Does Joe Hart belong at one of the ‘big four’?

By Nic Bowler

Joe Hart

Joe Hart’s goalkeeping heroics have been grabbing headlines, and rightly so. It came as no surprise then, when Fabio Capello confirmed that a seat on the plane to Cape Town this summer is a real possibility. But where does the 23-year-old’s club future lie?

Hart was an integral component of Birmingham’s record-breaking run of form in the Premier League and Alex McLeish is understandably keen to make the young keeper a permanent fixture between the St Andrew’s goalposts.

Unfortunately for Birmingham fans, noises made by the Mancini regime at Manchester City suggest that this is unlikely.

But could a move to one of the traditional ‘Big Four’ be a more realistic prospect?

Gianluigi Buffon’s £32m transfer to Juventus in 2001 raised eyebrows throughout the footballing world. Never before had such a large sum of money been paid for a young and unproven — if promising —goalkeeper. In this instance, Buffon grew into a world-class player and Juventus continue to reap the rewards of their early investment in his potential.

At the other end of the spectrum are names such as Nicky Weaver, Steve Simonsen or Scott Carson. All of these young sparks demonstrated fantastic potential early in their careers and held great expectations, but, to borrow a phrase from the world of horse-racing, neither Nicky, Steve nor Scott “trained-on” into Premier League quality players, let alone into the world-class category of Buffon.

Show-stopping performances against the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United will have surely left Rafael Benitez, Carlo Anceleotti and Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger wondering is Hart could play a part in their future plans.

However, given Manchester City’s new ownership and drive to break into English football’s elite, Hart’s signature would more than likely cost a princely sum. Perhaps not much less than the £32m Juventus paid in 2001.

But would a big-money move see Hart go down in history as the next Buffon, or would he be yet another one of football’s multi-million-pound flops?

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