Pep Guardiola has few questions to answer as a football manager, but even he would have had cause for discomfort as his Manchester City side kicked off their pre-season against Borussia Dortmund.
New signing Riyad Mahrez rightly hogged the headlines in his first appearance since a £60million move from Leicester in what was an otherwise forgettable International Champions Cup fixture.
But there was an undertone of awkwardness for Guardiola, who was forced to come face-to-face with two of his more significant failures during his two years at the Ethiad Stadium: losing Jadon Sancho and failing to sell Joe Hart.
Pep Guardiola stands on the sidelines during Manchester City’s game with Borussia Dortmund
Sancho played the second half against the side he turned his back on in search of more senior football last summer and was one of Dortmund’s brightest sparks during a 1-0 victory. The fact that the 18-year-old was coming up against Mahrez meant he went into the game motivated to prove his worth.
Indeed, with a bottomless pit of money available to Guardiola and pressure to win, Sancho believed he would never be given the time to fulfil his talent. Still, it takes a confident man to turn down the chance to work with the game’s most reputable coach.
His self-worth shone through in his post-match interview as he told reporters: ‘I had a point to prove and I think I did well in the game. I want to have a great season with goals, assists, and help the team win and carry the team sometimes and I can help the team.’
And he appears to have an excellent chance of being a prominent figure under new head coach Lucien Favre. The flying winger finished his debut Bundesliga season with seven starts and became the youngest Englishman ever to score in the division when he netted against Bayer Leverkusen in April.
Favre recently described him as ‘an extremely good player’ with ‘exceptional potential’.
Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortmund’s No 7, turned his back on Guardiola last summer
The 18-year-old (left) took a big gamble by leaving Manchester City, but it’s paying off so far
Meanwhile, Manchester City’s Phil Foden, 18, is still fighting to get more first-team action
Meanwhile, the arguably more talented Phil Foden failed to start a single Premier League game as Manchester City strolled to the tile. The prodigious midfielder instead had to spend much of his time acting as a ringer at Under-23 level, scoring six goals and assisting five more in just nine appearances.
Guardiola has always insisted that Foden has a future at the club and has taken every opportunity to wax lyrical about his talent. At the same time, he pursued a deal for Napoli’s Jorginho, a very similar midfield player who eventually joined Chelsea.
That suggests the impetus remains on signing the ready-made article and perhaps reveals that Mahrez would have been heading to the Etihad Stadium regardless of whether Sancho was still there or not.
On the other end of the scale was the reappearance of Hart in a Manchester City shirt. Unlike Sancho, Guardiola has been actively trying to sell the goalkeeper since arriving at the club two summers ago.
Two lacklustre loan spells at both Torino and West Ham have decimated not only his reputation but also his transfer value. Had Manchester City cashed in two years ago, they would have got big money. Now, they could part with him for as little as £5m.
Joe Hart played for Manchester City two seasons after Guardiola told him he had no future
The English goalkeeper may be keen to leave Manchester City, but is still waiting for offers
Hart would have been more surprised than anyone when he was invited on their pre-season tour of America, although it appears he may be there simply to make up the numbers rather than being a final chance to change Guardiola’s mind.
His fall from grace, which saw him left out of England’s World Cup squad, means he would fit perfectly on the Manchester City bench, but Hart doesn’t seem like the man to give up on a career that once looked to be heading for the stars.
Guardiola is not the ruthless type that will throw Hart out of the dressing room, as Jose Mourinho once did with Bastian Schweinsteiger. Yet, a man who demands only the best, he will also not entertain the idea of playing him in a match that matters.
Until Hart finds a new club — Chelsea are the latest to consider a move — the pair are stuck in an awkward situation where both wish to put a line under a relationship that never developed.
Speaking before the match, Guardiola said: ‘Joe is our player, so in that situation he is here and we are going to try (to find) a solution for him, for the best for him. If not, he will stay here.
‘He is a player who is one of the most incredible professionals I have ever met. He is training like a young guy, 18 years old. I know it is not easy for him, what happened in the last period.
‘But he is with us.’
Guardiola will be keen to get Hart off the books despite him being a luxurious No 2 goalkeeper