Pep Guardiola insists he has a good relationship with Joe Hart and has not ruled out the unlikely possibility of the England goalkeeper playing in Manchester City’s Champions League playoff against Steaua Bucharest.
Pictures of the two men engaged in an animated conversation during training on Tuesday fuelled speculation that they do not see eye to eye after Hart was left on the bench for the first three games of the season.
With Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo arriving at Manchester airport on Tuesday afternoon ahead of completing a £17million move to City, Hart’s future at the Etihad appears bleak.
Asked about the photos, Guardiola said: ‘I have an excellent relationship with Joe. He is clear with me and me with him. We spoke about football. He has a chance to play, the same as Angus (Gunn) and Willy and the other ones.
‘I’ve said many times he’s our player. Until the 31st of this month, all the players here are our players, my players. I work with them like there is no end. After we will speak about everything, and the situation with Joe I have spoken about that in the last two press conferences.’
A potential move to Everton looks to have broken down after Goodison Park chiefs baulked at the prospect of a paying a total of £7m for Hart for the rest of the season, with City understood to be refusing to subsidise his £135,000-a-week wages.
Asked about any enquiries for Hart, Guardiola added: ‘I don’t know. I’m not involved to speak. I don’t know what’s going on.’
The Spaniard was also reluctant to speak about Bravo until the deal is completed, but confirmed City’s interest in signing the 33-year-old Chile international.
He added: ‘I cannot deny what everyone knows. Barcelona were the first ones a week or 10 days ago to announced the contact with Manchester City but, I’m sorry, when the deal is complete or not complete after I will be open to answer. In this moment he is not our player.’
City lead 5-0 from the first leg and are all but certain to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League. However, Guardiola is refusing to take anything for granted.
He said: ‘I have a lot of respect for the opponent and I know what happens in football. Everybody knows it’s not done until it’s done. Of course we start 5-0 so it’s almost impossible to be better than that. We are delighted about that.
‘But why wouldn’t we respect our opponent and take them seriously? We play to try to win the game.
‘I have seen many times in the Champions League, at half-time an experienced team like AC Milan 3-0 ahead and the final is done. But Liverpool won the Champions League final. That Milan was Maldini, Cafu, more experienced guys.
‘I know we have a huge advantage. Our pre-season was focussed to prepare the team especially for this game. Why would we play thinking it’s done?
‘It’s not done. It’s 90 minutes with a big advantage but I said to the players: “Sorry guys, we aren’t in the Champions League already. We are almost in the Champions League but we have to play 90 minutes and respect Steaua Bucharest and play seriously”.
‘I don’t like to play the game when people say it’s easy and it’s finished. No, a lot can happen. Maybe after 10 minutes there is a red card or a penalty. Anything can happen. So take it seriously and play the game.’