Torino and England goalkeeper Joe Hart said Friday he has no hard feelings towards Pep Guardiola despite being unceremoniously forced out at Manchester City and replaced by Claudio Bravo from Barcelona.
Hart, who joined City as a teenager in 2006, signed for the unfashionable Serie A club on a season-long loan deal designed to make sure he is “playing regular football again”.
Hart began his Serie A career with a 2-1 defeat away at Atalanta last weekend — he was at fault for one of the goals — a far cry from the razzmatazz of the world-famous Premier League.
But the 29-year-old shot-stopper, who suffered huge criticism for the 2-1 defeat to Iceland that sent England crashing out of Euro 2016, said he felt no bitterness towards new City boss Guardiola.
“It was fairly obvious to everyone,” Hart told media when asked about the circumstances surrounding his high-profile divorce from City. Asked if Guardiola had been honest with him, Hart said: “He was open with me.”
He added: “Football’s football… and it resulted in me looking for a new club and, as I said, I’m very happy to be where I am at the moment.
“I absolutely love to play football and it looked like my options were limited (at City). It was an easy decision for me.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity and I’m proud and happy to be here. I’m looking forward to hopefully having a good season.”
Expected to return to the Etihad stadium at the end of the current campaign, Hart has fully embraced the Italian culture.
He started his press conference at Torino’s Stadio Olimpico by speaking a few words of Italian.
And although he has yet to receive any welcome messages from his opposite number at city rivals Juventus, legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, Hart said he wants to make the most of an experience “few English players” get the chance to have.
“I was looking for an experience outside of English football,” added Hart. “Every day at City I trained with players from all over the world who’ve managed to make the move to England. So for me it was an amazing opportunity to experience a new style of football.
“I feel confident I can come over here to learn the language and embrace the culture.
“To get the opportunity to try a new league, which a lot of English players don’t get the chance to do, was too good an opportunity to turn down.”
– Coy on City –
Although happy to talk about Torino, Hart was more coy when asked about City.
He said he did not watch the Manchester derby last weekend, won by City, because “I was training. I’m pretty limited to what I can watch in my hotel room”.
And, amid concerns his England place could now be at risk, Hart insisted his focus was only on improving his game.
“Goalkeeping in football is ever-evolving. I’m very open-minded to improve and learn every day,” said Hart.
“I play football because I love football. Playing regular football is the most important thing for me. I love playing for my country… but it’s an ambition of mine to play first-team football.
“My options at City were limited so I’m very grateful to be here. I’m only on loan here and, technically, I’m supposed to go back to City.
“But my focus is on playing for Torino. The (long-term) future will take care of itself but my future is here, it’s on Sunday when we play Empoli.”
Hart was one of several England players lambasted for their poor performance against Iceland in France earlier this summer.
But he said he is used to the flak: “People say bad things about me every single day, but football is about opinions and I don’t take things too personally.”