September 8, 2016 8:40:19 pm
Joe Hart is settling in just fine.
The England goalkeeper trained with his Torino teammates for the first time on Wednesday and seemed already at ease. He joked around during a practice game under bright sunshine and drew cheers from the stands when he dived to make his first save.
There was even time for a thumbs-up as he left the field to more adoration from about 400 fans.
The 29-year-old Hart, who is on loan from Manchester City, is expected to make his Serie A debut at Atalanta on Sunday.
“I am very happy and curious to see Hart in Serie A,” said former Torino keeper Franco Tancredi, England’s goalkeeping coach under Fabio Capello. “For me, he is the goalkeeper who is the most `Italian’ out of all the English, the only one from the Premier League who could have made this jump.”
Traffic was brought to a standstill last week when Hart arrived to sign his contract at Torino’s headquarters. He was greeted by about 200 fans loudly chanting his name, and there were further cheers and applause when he appeared at the window holding a club jersey with his name on the back.
More than a 100 of those shirts were sold in the first few hours.
Earlier this week, Hart played in a World Cup qualifier for England against Slovakia on Monday. He didn’t even face a shot, but the question over his distribution capabilities remain after he miskicked his first clearance and played another one straight out of play.
Those are the reasons he was allowed to leave City, with manager Pep Guardiola believing new signing Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero to be better at playing out from the back.
Former City manager Roberto Mancini, who is not currently coaching but worked with Hart during three of his four years in charge, was hesitant to criticize Guardiola but said the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona coach may have made the wrong decision.
“I don’t know why he decided that. Every coach has his own ideas,” Mancini said. “At Torino, Joe will be able to relaunch himself.
“Despite his age he will be able to improve further because our trainers are very good. And moreover the experience will certainly help him do well.”
Torino opened the season with a 3-2 loss at AC Milan but bounced back with a 5-1 win over Bologna before the international break.
Hart is the first English goalkeeper to play in Serie A since the league’s inception in 1929. Tancredi called Hart “the signing of the transfer window” in an interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa.
“Hart has always been fascinated with the great Italian academy of goalkeepers,” said Tancredi, who rated Hart as one of the top five goalkeepers in the world, along with Juventus great Gianluigi Buffon.
The first meeting between the two will be on Dec. 11, when Torino hosts its city rival.
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