MANCHESTER, England -- Pep Guardiola says it was tough to replace Joe Hart as Manchester City's first choice because he was an "incredible goalkeeper," but expects the 31-year-old to receive a warm welcome from fans on his return to the Etihad.
The Burnley keeper is set to face his former club for the first time on Saturday after he ended his 12-year association with City when he made a permanent move in the summer.
Hart, 31, left for season-long loans at Torino and West Ham during Guardiola's first two years, which the City boss described as his "toughest decision as a manager."
"I know how tough it was for the fans, for the people [when he left]. He was an incredible keeper and had incredible results here in the club. That's why it's not easy for me, to take a decision," Guardiola told a news conference. "There's no doubt how important Joe Hart was and is. Tomorrow, we will see the people appreciate what he has done for this club.
"Normally the player thinks of himself, himself, himself, it's not easy, [but] he put himself a little bit in my position and said he understood perfectly. That's why I appreciate a lot his behaviour, his agent and his people.
"He's part of the history and you never know when he'll retire. When these kind of things happen, the club has the door open for these kind of people. That's why I wish him always the best, i've said it privately and publicly."
Hart, who made 348 appearances for City, was back at the Etihad Campus this week with the club naming a pitch at the training ground in his honour.
Hart had spent the summer back at City, playing in preseason friendlies, but he was always expected to leave with first-choice Ederson signing a seven-year contract. But Guardiola refused to say that his decision to ditch Hart had been proved to be the correct decision.
"I'm not always taking the decision that are right. That doesn't count but you have to take it," he added.
"I made in my career good decisions and very bad decisions, but you have to take it in the right moment and at the right time. Sometimes I took it and afterward I've regretted. That's what it is -- that happens.
"We have to take decisions every five minutes and sometimes they're important. Sometimes it's not just about football, it's about human beings. Sometimes it's not easy but it's what it is."
After struggling for form at West Ham United last season and losing his England place, Hart has enjoyed a revival in form at Turf Moor and his Burnley manager Sean Dyche said he will have nothing to prove to Guardiola.
"I think to be fair, if you take away the noise I don't think there's ever been any real problem with him, the manager or the club," said Dyche.
"Everyone knows what a good servant he's been there. He's been a big part of their recent history.
"I didn't bring him [to Burnley] to prove a point to anyone. In my opinion he's another top class goalkeeper that we've got here. Another one.
"I don't want to speak for him but I don't see why he's got any point to prove -- other than to himself. To continue to show what a top class keeper he is."