Joe Hart, rated at €12m (£10.7m) by Transfermarkt, would have big expectations when he joined West Ham United on a season-long loan deal from Manchester City last summer.
The 30-year-old had fallen out of favour under Pep Guardiola and already been sent out on a temporary basis to Torino, and he would have had a big point to prove that not only did he still have the ability to be a top-class Premier League goalkeeper, but perhaps he even had a future at the Etihad Stadium between the sticks if he really excelled.
Those wouldn’t have been the only targets for the stopper though, with the 2018 World Cup less than a year away when he moved to the London Stadium last summer.
While he has been the undoubted England number one for many years now, the development of keepers like Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Tom Heaton was putting his starting spot under Gareth Southgate under scrutiny, and he knew he had to perform well for the Irons in order to leave the Three Lions with no choice on the international stage.
His competition in east London, Adrian, would have known that Hart hadn’t joined the Hammers to sit on the substitutes’ bench, and the Spaniard perhaps would have been expecting a long season of few minutes on the pitch given the situation and the fact that he had been dropped the previous campaign after making mistakes under Slaven Bilic.
It proved to be the case as Hart started West Ham’s opening Premier League match of the season against Manchester United, which they lost 4-0.
While the defence and team in general wasn’t putting up too much of fight ahead of him in the early stages of the campaign as they languished towards the bottom of the table leaving Bilic under huge pressure, Hart wasn’t having the same impact in terms of saves and leadership that he perhaps did with Man City earlier in his career.
The England goalkeeper should have done better with at least one of the goals in the 3-0 defeat at home to Brighton and Hove Albion in October, before the turning point of both his and Adrian’s season came against Everton at Goodison Park at the end of November, under new manager David Moyes.
The 30-year-old had come under criticism from the London Stadium faithful for his displays, and he needed a big performance on Merseyside against a Toffees team that had just announced Sam Allardyce as their new boss, and came into the clash having suffered successive 5-1 and 4-1 defeats against Atalanta and Southampton respectively.
Instead, things went from bad to worse for Hart and it was his poor clearance that led to Wayne Rooney completing his hat-trick from his own half – with the stopper in no man’s land – in a crushing 4-0 defeat.
Moyes had obviously seen enough and the bad news for the Three Lions keeper was that the club’s next league fixture was against parent club City, meaning he wasn’t eligible.
It was a chance for Adrian to stake his claim for the number one spot and he took it with both hands, starting every Premier League match since that early December date at the Etihad with the fans saying they wanted him to replace Hart at the time.
The Spaniard certainly started off well over the festive period and through January, but he has started to look less assured in more recent times, with West Ham conceding 11 goals in their previous three matches on the road.
The second of those was a 4-1 defeat against a free-scoring Liverpool side, and Moyes knew that his team needed to keep things tight and be at their best on Merseyside if they were to pick up a positive result.
Adrian probably could have done better and been stronger as Emre Can gave the Reds the lead from a corner after 29 minutes, but worse was to come for the 31-year-old as his howler gifted Roberto Firmino a third goal for his team in the second half, effectively ending the contest.
A week later, the Spaniard would have hoped to bounce back with an impressive showing against fellow strugglers Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium, but while he made a couple of decent stops he should have done better with Ki Sung-Yueng’s eighth-minute opener in yet another 4-1 loss for the Irons.
His loss of form could see Hart return to the starting line-up against Burnley this weekend even though the east London outfit have reportedly already decided they won’t sign him permanently, and it may give the 30-year-old a chance to rescue his hopes of starting at the World Cup in just a few months’ time, with his place looking to be in real jeopardy right now while he isn’t playing football.
If Moyes does give him the nod, he will know that he has to perform well to ensure that Southgate picks him in Russia, in what could be his final opportunity to play at a World Cup given some of the younger goalkeepers that are coming through.