Humble Aguero still the standard bearer for strikers in EPL
There’s a shelf above the television in his home in a plush area of northwest England where Sergio Aguero keeps the match balls — signed by all his teammates — from the hat tricks he has scored for Manchester City.
He might have to put up another one soon.
Make that 16 hat tricks for the Argentina striker since he breezed into English soccer in the offseason of 2011 and left an imprint few other players can match.
The author of the most famous goal in the Premier League’s 28-year history — that unerring strike after 93 minutes, 20 seconds to clinch City the title in 2012 — is now the most prolific overseas-born scorer to have played in the top flight after his three goals against Aston Villa in City’s 6-1 win on Sunday took him to 177, surpassing Thierry Henry.
Aguero, with his bleached hair, dark beard and wide smile, cradled the match ball in his left arm as he left the field at Villa Park, another opponent having been sunk by the lethal finishing of a player who, at 31, has already secured “legend” status in England, according to his manager.
"He will die scoring goals,” Pep Guardiola said.
It’s approaching 10 years at City for Aguero — an unusual length of stay for a player at a single club, especially by someone from another country. Who knows how his career in England would have turned out had he moved to Chelsea, as was briefly negotiated, a year before he made the switch from Atletico Madrid to Manchester City.
Away from the bright lights of London, he has managed to lead a fairly anonymous life off the field in the leafy suburb of Hale in Cheshire, a short ride from City’s Etihad Stadium.
A documentary on City, entitled “All Or Nothing” and released in August 2018, gave a glimpse of Aguero’s seemingly lonely and humble home life during which he spends much of his time playing video games or watching action and mafia movies in his personal “cinema.” When he’s not hanging out with close friends Nicolas Otamendi, a compatriot and teammate at City, or David De Gea, the goalkeeper for Manchester United and a former teammate at Atletico, Aguero’s busiest and most enjoyable time is the one week every month he gets to spend with his son, Benjamin, who otherwise lives in Argentina with his mother, Giannini Maradona — the daughter of Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona. The couple split in 2013.
The documentary also showed the room Aguero has at home which contains jerseys from the games in which he has scored. Like the shelf in the living room, it might need an extension.
With 177 goals, he is tied with Frank Lampard at No. 4 on the all-time Premier League list, behind Andy Cole, Wayne Rooney and No. 1 Alan Shearer (260).
Twelve of his 16 hat tricks for City have come in the Premier League — a record for the division — and of those 177 league goals, 26 have been penalties and 156 have come inside the penalty area, the place where he comes alive with his explosive movement.
Former teammates have said Aguero is not the hardest-working player in training — he actually appears to be one of City’s more jovial characters in the brief footage the club releases on its Twitter account every week. Last week, for example, he was seen dancing around alongside teammates.
Yet Aguero has had to buckle down and be more switched-on since 2016, when Guardiola joined City and demanded the striker become a more all-round player. The arrival of another top-class striker, Brazil international Gabriel Jesus, whose work off the ball so delights Guardiola, also shone a light on the work ethic of Aguero and he has responded in kind, becoming a more complete player with his ability to link up play and press from the front.
There were times, in 2017 and ‘18, when the relationship between Guardiola and Aguero felt fraught. Yet Aguero remains City’s go-to striker, with the best goals-per-minute ratio (one every 106) in Premier League history for players with more than 100 goals. He also scores against all kinds of opponents, with two hat tricks last season coming against Chelsea and Arsenal in a one-week span and another in 2014 coming against a Guardiola-coached Bayern Munich.
Aguero, who scored twice as a substitute in his City debut, has one year left on his contract, after which the expectation is he will return to Argentina to close out his career.
When he does leave City, he’ll depart as the club’s all-time top scorer and will likely go down as its greatest ever player.
“He has been part of a very important core of players,” said recently departed former City captain Vincent Kompany, “and no matter what happens, he will always be remembered as one guy who helped us get to the next level, such a level.”