What does Joe Hart's Torino move mean for his England future?
In possibly the most unforeseen transfer of the summer window, Joe Hart has signed with Italian side Torino FC on loan. Out in the cold at Manchester City due to his struggles in playing with the ball at his feet, the goalkeeper arrives in Italy in search of regular playing time in order to keep his spot as England's No. 1. Hart will likely get the playing time he needs at Torino, but the language barrier could be a big issue for the 29-year-old.
Moving to a new club is hard. There are the obvious difficulties: a whole new set of teammates, an unfamiliar coaching staff, and simply settling into a different style of play. But moving to a new club in a whole different country where you don't speak the language? It can be downright impossible. Plenty of players have gone abroad to seek their fortune at a new club, and plenty have returned, unable to pull it off.
Unless he's been secretly studying the beautiful language for years under wraps, Hart more than likely doesn't speak more than a couple words of Italian. Considering he's a goalkeeper, and one of his primary responsibilities is to organize the entire team, not speaking the language is a big obstacle in his path to being the best he can be. Now, he'll surely have a translator with him throughout and he'll definitely be enrolled in a highly intensive Italian language crash course, but still. This is a legitimate issue. Plus, let's face it: British players don't have the greatest track record when it comes to learning non-English languages. Gareth Bale still doesn't speak Spanish in interviews, and he's been in the country for nearly three years. David Beckham was at Madrid for four years, and could barely get through his farewell speech. There's a precedent here.
Simply moving to Serie A will take an adjustment, even if Hart picks up Italian at record speed. It's a completely different footballing culture, a different style and pace of play, and it's no small task to plop down in a whole different soccer world for the first time after 29 years in the same country. Add in the fact that he doesn't even have a preseason to gel with his teammates, and life could be rough.
If Hart isn't able to settle in at Torino, Stoke City's Jack Butland is most likely the man Sam Allardyce will turn to for England. At 23 years old, Butland is Stoke's undisputed first-choice goalkeeper, he's playing week in week out for a good team, and he's already earned a few caps for the national side. Butland has long been touted as the future for England in goal, and he's done little to dispel that belief aside from an injury layoff towards the end of last season. Add in the fact that Butland's playing in his native country for a team he's familiar with, and that gives him more than a little leg-up on the man whose spot he's aiming to snatch.
Despite all this though, on paper this is a good move for Hart. Torino are a fairly prestigious club in a beautiful city who play an attractive brand of soccer, and Sinisa Mihajlovic is a good coach. Hart will (presumably) get the playing time he needs to stay in England national team contention, and broadening his footballing horizons is just an added bonus. Who knows? He might even end up liking it in Italy and want to stay.
This is a strange transfer, no doubt. But when it comes down to it, it does make sense. Hart gets the playing time he needs, England's No. 1 doesn't have to waste away on the bench, and Torino get a top class goalkeeper for the free. Everything checks out, now it's just down to Hart to perform when it matters.
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