Guardiola casts doubt on Hart's future at Man City

FILE - In this Monday, June 27, 2016 file photo, England goalkeeper Joe Hart walks on the pitch during the Euro 2016 round of 16 soccer match between England and Iceland, at the Allianz Riviera stadium in Nice, France. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has cast doubt on whether goalkeeper Joe Hart remains part of the club’s long-term plans. Asked how central Hart was to City on Friday, Aug. 12, Guardiola said he is happy with the England international’s “behavior and what he means to this club” before adding “after, we are going to decide inside the doors. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, file)

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola casts doubt on whether goalkeeper Joe Hart remains part of the club's long-term plans

MANCHESTER, England — After an offseason of heavy spending, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is to set about trimming his squad — and one player whose future could be in doubt is goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Guardiola was asked Friday how central Hart was to City and the England international was hardly given a ringing endorsement.

"I'm so happy about his qualities, his behavior, what he means to this club," Guardiola said. "After, we are going to decide inside the doors (of the club). Now, he is a player of us."

City has been linked with a move for goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who plays for Guardiola's former club Barcelona and is more comfortable than Hart with the ball at his feet. It's a quality that Guardiola likes in a goalkeeper, so attacks can be built from the back.

Hart has been with City since 2006, and is England's undisputed No. 1. However, he had a disappointing campaign for England during the European Championship, blamed for two of the goals conceded — including Iceland's winner in the embarrassing last-16 exit to the smallest nation in the competition.

Guardiola said he would be busy shuffling his squad until the last day of the transfer window, with one of the priorities getting the numbers down from the "28 or 29" he says he has at his disposal. Samir Nasri and Wilfried Bony could also be set to leave City, having been left off the squad for the upcoming Champions League playoff against Steaua Bucharest.

"We have to reduce our squad," Guardiola said.

City has spent around $200 million this offseason in signing eight players — the latest being center back John Stones from Everton for a fee of $62 million on Tuesday.

Stones is another technically gifted player. And while doubts have been cast about his defensive qualities, Stones is the type of ball-player that Guardiola likes having at center back.

"With his ability to build up (play), with his intelligence to read the next step, the next pass, behind the line, I think he is a good, good, good player so we are happy to have him," Guardiola said.

Stones may be handed his debut against Sunderland on Saturday, in Guardiola's first competitive game in charge of City.

"Of course, there is a lack of time, it's true," Guardiola said. "But he reads the game. The people who are intelligent, they read exactly what is going on, what they have to do. John Stones, that is why we took him. I think he's ready."

City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak visited the club this week, and chatted to the new players during training. He will be at Etihad Stadium for the Sunderland game, which begins possibly the most exciting era in City's history.

City is the favorite to win the Premier League title, but Guardiola doesn't expect the team to be at its best immediately.

"To create something, we need time, to create something with ideas to attack we need time," he said. "But to play with soul and something inside, we don't need time.

"Tomorrow we don't know if everyone is going to play good or if we will get the result, but I will not accept not playing with soul. We can do that from the first day."

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