THE PERFECT 10

Sergio Aguero: A decade of brilliance


On 28 July 2011, Sergio Leonel Agüero del Castillo penned a five-year contract with Manchester City and life for the 23-year-old striker and for the Club would never be the same again.

A fee believed to be in the region of £35million had been agreed with Atletico Madrid where Aguero had already enjoyed five seasons, playing 234 games, and scoring 102 goals.

Undoubtedly, one of La Liga’s hottest talents was now a City player and for many, he was the missing piece of the jigsaw.

On signing, Kun said, when asked if he thought he might have difficulties settling in: "To be honest, I don't think so. I don't think I'll have too many problems. I'll obviously be doing my best to do what the manager asks and, of course, he will know how he wants to use me.

“But once I'm out on the pitch I will get to know my way around. I can't say for certain, because I have not even made my debut yet, but I'm sure everything will be fine. I am going to be relaxed about it.”

He was as good as his word.

City had ended a 35-year wait for silverware just a few months before, as Roberto Mancini’s side beat Stoke in the FA Cup final and the first glimpse we saw of our new signing was as an unused sub against Manchester United in the FA Community Shield at Wembley.

Nursing painful blisters, Aguero was only named as a sub for City’s Premier League curtain-raiser against Swansea at the Etihad, but his pain had sufficiently eased to be available if needed.

On 59 minutes, he finally got the nod, replacing Nigel de Jong and walking on the pitch to a raucous ovation. Aguero’s signing had captured the City fans’ imagination – he had everything a top striker needed – pace, power and skill - and was coveted throughout Europe, yet here he was in sky blue, wearing the No.16 jersey.

Often compared with Brazilian legend Romario, the son-in-law of Diego Maradona and the closest friend of Lionel Messi, Aguero was a superstar in the making and he didn’t disappoint as his first 32 minutes as a City player yielded two goals and an assist as the newly promoted Swans were swept aside 4-0.

Swansea keeper Michel Vorm remembers his debut well.

“You could see straight away that he was special,” said Vorm. “I think he’d been on less than 10 minutes when Micah Richards crossed from the right and Aguero scored a tap-in at the far post.

“A few minutes after that he chased a ball to the goal-line and hooked it back over for Silva to score – I thought it was definitely going out so I’m not sure how he got to that.

“And of course, his second and City’s fourth was from a distance and was unbelievable. That this small guy could generate so much power in his legs and for me it was like, ‘OK, he has poached a goal, made another and can hit them from anywhere’ – not a bad first 30 minutes or so in the Premier League!”

A star was born.

His first full start for City at the Etihad would see him score a hat-trick against Wigan Athletic, meaning he’d scored five and assisted another in around two hours of football on home soil. It was incredible.

In fact, he scored eight goals in his first four and a bit games, and the mouth-watering prospect of Carlos Tevez and Kun Aguero leading City’s line – plus the blistering early-season form Mancini’s side were showing suggested this team were genuine title contenders.

It had been 44 years since City had last been crowned champions, but with Aguero leading the line, anything seemed possible.

But the Tevez-Aguero dream was to take a shattering blow when Tevez had a very public falling out with manager Mancini during a Champions League game away to Bayern Munich, leading to the Argentine being suspended and unavailable for several months.

But Kun kept scoring goals, and by the time City had beaten Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at the start of March, the Blues held a five-point lead over Manchester United… but just five points from the next 15 saw United take control of the title race and go eight points clear with just six games to go. The title dream looked dead in the water.

Tevez had returned, apologised and made his peace, but if City were to somehow turn the situation around, it would need a minor miracle.

City won the next five matches and Aguero scored six goals in three games to take his first season tally to 29 as, somehow, United dropped points against Wigan and Everton to open the door once again. Sergio didn’t score in the next two games – crucial wins over United and Newcastle – as City moved to within one win of a first Premier League title in an amazing turnaround.

What happened in that final game against QPR would write Sergio Aguero’s name into Manchester City folklore forever as a 2-1 deficit in added time somehow became a 3-2 victory as Kun played an improbable one-two with Mario Balotelli, collected the return pass, feigned a shot before burying a low drive past Paddy Kenny to win the game and send the City fans into raptures as the title secured.

It was his 30th goal of a quite unbelievable season and his winner had completed the most dramatic title race of all time. To say he was idolized by the City fans after that goal isn’t true because he was already adored before that goal. It just went up a few notches.

Few players achieve that kind of unbreakable bond with supporters.

Following up that first season would be like a band releasing that ‘difficult second album’ after their debut sold millions.

There was no title hangover per se, but the team didn’t kick on as hoped and Aguero’s return of 17 goals from 40 appearances in 2012/13 was his lowest for five years, though niggling injuries hardly helped.

City finished runners-up to United, lost the FA Cup final and Mancini was replaced with Manuel Pellegrini who wasted no time in bringing in a striker he felt would complement Aguero perfectly – Alvaro Negredo.

The pair had little time to gel in the summer with Sergio missing most of pre-season with a knee injury, but together, they forged a formidable strike force and by Christmas, City had already scored 50 goals – Negredo getting the lion’s share.

But a calf issue forced Aguero to miss eight games and when Negredo injured his shoulder away to West Ham, the partnership suffered and was never the same again.

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Aguero once again assumed responsibility, playing in the 3-1 Carabao Cup final against Sunderland before another hamstring strain kept him side-lined for five games, but he was back for the title run-in as six victories on the bounce saw City dramatically snatch the title away from Liverpool.

His haul of 28 goals in 34 games that season is an unbelievable stat given his three injury lay-offs.

City rewarded Aguero with a new five-year deal, ending rumours he was being lined up for a return to La Liga.

‘The reality seems to be that ever since I came here, during every close season, there has always been rumours suggesting that I might be returning to Spain,’ said Aguero.

“There has always been this speculation and I certainly never pay much attention to it. But people hear this stuff flying around and they take it seriously.

‘I can tell the fans and everyone at City to relax, I’m going to be here until I see out my contract.

‘I’ve been here for three years now and fortunately things have gone fairly well so far. We’ve just got carry on in the same way, winning titles.

‘I think the club is investing well in order to be up there with the best in the world.”

Two Premier League titles and a Carabao Cup winner’s medal already in the bag, things were going very well for City’s No.16 – and 2014/15 would continue the trend.

After scoring all four goals in a 4-1 win over Spurs, Sergio became our record Premier League scorer having surpassed compatriot Carlos Tevez’s tally of 61.

"A magnificent treble against
Bayern Munich then kept
City’s Champions League
flame flickering. .."

By the time City took on Everton in December 2014, Aguero had scored 19 goals in 20 games and was at the very top of his game – so a knee injury on six minutes against the Toffees could not have been timed any worse and he was ruled out for a month.

What had threatened to be an unforgettable season for Kun turned into one of what might have been, as he took time to rediscover his rhythm and wouldn’t score again until February.

City’s title defence fizzled out with four away losses on the bounce and only a strong finish of six successive wins to end the campaign resulted in a runners-up spot behind Chelsea, with Sergio back to his best and scoring nine goals in the final seven matches to end the campaign with 32 goals from 42 games – but for the knee injury, he could have scored 40+ goals that season without any doubt.

A busy Copa America schedule meant Kun had little rest during the summer months but he returned for pre-season fit and happy  - and with a new squad number. Edin Dzeko’s departure meant the No.10 shirt he coveted was finally his.

City started the 2015/16 campaign firing on all cylinders, winning the first five games without conceding a goal. Sergio scored in the 3-0 win over champions Chelsea and in the third game away to Everton, it was our Argentine superstar who alerted the referee and stopped the game after noticing an Everton supporter in need of medical assistance.

With one goal in the opening seven matches, the No.10 shirt had not had the best of beginnings for Kun, but City’s attack was changing with the signings of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Wilfried Bony had also joined the previous January.

But he burst back to form with vengeance in October, scoring five goals in the space of 20 minutes in a 6-1 win over Newcastle United before being substituted on 66 minutes and denied the chance of a double hat-trick. It was the fastest five-goal haul in Premier League history.

Yet, just as he was back to his most lethal best, his injury jinx struck again and, during a World Cup Qualifier for Argentina against Ecuador, he suffered another nasty hamstring pull and left the pitch in tears.

It meant another six weeks on the sidelines and yet more frustration.

By early December, he had scored nine goals in 16 games – a decent return, but without the five goals against Newcastle, it would have been markedly down on his usual ratio and papered over the fact that he’d failed to find the back of the net in 11 matches. The hamstring issue had perhaps had a bigger impact than first thought.

But Sergio has always scored in bursts, perhaps as his fitness sharpens and when he gets into a rhythm, he is virtually unstoppable, so the next batch of goals was never going to be far away, and so it proved as he started the New Year with nine goals in nine games.

City’s Premier League hopes had faded long before he scored a superb hat-trick away to Chelsea, but there was reason to celebrate in the next game with a strike in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle seeing Sergio reaching 100 Premier League goals for City and he was also by now the leading South American goal-scorer in this country, too.

Though his dream of a Champions League final with City wouldn’t be realised as Real Madrid shut-out the Blues’ attack over two legs to reach the final with a 1-0 aggregate, he ended the campaign with 29 goals from 42 appearances.

He would also have Pep Guardiola as his new boss for the 2016/17 and many speculated how Kun might fit into the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager’s plans.

Sergio’s response to Guardiola’s arrival was emphatic as he enjoyed his most prolific campaign yet, bagging 33 goals in 45 games - and he took just four minutes of the Catalan’s reign to score in the 2-1 win over Sunderland.

In his first six matches under Pep, he scored two hat-tricks and 11 goals – he was in blistering form and the new pressing and passing style of the team seemed to be resulting in even more opportunities for the Argentine.

His goal against Middlesbrough in November saw him move to 150 goals for City in all competitions and put him just 27 behind all-time record goal-scorer Eric Brook.

It proved to be an eventful and not always smooth season for Sergio who was given a three-match ban for violent conduct against West Ham’s Winston Reid and then was sent off in December for a foul on David Luiz of Chelsea.

A mid-season dry spell of four goals in 13 matches was followed by a typical spree finish to the campaign, with 15 goals in 13 appearances leaving him with his highest seasonal total yet for the Club.

And it continued, though the 2017/18 campaign would also see Kun lucky not to lose more than just a month out of the game.

Having started with six goals in the opening seven matches, Sergio was involved in a car crash in Amsterdam after going to see a Maluma concert. The taxi he was travelling in smashed into a lamppost, fracturing his rib and leaving him understandably shaken.

He returned to action four weeks later and his goal against Burnley put him level with Eric Brook as the Club’s record goal-scorer – and 10 days later, away to Napoli, he would claim he mantle for himself.

It was the goal City fans had been waiting for. It felt like he’d been poised forever on the cusp of history and with more than an hour of the Champions League clash with Napoli gone, many wondered whether he’d have to wait again to replace Brook at the top of City’s scoring charts.

That was until Fernandinho broke out of defence and played a perfect pass for Leroy Sane who powered through the Napoli defence on the halfway line and headed for goal. A fine last-ditch tackle foiled the German winger, but Sergio was first to react to the loose ball, collecting it 30 yards out, heading into the box with two defenders snapping at his heels before striking a precision shot from 18 yards past Pepe Reina to give the City the lead, pass Brook’s record and forever write his name into the Club’s history books.

From December through to February, even by Sergio’s lofty standards, the City No.10 was on fire with 19 goals in 19 games – one being in the Carabao Cup win over Arsenal at Wembley.

He bagged another treble against Newcastle and four more against Leicester – and though injury again ruled him out of the last six games, he ended with 30 goals from just 39 games and his third Premier League winner’s medal.

And the records continued to tumble.

After a productive World Cup campaign with Argentina, Kun began the 2018/19 campaign where he’d left off the previous one, with a brace in the 2-0 Community Shield victory over Chelsea taking him to 200 City goals in all competitions.

And a hat-trick in the 6-1 opening home game of the campaign took him into the Premier League top 10 all-time scorers – it was no surprise and with some relief that it was announced shortly after that he had penned a new contract until 2021.

His hunger to score more goals and create more history was insatiable and it seemed that with each week, a new record was posted. His 300th appearance for City was followed by his 150th Premier League goal with only Alan Shearer reaching that milestone quicker.

And Sergio was chasing down another Shearer milestone as he scored hat-tricks in successive Etihad matches against Arsenal and Chelsea to move on to 11 Premier League hat-tricks alongside the former Newcastle United legend.

City were in the process of hunting down Liverpool and with two games remaining, wins over Leicester and Brighton would secure back-to-back titles.

Famously, against the Foxes, Sergio urged his skipper not to shoot as the game ticked towards full-time – “No, Vinnie, no!” he shouted – just as Kompany arrowed a winner into the top right-hand corner!

On the final day, when City fell behind to Brighton at the Amex, it was Sergio who levelled Glenn Murray’s opener within a minute to put his side on the way to a title-clinching 4-1 win.

His 32 goals in 46 games was yet another superb return.

2019/20 saw arguably his best start to a season as he showed no signs of slowing down. He scored in all City’s first six Premier League games, bagging eight goals in the process, but there wouldn’t be a third successive title as Liverpool’s lead soon became insurmountable.

Sergio’s hat-trick in the 6-1 win at Villa was his twelfth in the Premier League as he posted another new record and though his final tally of 23 goals from 32 appearances was still an excellent return, it was Sterling who finished the top scorer with 31.

As he entered his tenth year as a Manchester City player, the football gods who had for so long shone on the shoulders of Kun Aguero turned their backs as he suffered one set-back after another.

A mixture of a knee injury, Coronavirus and niggling muscle issues mean that prior to his Etihad farewell against Everton, he had made just 18 appearances in this, his final year.

It leaves him on 388 games and 258 goals. He’s won 15 trophies for City, been voted the Club’s Player of the Year on 2011/12 and 2014/15 and holds pretty much every scoring record imaginable.

He is genuinely loved by City fans, his team-mates and the staff and it just won’t be the same without him leading our line. If he can finish the season with a Champions League winner’s medal, it’s hard to think of a worthier recipient or a better finish to his decade of brilliance.

It’s been an amazing journey and we were lucky to have him and there is not one City supporter who wouldn’t wish him all the success in the world in his next chapter.

Gracias, Sergio...