Five Hart replacement options for City

Posted by David Mooney

Oh, Joe. What's going wrong? What's happened to the unbeatable Joe Hart? The man who was unflappable? The guy who virtually single-handedly kept Borussia Dortmund at bay? Where's he gone?

Because whoever is in between the sticks for Manchester City right now is a shadow of the man whose saves played a huge part in the club's title win of 2012.

City were always on the backfoot against Bayern Munich and were truly outclassed by what -- if there's any justice in the world of football -- should be the eventual Champions League winners. That said, the Blues did shoot themselves in the foot three times, gifting the visitors their chances to score.

Now, I'm a fully paid-up member of the goalkeepers' union. I know all too well what goes through a goalkeeper's head when he's made a mistake. He knew he'd had a bad night -- when walking through the mixed zone at the Etihad after last night's match, his response to whether he would answer journalists' questions: "Not tonight, lads."

I'm a big fan of the City goalkeeper and have defended him for the past 12 months, but he's making it increasingly difficult to do that, as uncharacteristic mistakes are becoming characteristic. But should the club wish to apply some pressure to the England international -- as the question is, once again, raised as to how much competition Costel Pantilimon provides -- there are some options City could look at this January.

Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)
Perhaps an obvious place to start given that David Platt confirmed he and Roberto Mancini had been looking at the Stoke goalkeeper. They had anticipated the need for competition for Hart, and the Bosnian would definitely provide it.

He's put in some brilliant displays so far this season, none moreso than in the opening weekend, as he constantly repelled Liverpool's attempts to score in a man-of-the-match performance. He's been going from strength to strength for some time and would certainly be a viable option.

Thibaut Courtois (Atletico Madrid, loan from Chelsea)
Courtois would be a difficult target perhaps, but one who has been impressing in Spain for the last two-and-a-bit seasons. Bizarrely, I'm having to eat my own words here because I had seen a lot of the Belgian while he was at his first senior club, Racing Genk -- one of my closest friends supports Genk and he bet me that Courtois would be Chelsea's No. 1 before his contract expired. I thought he was too shaky and unreliable. The spell in Spain has helped him no end and he's developing into a fine goalkeeper, looking solid and putting in consistently good performances.

I think the only way I'd win this bet now is if City were to be successful in making a bid and stealing him from under Chelsea's nose -- the question is whether Chelsea would sell, though, with Petr Cech not getting any younger.

Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
The Spanish international would be more of a short-term option at age 32, but this could be more of a "kick-up-the-backside" move for Hart. Casillas was dropped under Jose Mourinho last season and has had something of a turbulent relationship with Real Madrid since.

However, it might way take a monumental force to prise Casillas away from Madrid -- and it might not represent value for money for City in the long run.

Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray)
According to reports, the Uruguayan has been catching the eye of several Premier League clubs and, at 27, he's entering what should be the prime of his career. Lauded as a goalkeeper who can deal with crosses comfortably -- an area with which Hart has struggled in recent weeks, especially at corners -- Muslera might be a good option for the Blues.

However, if there is one aspect of his game that might put Manuel Pellegrini off chasing his signature is Muslera's ability to drop a clanger -- he can be error-prone from time to time, something for which Hart has been on the receiving end of heavy criticism.

Samir Handanovic (Inter Milan)
England fans might remember Handanovic from the 2010 World Cup, as the Slovenian international was between the sticks during our 1-0 win in South Africa. It was a fine display, as he made sure it was a nervy finish to the game for the three lions, pulling off several great saves from Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Jermain Defoe.

While he didn't have his best season last year, he saved Inter's blushes on a number of occasions and racked up 12 clean sheets in what was a disappointing season for the Italian club. He's another who's entering that peak of his career, and it won't be a cheap move for City should they pursue him, given he joined the Serie A side in summer 2012.

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