MLS, Celtic and the Championship: Where Next for Joe Hart?

Joe Hart Burnley

England's former number one is without a club

"I don't have a football club," Joe Hart told the BBC as he spoke confidently on his next move.

The Englishman has been released by Burnley after a two-year battle with compatriots Nick Pope and Tom Heaton. Now, at 33 years of age and four seasons after Pep Guardiola threw him out of Manchester City, the former England number one is officially a free agent on the search.

Truthfully, it has been one of the most dramatic downfalls ever witnessed in English football. For a man who was once considered amongst the very best in the world to now be sat without a club and wondering if anyone will invest in him is hard to believe.

Hart has two Premier League titles and holds a record four Golden Gloves, three of which were won consecutively - Petr Cech is the only man to ever match his four awards in Premier League history. As well as this, the former City star is England's joint second-most capped keeper of all-time as he sits with 75 caps alongside David Seaman, with Peter Shilton the only man ahead of them.

Today, however, Hart would be fortunate to crack the top 10 of best English shot-stoppers out there across the Premier League and the Championship. It really is a bewildering series of events how someone once put in the bracket with Manuel Neuer has ended up here within just a few years.

Here, we take a look at where next for the Englishman, with the MLS, Championship and even a Premier League return mentioned as potential destinations.

A move to Celtic could give his Premier League career some hope

If there is ever a place to regain some confidence between the sticks, it's with Celtic. The Hoops have been the most dominant team over in Scotland for a decade now and it's rare that they don't keep a clean sheet on the domestic front.

In fact, as Celtic charged towards a ninth title in a row, the club conceded just 19 goals from 30 games in the Scottish Premiership, after they let in only 20 from 38 matches last campaign.

The standard in the SPFL is, of course, drastically different to what Hart has experienced in the Premier League. But considering his plummet down the rankings, the Scottish top-flight is perhaps the perfect place to resurrect his career as an elite keeper.

The likes of Fraser Forster, Artur Boruc and David Marshall are just a few keepers in recent times to perform well for Celtic and earn moves to the Premier League. Should Hart want a place at a top club again, finding his form with the Hoops is without question his best bet, just like the aforementioned keepers once did.

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Time to live the american dream?

At 33, and considering the rising talent of English keepers, Hart's career with the Three Lions is all but finished. In truth, it will take a miraculous spike in form on his behalf and a catastrophic demise from the likes of Dean Henderson, Pope and Jordan Pickford for Gareth Southgate to even think about handing Hart the number one shirt again.

With this said, perhaps it's time to pack up and head for America. All due respect to the MLS, but there can be no arguing that it is the place European stars move to when it is all over in their homeland.

Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and most recently, former Manchester United star Javier Hernandez, are just a handful of names to see the MLS as a sweet retirement home. Even former Premier League keepers Brad Guzan and Tim Howard have left England behind to play for an American side once it was all over, so perhaps it's time for Hart do the same.

As of now, there are no MLS clubs immediately seeking the signature of the 33-year-old. Plus, it does need to be remembered how the MLS have a Designated Player (DP) rule, which allows clubs to sign only three players above the maximum salary cap. For example, Wayne Rooney was one when he signed for D.C United, as was Zlatan Ibrahimovic with LA Galaxy.

In reality, someone of Hart's experience might fall into this category, meaning he'll either have to take a pay cut, or hope that a team chooses him as one of their DPs. Regardless, it probably is time for Hart to head for the MLS as at his age, as his England and Premier League career seems done and dusted.

Go live the American Dream, Joe. You've certainly earned it after a fabulous career at City.

The Championship remains his most sensible choice

Ex-City shot-stopper and current goalkeeper coach of Derby County, Shay Given, has recently stated that "there'll be a lot of clubs looking at Joe Hart."

With this said, these 'clubs' will probably be capped at the top end of the Championship and a move to the Premier League is pretty unlikely. In truth, most clubs in and around the promotional spots are pretty satisfied with their goalkeeping options.

Kiko Casilla of Leeds United, Sam Johnstone of West Bromwich Albion, David Raya of Brentford and Brice Samba of Nottingham Forest are just a selection of keepers potentially heading for the top-flight, who are perhaps better than Hart right now.

For this reason, clubs outside of the play-off places, such as Derby, might desire someone of Hart's calibre between the sticks, as Ben Hamer and Kelle Roos fail to cement themselves as the Rams' number one.

There are also clubs, like Blackburn Rovers, who have had to settle for keepers like Christian Walton, who has been brought in on a loan spell from Brighton & Hove Albion - they will surely keep tabs on Hart for their number one spot, as he is on a free.

Of course, the ex-Torino man will have to take a drastic pay cut from his days at City if he is to make it in the Championship. However, considering his terrible form since 2016, he barely has a leg to stand on within these discussions and he should take what he can get.

The Premier League seems too far gone

Hart has had tough stints at both Burnley and West Ham United since being forced out of City and it's now pretty hard to justify his worth in the top-flight anymore.

Furthermore, even clubs as low down as Norwich City are fairly satisfied with their number one in Tim Krul, whilst Tom Heaton remains Aston Villa's main man when fully fit and he has already shoved Hart out of a team once before.

With the likes of Ben Foster at Watford, Martin Dubravka at Newcastle United and Aaron Ramsdale at Bournemouth, to name a few, it's tough to see how any top-flight club really needs the Englishman anymore. And, if they do desire the former England keeper, is it really worth the gamble?

Sheffield United are perhaps one club which may look at Hart, in the sense that Henderson could move back to Manchester United and leave the number one spot open at Bramhall Lane. Although, in reality, Chris Wilder might now want to gamble on Hart if the Blades boss wants to keep up a fight inside the top half of the Premier League next season.

In truth, a Premier League return is both unlikely and not so wise if the Englishman wants to reestablish himself as a force to be reckoned with. The Championship or Celtic are the places to go if Hart wants to reignite his form, or, he should head to the MLS for a sweet, sunny ease into retirement.

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