Manchester City have been advised by the Premier League that they will not be able to recall Joe Hart from Birmingham to solve their goalkeeper crisis.
The club approached league chiefs after injuries to Shay Given, Stuart Taylor and David Gonzalez, leaving Gunnar Nielsen as the only keeper.
City asked whether they would be allowed to recall Hart, who is on a season-long loan at Birmingham, and have now been told that would not be acceptable – but that they would be allowed to sign Sunderland’s third-choice keeper Marton Fulop as cover.
It is understood that the Premier League board felt that allowing Hart, chosen as the keeper in the PFA’s team of the year and a likely member of England’s World Cup squad, would be too much of an advantage to City in their battle for fourth place and qualification for the Champions League.
City’s main rivals for fourth spot, Tottenham and Aston Villa, have both been keeping a watchful eye on the situation while Birmingham have been talking about the possibility of compensation for any cut in prize money should they drop places in the league table if Hart were return to Eastlands.
The Premier League have been at pains to avoid any possibility of legal action by member clubs following Sheffield United’s successful challenge to West Ham over the Carlos Tevez affair.
The suggested solution of allowing Hungary international Fulop to move from Sunderland to Eastlands to act as cover would help City out of a sticky situation without giving them any significant advantage over their closest rivals, or put another Premier League side at a major disadvantage.
The next step is for City to lodge a formal request with the league to take Fulop on loan as an emergency measure.
Hart has been in superb form for Birmingham after making the temporary switch in his desire to play regular first-team football.
Given, whose arrival at Eastlands in January 2009 led to Hart losing his place, will be out for around three to four months after last weekend’s injury against Arsenal.
Nielsen, keeper for the Faroe Islands, came on for the final 17 minutes in the 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium.