here if they don’t want to stay.
“If they want to stay, they stay. We will fight together. If they want to leave because they prefer to play every game – not only speaking about Joe, speaking about all the players at the club, the squad – (they can).
“I want to live and work with the players who want to stay. That is no doubt.”
Where will Joe Hart be playing his football this season?
Guardiola has effectively left the decision up to Hart, but has said there could be great rewards if he decides to stay and fight for his place.
He said: “If Joe stays here, he will be a player who is going to fight with other goalkeepers to convince me to play. It is simple like that.
“I said to him in the first morning if he stays he is going to improve and he is going to understand what we want from our goalkeeper.
“I have met a lot of players in the beginning who had problems, and I’m not only talking about goalkeepers. After two or three months, or even one year, (former Barcelona defender) Eric Abidal became one of the best players in his position. That can happen.”
Guardiola has made clear that he wants his goalkeeper to be able to play out from the back. At present he feels Willy Caballero is a better option.
He said: “Willy played these two games. Right now that situation is better – today – but that doesn’t mean it is going to happen in the future.
“The first thing I am looking for from the goalkeeper is to save. That is the important thing, but after that he has to be able to play with the ball, he has to be help us to create a good build-up. In the future, of course he (Hart) can do that.”
Guardiola on Toure
Hart is not the only senior player yet to feature under Guardiola with Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony and Eliaquim Mangala also apparently out of the picture.
Asked specifically about Toure, who did not even travel with City to Romania for the Champions League play-off against Steaua in midweek, Guardiola said: “I know he’s trying. I spoke with him about his situation. He loves to play football. He’s a player with huge quality.
“I’m very glad his manager (agent) said I am a good coach. Thank you, Dimitri (Seluk). I have a lot of respect for Yaya, a good relation.
“I know when he is going to increase a little bit his intensity without the ball. He will be part of the group if he wants to stay.”
City travel to Stoke this weekend and Guardiola is relishing his first trip to the bet365 Stadium, even if the weather is unkind.
“We are going to play with the conditions there,” Guardiola said at his pre-match press conference. “To fight for the title, you have to adapt. I don’t like to have players complain because the pitch wasn’t good or it was too windy.
“(On Saturday), for the first time in my life, I will go to Stoke City. Let’s go!”