Manchester City outcast Joe Hart in England limbo after nightmare year
In the space of 12 months, Joe Hart has gone from being regarded as one of the world's leading goalkeepers to being unwanted by his club and fearing he will be ditched by England.
It's a devastating fall from grace for a goalkeeper who should be at his peak. Instead, the 30-year-old says he does not see a future at Manchester City, has yet to receive an offer from elsewhere and is now facing calls to be dumped as England's No. 1 after seven years as undisputed first choice.
Last June, there was plenty of optimism and excitement surrounding Hart. He helped City secure a Champions League place for a sixth successive season despite a largely underwhelming campaign when Manuel Pellegrini's side finished 15 points behind champions Leicester City. After being dropped early in Pellegrini's reign, he re-established himself as the City No. 1, playing in all but three of their 50 Premier League and Champions League matches as they reached the semifinals in Europe for the first time -- excelling in a narrow defeat to eventual winners Real Madrid.
Anticipation was growing at City's potential following the announcement in February of the arrival of Pep Guardiola.
England headed to the Euro 2016 on the back of a flawless qualifying campaign when they secured 10 wins out of 10; Hart conceded just five goals in 16 matches and emerged as senior figure in the England dressing room.
Sadly for him, the excitement turned sour. He was not helped when he made two dreadful errors as England embarrassingly crashed out of Euro 2016 at the round of 16 stage to Iceland.
"I've got to hold my hands up to that and I apologise for ultimately costing us the game and the tournament," he admitted after Kolbeinn Sigthorsson's winner sent England tumbling out.
Hart returned to City for their final preseason friendly, a 3-2 defeat to Arsenal in Sweden. He was a second half substitute and appeared to seal his fate in those 45 minutes. While in the first half Willy Caballero had tried to play the ball out from the back -- often with calamitous results -- Hart played it safe, hitting it long rather than playing a risky pass to a defender, contradicting what Guardiola wanted.
Six days later, City kicked off the Premier League season with Caballero in goal and before the end of the month, experienced Chile international Claudio Bravo had joined from Barcelona after Hart made what would appear to be his last-ever game for the club in a low-key Champions League victory over Steaua Bucharest.
Despite his impressive track record, Hart was short of options in the transfer window and ended up joining mid-table Italian side Torino on a season-long loan. His season in Serie A was mixed as he made some high-profile errors but was largely solid for a team that conceded more goals than any other side in the top half.
Yet there is little chance of Torino signing him permanently and Hart had the opportunity to put himself back in the domestic shop window in Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Scotland. But that went horribly wrong too, and he received heavy criticism for the way he was beaten by both of Leigh Griffiths' late free kicks in the 2-2 draw at Hampden Park.
It leaves Hart in an uncomfortable situation going into World Cup year as he faces his biggest ever battle to hold on to his England jersey. He is unlikely to receive offers from the sort of high-profile clubs he would prefer, with the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal distancing themselves from a move.
Instead, West Ham have been mentioned as a potential destination and Hart will have to take a step down if he is to reignite his career.
It's been a miserable period that must have rocked his confidence but, having spent 10 years at the top, it's one he can recover from. Now, the fight to find a new club and ensure a place in England squad to travel to the 2018 World Cup in Russia begins.
Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.