Joe Hart will captain England on Sunday and will win his 70th cap doing so, but the goalkeeper remains in the dark about his long-term club future.
Hart turns 30 next month and should be at the peak of his goalkeeping powers. He took the brave decision last summer to go to Torino on loan this season and he is loving life in Italy, learning a new culture and style of football. Playing for England is immensely important to him and he is now, with Wayne Rooney out of the picture, England’s most experienced player.
But Hart still has two years left after this one on his Manchester City contract and the chances of him playing there again are slim, at least while Pep Guardiola remains in charge. That means Hart will have to find a new club this summer and he admitted on Friday afternoon that he still does not know yet where he will be playing.
“I am not getting too wrapped up in that for the moment,” Hart said. “I am lucky enough to have people working for me on the business side of thing. My job is to try to be the best I can. Wherever I go for the start of next season I want to be at my peak, coming off the back of a good season.”
Hart wants to finish this season well for Torino then do well for England in June but he knows the hard negotiation comes after. “After that,” he said, “something has to give.”
When asked whether he would rather be back in the Premier League in the 2017-18 season, ahead of the 2018 World Cup, Hart said he did not yet have the luxury of choosing between attractive offers.
“It’s tough,” Hart said, when asked where he would like to play. “Because I cannot answer that question as if I have a host of things to choose from. I don’t. I don’t know what’s happening at the moment. I want to play to the best level I can play, that is pretty much where my head is at. At the moment I am playing in Italy for Torino and doing my best for England. That is as far as I can afford to look at the moment.”
On England duty, Hart is now the senior player which is why he will be wearing the armband on Sunday afternoon. His good friend Rooney is not in this England squad, having slipped out of the Manchester United first team. Hart reflected on how the England squad carried on without Rooney, but he sounded as if he could be discussing his own absence from Manchester City.
“You just meet up with the squad and whoever is fit and available you meet up with,” Hart said. “[Rooney] is a huge presence, but football has got this way of happening. You would probably say the same if I wasn’t in the squad. But if I wasn’t here I don’t think it would make much of a difference. We just keep going.”
Plenty has happened to Hart over the last year or so, as he had a very difficult Euro 2016 before losing his place at Manchester City. It has given him a real sense of perspective and maturity and he spoke about how he has learned not to get too up or down based on his own good or bad games.
“If I had ridden the waves of the media or what people’s opinions were, I would be a wreck,” Hart said. “You are up, you are down. You are up, you are down. I have grown into the role. In the position I am in, goalkeeper, even at Sunday League level if you let your performance at the weekend dictate your whole week and your whole life, you are going to have problems. One day you are going to be far too overconfident and the next you are not going to want to make eye contact with anyone.”