The Etihad outfit goalkeeper has endured a torrid campaign between the pipes after taking home the Barclays Golden Glove for three straight terms.
Hart has lost his previously unassailable place in the starting eleven to former backup Costel Pantilimon and faces mounting uncertainty at City, having last shown in the Premier League on October 27.
Such a situation is particularly troubling for the England international given that the upcoming World Cup in Brazil is just seven months away, with his place in Roy Hodgson’s squad potentially at risk given a lack of regular football at the club level.
Buffon has now offered his view on the circumstances surrounding his fellow shot stopper, seemingly implying that the 26-year-old may do best to depart the Etihad if he can’t quickly recover the number one spot on Manuel Pellegrini’s team sheet.
“There is usually an order in which you do these things; you normally play for your club and then you play for your national team,” the veteran Italian told the Daily Mail.
“To try to play for your national team when you're not playing for your club will become a struggle in the end.
“A player such as Iker Casillas can do it because he has great experience of victory and incredible value as a goalkeeper. But they are very few, those who could succeed in playing for their national team while not playing for their club.
“As soon as he [Hart] can start playing regularly again, in my opinion, he can go back to playing as well as he did before, if not better.”
“These are personal choices. They depend on desire and aspiration. They depend on the aspirations of the player. And they depend on the desire of the player to bring his aspirations into the discussion.”
Buffon alludes to the example of Iker Casillas, who has persisted as Vicente del Bosque’s first choice for Spain despite facing exclusion at Real Madrid for all but Champions League fixtures, having first been dropped last season by now-Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.
The Italy international and his counterpart at La Roja share similar status as heralded talismans for both club and country, something he duly points out is lacking in Hart’s case, being significantly younger and less traveled than the pair of World Cup winners.
Along with the City keeper’s dilemma has come a flurry of rumours, both of possible destinations for him and incoming replacements in January, though how Hart will proceed in light of Buffon’s indirect advice is yet unknown.
Given his concerns in the short term about retaining his place in the Three Lions’ ranks ahead of next summer, it is likely he’ll seriously gauge his prospects with his current employers before making a decision on how to proceed.
It’s a harsh reality of his position that a poor run spanning a few months can cause such a fall from grace, but Hart will nonetheless be forced to figure a way forward.
Buffon suggests that there is a natural order that the Englishman will be bound by, and must do what is necessary to fulfill his ambitions of being the man between the sticks when the 35-year-old’s Italy line up opposite England in Manaus on 14.
And for Hart, a man with a storied career in goal spanning almost two decades has spoken. What he chooses to do next is entirely up to him, and may well define how his immediate future plays out.
image: © illarterate