Manchester City 1, Steaua Bucharest 0 (Agg: 6-0)
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola paid tribute to “legend” Joe Hart but confirmed that the out-of-favour goalkeeper may have played his last game for the club on Wednesday night.
Guardiola, having pointedly omitted Hart for his first three games, made him captain for what was effectively a dead rubber as City cruised past Steaua Bucharest and into the Champions League group stage.
Midfielder Fabian Delph headed the only goal, though the crowd’s affection was directed more towards Hart, who savoured what felt like his City farewell.
Guardiola spoke fondly about Hart’s achievements but insisted he had made up his mind to recruit a replacement, and revealed that Claudio Bravo’s move from Barcelona was all but done.
“I know that Joe is a legend, I know how important he is for this club, I know what he did in this club. He’s part of the history – he’s still part of the history because he is our player,” said Guardiola.
“But he knows. He knows when I arrived, my decisions, what I think about that position, and that’s all. I am so happy with his performance, and I like a lot when the people support him, and how important it is. There’s no doubt about that.”
Hart refused to be drawn on whether his destination had already been decided, amid links with loan moves to Everton, Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund.
“This is a special place for me, I don’t think there’s ever been any secret made of that, and it’s a place I love to be. But situations occur in football and we’re men, we get on with it,” he said.
“Tonight was really nice. I really appreciate the people at Manchester City and it turns out they appreciate me, so that’s a nice feeling.”
Delph headed in from a Jesus Navas right-wing cross in the 56th minute to seal a 6-0 aggregate win and ensure City will be in Thursday’s Champions League group stage draw.