Just a few weeks ago, Kun Aguero was still Man City’s main man, but the arrival of a Brazilian rival has shaken up the Argentinean’s world
Pep Guardiola’s summer arrival to Manchester City was supposed to be the final piece of the jigsaw in order for the Citizens to take a firm grip on the Premier League and mount a serious challenge for the Champions League.
Sergio Aguero was the club’s star striker, the man whose 93rd minute winner against Queens Park Rangers captured the title in 2014 and who was rapidly closing in on Erik Brook as the highest scorer in their history.
It was a partnership that City supporters were relishing and Aguero’s future couldn’t have been clearer.
The Premier League’s leading scorer two seasons ago and second only to Harry Kane last year, Aguero was expected to score plenty more under Guardiola, perhaps bring home another league title and maybe even lift the Champions League before his contract expired and he bid a heroic farewell to the Etihad as the club’s idolized top scorer and returned to boyhood club Independiente.
That was the dream; reality is proving very different this season.
City’s fragile defence has all but ended any hopes of a title bid and the arrival of young Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus has suddenly cast doubt over Aguero’s role under Guardiola.
The 19-year-old looked the real deal for Palmeiras and Brazil’s youth sides before his impressive national team debut in September but wonderkid status or not, few predicted that within weeks of landing in Manchester, Jesus would usurp Aguero.
City’s victory over Swansea was inspired by the Brazilian and it only served to prove that his immediate impact as a substitute was no fluke and Aguero’s starting role was under huge pressure.
Understandably, questions followed and Aguero’s honest appraisal of the situation prompted wild speculation in the press.
“I have three months to do my best and try to help the team and we’ll see what happens in the future. Afterwards we’ll see what the club wants to do with me,” explained the Argentine striker.
As is perhaps the prerogative of the tabloid press, very little has gone a very long way but it is fair to say that in Aguero’s five-and-a-half years at City his status as a guaranteed starter is for the first time under threat.
Now, it is worth noting that Aguero has not been woefully out of form this season or at fault for City sitting off the pace in the league — his record of 18 goals from 20 starts in all competitions is a strike rate that most could only dream of and rightly still places the 28-year-old among the world’s elite forwards.
In fact, his Premier League record this season has Aguero finding the net every 122 minutes on average, better than his first two seasons with City and only inferior to Harry Kane, so it is perhaps a leap to suggest that the Argentine cannot fit into Guardiola’s system.
However, seven matches missed through suspension following two petulant red cards, persistent question marks surrounding his fitness and now the emergence of Jesus coinciding with City playing some of their best football have hardly helped Aguero’s cause.
37.5 – Gabriel Jesus has the best conversion rate of any Premier League forward this season (min. 2 goals). Beginnings. pic.twitter.com/WPIGKRgveI
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 9, 2017
In the aftermath of Jesus’ match-winning salvo against Swansea, Guardiola said, “We can use him [Jesus] as a front man as he’s a guy that has the instinct to score goals.”
Well, that sounds awfully similar to Aguero but Guardiola went on: “In the three games he’s played he’s shown a lot in terms of desire, helped us with high-pressing intensity, his movements in the box.
“Even when he comes in the middle to play, he has the ability to share the ball with his teammates and he is 19-years-old, so we are delighted.”
And it is this, extra work outside the penalty area, his pressing and his link-up play with David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Leroy Sane that is critical and why so many now argue that Aguero isn’t a Guardiola-player.
The enormously successful Spanish coach can be ruthless and is uncompromising in his style but it doesn’t follow that Aguero is thrown on the scrap heap and certainly Guardiola has gone to great length to dispel any notion of that.
“Sergio remains the most, or one of the most important players in our squad. This guy [Jesus] arrives, he played well and that’s why he was playing but they can play together,” and in fact they did for the final stages of the Swansea match when Jesus snatched the winner.
“Gabriel can play on the left and now I have many options up front. The big clubs in Europe always have a lot of strikers and there have been at this club too – [Mario] Balotti, [Carlos] Tevez, Sergio [Aguero], [Edin] Dzeko – all together.”
The only certainty is that Aguero now has more competition and anything else is speculation.
Guardiola has stated that the pair can play together, has praised Jesus’ versatility to play wide and with only a relatively short period of comparison may himself, as a 19-year-old experience dips in form, that lead to spells on the bench.
Only time will tell but City won’t be in any mad rush to sell a striker who within a year could be the all-time leading scorer and at any rate may not be as easy as expected to shift.
Unless City were willing to take a massive hit simply to get Aguero off the books which clubs could afford him? Real Madrid? Paris Saint-Germain? Inter Milan?
All the European giants have already been linked in the press but a sizeable transfer fee on a 29-year-old who began playing senior football at fifteen and may peak earlier than most and has expressed a desire to return to Independiente when his current contract expires is arguably not going to be someone who a club will blow their summer budget on.
Having relied on their old-guard for a while, City and Guardiola are undoubtedly preparing for the future, a future that looks very exciting but that doesn’t necessarily mean a swift and immediate end for Aguero.
Speculation will be rife but Yaya Toure’s career with City looked far bleaker earlier this season than the Aguero’s does now and the Ivorian wrestled his way back into Guardiola’s eleven. Don’t bet against Kun doing the same.