After being frozen out at Manchester City and sent on loan to Torino, the England international keeper is expected to be on the move again this summer
The general consensus is that Pep Guardiola was wrong to usher Joe Hart towards the exits within weeks of taking the managerial reins at Manchester City.
Why would a coach with no Premier League experience want to part with a two-time title winner and the undisputed number one for his country?
How can the decision to overlook a proven performer and replace him with another English top-flight novice be justified?
Well, Guardiola has a picture in his mind of how he wants the game to be played and Hart’s face did not fit.
That is his call to make and he has resolutely stood by it throughout a campaign in which Claudio Bravo has shredded the nerves of those at the Etihad and Willy Caballero more than doubled the number of Premier League appearances he had made in two previous campaigns.
Moving Hart out has been questioned on a regular basis, but is his tale one of absence making the heart grow fonder? Would he really have fared any better?
It is expected that he will be back on home soil this summer, with a season-long loan at Serie A side Torino coming to a close.
Various landing spots have been mooted, from Liverpool to Crystal Palace via Everton, Chelsea and Manchester United, but nobody has nailed their colours to the mast and admitted to actually holding an interest.
Jurgen Klopp has even gone as far as playing down the rumours linking Hart with a switch to Anfield – and he has endured similar troubles to Guardiola while watching Simon Miognolet and Loris Karius through his fingers.
The German has said: “We don’t usually talk about these sort of things but in this particular case I think we can. He is a fantastic goalkeeper, the goalkeeper of the English national team, highest quality, but we have highest-quality goalkeepers. It is not for us in this moment and hopefully not in the future – not because of Joe but because we already have two strong goalkeepers.”
Palace, meanwhile, appear to be in the running because they love a goalkeeper and seem determined to stockpile as many as possible, with Wayne Hennessey, Steve Mandanda and Julian Speroni currently on their books.
It is, however, Liverpool’s reluctance to enter into the pursuit that raises the most intriguing questions.
Klopp could, of course, be bluffing – after all, he is hardly going to show his transfer hand with the window closed.
It could, however, also be argued that he is not interested because Hart’s stock continues to slide and, having moved to one middling side last summer, he may be forced to do likewise 12 months on.
The 30-year-old has always had a mistake in him, but the error count has been ticking over at an alarming rate ever since his infamous showing for England against Iceland at Euro 2016.
Five errors leading to goals have been made in the current campaign and seven errors leading to shots, with that sorry return placing him second on the roll of shame across Europe’s top five divisions – behind only Palermo keeper Josip Posavec, who is nine years his junior and still learning his trade.
In contrast, Bravo and Caballero made just one Premier League mistake leading to a goal apiece at City, while Karius made two at Liverpool and Mignolet one.
They may have got lucky at times, with gaffes going unpunished, and faced fewer shots and crosses than a man turning out for a club sat ninth in Italy, but the numbers still do not look good.
Thibaut Courtois, meanwhile, the man setting the standard at title-winning Chelsea, did not make a single high-profile error this season and that is the level at which Hart has been accustomed to competing at.
Torino president Urbano Cairo said recently of his loanee between the sticks : “Hart made a few mistakes, especially when coming out for the ball. He is an important goalkeeper. We probably didn’t expect so many mistakes from an England international… but he did some good things, too.”
Hardly a glowing endorsement and one to suggest that Stamford Bridge or Old Trafford will be the next port of call.
Hart will unquestionably find someone willing to take him on over the course of the next few months, but whether he is now considered to be too big a risk for an elite side remains to be seen, with it possible that his time at the very top of the domestic game is now over.