Remainer – Joe Hart can join an elite list of players if he stays in Serie A

With an excessive amount of regularity, the British press eagerly link current Torino loanee Joe Hart with any Premier League club that could potentially shoehorn a goalkeeper into their squad.

In doing so, the idea that Hart could stay in Turin and carve his name amongst an elite list of British and Irish exports who have gone on to be adored by the passionate Serie A faithful is completely disregarded.

Given the list of British and Irish players who had copious amounts of footballing ability yet failed in their  ventures into Italian football, perhaps the idea that Hart should ‘come home’ at the earliest opportunity is understandable.

But it also very much serves as a testament to Hart’s achievements this season.

Whereas Guardiola may have seen Hart’s character as a potential disruption to the City squad, it has enriched the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino.

Hart has shown maturity during his tenure in Turin, overcoming the obstacle of having a relatively feeble defence in front of him – utilising his vocal robustness and quality leadership to try and maximise the efficiency of his erratic back four.

Torino manager Sinisa Mihajlovic even stated that Hart’s “presence makes the rest of the team feel more confident”.

Although Hart has only managed five clean sheets in 28 Serie A games this season thus far, his performances have regularly rescued precious points for his Torino side.

The 29-year-old starred in score draws against AC Milan and Fiorentina. However, what most exemplifies how well Hart has performed this season is that his average match rating from the renowned Italian sports paper Gazzetta dello Sport has him outperforming fellow goalkeeping cohorts Gigi Buffon and Pepe Reina.

As mentioned above, it is commonplace for foreign players to struggle with the transition to Italian football. Undoubtedly it takes an exceptional footballer to thrive and adapt to the challenge that Serie A brings.

During his relatively short spell in Turin, Hart has not only eradicated the memories of his dismal Euro 2016, he has also potentially set himself on a path to joining an exceptional group of British and Irish players who have forged their name into Italian footballing folk law.

The Shrewsbury born shot-stopper isn’t the only British player to have become an unlikely hero in Turin.

The path that has been taken by Hart was paved in Turin, by the legendary John Charles at Juventus. The Old Lady signed the Welshman for a then British record fee of £65,000, a figure that was seen as astronomical at the time.

However, after netting 108 times in 155 games, playing a key role in three Scudettos victories and two Italian cup wins, the unmistakeable Charles proved to be worth every penny Juventus spent on him.

A year prior to Charles embarking on his Italian journey in 1957, another inconceivable future Juventus icon was born in the fair city of Dublin.

Like Charles, midfield maestro Liam Brady was cherished in Turin and eulogised throughout the whole of Italy.

Brady rode a wave of expectation into Italian football at the beginning of the 1980s, the Irishman being the first foreign player to be signed by an Italian side since the country had eradicated its farcical embargo on foreign players.

During his heartbreakingly short spell at Juventus, Brady’s exquisite left foot was cherished by the club’s passionate faithful.

He was at the heart of a Juventus team that won back-to-back league titles and went onto dominate Italian football.

Agonisingly for Brady, who had fallen in love with Juventus and Italian football, Azzuri clubs at the time were restricted to only having two foreign players in their squad.

Consequently, the incoming Michel Platini and Zbigniew Boniek meant that the Irishman’s distinguished run as the Juventus number 10 was coming to a premature end.

Nonetheless, the Dublin born midfielder continued to forge his legacy in Italy, playing in Serie A until 1987, entertaining crowds at Sampdoria, Inter Milan and Ascoli respectively.

Scouring Italian football history, successful British and Irish players appear sparingly.

However, in the 1985 season, Scotsman Graeme Souness and Englishman Trevor Francis, made sure they would be remembered forever at Sampdoria, captivating the Samp fans and playing a pivotal role in helping the Genoa based club to their first ever piece of major silverware.

Both players only had a limited spell in Italy, but their success in that memorable 1985 season at Sampdoria, means they are unlikely to ever be forgotten by the club.

The cultural change alone proved too much of an obstacle for some of the most talented players. In the late 1980s, Juventus fought off tough competition from a plethora of top clubs to make Ian Rush the most expensive British footballer.

They did so fully expecting the clinical Welshman would torment stubborn Italian defences in the same way he had done in the premier league for Liverpool.

However, Rush struggled to adapt to life in Turin, departing back to Anfield after just two years at Juventus.

All things considered, despite failing to live up to the excessively high expectations that were set for him, Rush didn’t do any damage to his footballing legacy during his brief spell in the black and white of Juventus.

Hart isn’t the only player to swap the sky blue of City, for the claret of Turin, it is relatively unpublicised that prior to joining Manchester United in 1962, the legendary Dennis Law attempted to build his career in at Torino.

Although the Ballon d’Or winning Scotsman netted ten times in 27 games for Torino, a lack of harmony between Law and the Torino hierarchy is always believed to have hampered him achieving his full potential at the club.

Law’s spell in Italy came to an abrupt end after just a season, the combative centre forward handed in a transfer request in order to have force a move Matt Busby’s Manchester United. The rest is very much history.

The only thing that appears certain about Hart’s next destination is that it won’t be at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has made that much relatively clear.

The possibility of Hart pursuing his Italian adventure further shouldn’t be dismissed so frivolously though.

Staying in Italy not only gives Hart the opportunity to cement his status as England’s number one heading into the 2018 World Cup but also provides him an opportunity to achieve memorable and unique success to set him apart from other British and Irish talent.

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