Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has said goalkeeper Joe Hart can leave the Premier League club if he asks to.
England international Hart, 29, is considering a move after being dropped, with Everton and Sevilla interested.
“I don’t want players to stay if they don’t want,” Guardiola said. “If they want to stay, stay and we will fight together.”
The loan move Hart favours, with less than two weeks of the transfer window left, is still the most likely outcome.
That would allow him to assess his options over the course of the season.
Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen have been linked with moves to Etihad Stadium, while Guardiola selected Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero against Sunderland and in City’s 5-0 Champions League qualifier victory over Steaua Bucharest on Tuesday.
It is understood Guardiola and Hart, who knows he has no future at the club, have not built up any kind of relationship. The Spaniard does not believe Hart has the time to become the kind of ‘sweeper-keeper’ he wants to play with.
Guardiola added: “If he stays he will improve. He understands what we want from our goalkeeper.
“I spoke with Joe from the first moment we met in China. I try to be clear with my players and I was clear with him. I have a lot of respect for him.
“Maybe Joe will stay here and be a player who will fight with the other goalkeepers to convince me to play him. That is the way it is – nothing has changed.”
Guardiola said he knew Hart’s “value” and “talent”, but that he had come to City to “play the way I like”.
“The first thing I am looking for from the goalkeeper is to save,” said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach.
“After that he has to be able to play with the ball. He has to be help us to create a good build-up. That is why I am here.”
The 45-year-old added: “We are not an academy with time. Here we have time – but not too much.
“The big teams don’t give me time to create something. People want results immediately.”
Hart has made nearly 350 appearances for City in all competitions since joining them from Shrewsbury in 2006.
He was England’s most senior player at Euro 2016 behind captain Wayne Rooney with 63 caps, but he had a disappointing campaign with mistakes against Wales and Iceland as Roy Hodgson’s side suffered a shock last-16 defeat by minnows Iceland.
Toure ‘is trying’ for return
Midfielder Yaya Toure is yet to feature in any of Guardiola’s match-day squads this season, despite appearing to be injury-free.
Guardiola insists the 33-year-old Ivory Coast international will get a chance when he has proved he is match fit – that is if Toure “wants to stay” at the club.
“Yaya is trying. He loves to play,” added Guardiola.
“I have spoken to him about the situation. He is a player with huge quality.
“I have a lot of respect for him. I know when he increases his intensity without the ball he will be part of the group – if he wants to stay.”