MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola made it clear on Friday he will not stand in Joe Hart's way if the goalkeeper would rather leave the club than try to adapt to a new style of play.
Not only has Hart been dropped to the bench for City's first two competitive games under Guardiola, with Willy Caballero selected in his place, but Guardiola has been heavily linked with a move for Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Asked if Hart can leave, Guardiola said: "Yes, of course. I want happiness for the players," adding "I don't want the players to stay here if they don't want to stay."
However, he also indicated that all is not yet lost for Hart at City, and pointed to Eric Abidal's revival at Barcelona, where Guardiola had a hugely successful spell as coach from 2008-12.
The France left back was a year into his time at Barcelona when Guardiola took over and established the "tiki-taka" passing approach that made the Spanish club the most feared team in the world.
"I met Abidal and in the beginning, he had problems with the way we played," Guardiola said, "but at the end, he became the best left-sided defender in Europe, in my opinion.
"Fast, intelligent, strong in the air and in the build-up, he was a masterclass. But it took him time. In the beginning, it was not what we were demanding."
Hart might know the feeling.
He has lost his near decade-long place as City's first-choice goalkeeper because Guardiola doesn't believe he is good enough with his feet—which also happens to be one of Barcelona 'keeper Bravo's strengths.
"The demand on the center backs and the goalkeeper is that they have to play (with the ball at their feet)," Guardiola said. "They have to defend but also have to play."
Still, the ultra-demanding coach thinks Hart can still learn to play the Guardiola way.
"The first thing I am looking for from the goalkeeper is to save—that is the important thing. But after that, he has to be able to play with the ball, he has to be help us to create a good build-up," Guardiola said. "That is why I am here. And in the future, of course, he (Hart) can do that."
The England keeper is not alone in being dropped by Guardiola, who joined City after three seasons coaching Bayern Munich.
One-time City regulars like Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri are among other players to have been overlooked this season.
As it stands, though, Hart is set to be on the bench again for City's match at Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday.
It will be Guardiola's first away game as a coach in England and it takes him to a stadium where the conditions are notoriously windy. City has won only once at Stoke in eight attempts in the Premier League era, and Guardiola is bracing himself for a tough challenge.
"If we want to win the title and to fight for the title, you have to adapt," he said. "I don't like to complain. I don't like to have players (to) complain because the pitch wasn't good or it was too windy."