The coach’s skin that covers Pep Guardiola, that leathery left-handed layer of wrinkles and scars, a reflection of experience, success, disappointment and exhaustion, suddenly came off when asked about Kun Agüero’s goal. A light illuminated the technician’s gaze. For an instant he ceased to be the boss, the manager, the strategist, the representative of a movement, the embodiment of an ideology. Briefly returned to his primordial nature as a player, Guardiola could not help but smile with delight at the work of the man who, as a coach, takes him out of the box. “I’m in love with that person,” he said, shaking his head, as if convinced that what he was saying was a confession.
Kun Agüero, who with his goal put Manchester City two points behind the Premier League, after winning 0-2 at Crystal Palace (the other was Ferran Torres), spent an hour looking for Sterling. The minutes of the match that was played in Selhurst Park passed under the unstable sky of South London, and with each ball that he received, he opened his antennas in two directions. One towards the goal, and the other towards the English end who followed him on the left, a companion of so many toils and an accomplice in the substitution since Christmas. Heroes of the last Premier titles achieved by City in 2018 and 2019, are now part of the reserve. Guardiola believes that there are finer players to make up the starting team, according to the prevailing criterion, which is that of association capacity.
Kun for scorer, Sterling for dribbler, are two markedly individualistic spirits. Less gifted for the pass than Foden, De Bruyne, Gundogan, Bernardo Silva or Mahrez, those chosen to play the Champions semi-finals as starters. Relegated to the background in Europe, but forced to occupy the top positions of the Premier line-up, to give rest to others. Both played at the start against Crystal Palace and towards minute 57, after much searching, they finally managed to embrace each other at the goal cry.
Laporte passed Mendy and the French side enabled Agüero on the edge of the area with a pass that gave him few advantages. He had the two centrals ahead, in addition to the rival goalkeeper, Guaita. But one of the centrals, Kouyaté, beat Sterling who attacked the near post, and the other, Dann, hesitated between covering the ball or covering Ganriel Jesús. The doubt measured a meter. The missile slipped through the gap left by the defenders. Aguero controlled and fired with his right. Without reflection. Fast. It was with the instep, almost with the toe, and the ball burned the squad without Guaita or his guards knowing very well how it had happened. Two minutes later, Agüero received the ball again, this time in midfield, and attracted the scorers before handing it to Gabriel Jesús. The Brazilian played with Sterling and the Englishman triangulated with Agüero in front of the area but the nine it had already moved. Ferrán Torres took advantage of the measurement error, who adjusted the shot next to the post for 0-2.
If Liverpool beat Manchester United at Old Trafford this Sunday (5.30pm), City will be Premier League champions for the seventh time. “We will have to put the champagne in the fridge,” Guardiola said after the game. In the absence of four days for the conclusion of the season, Guardiola already has his third Premier in his pocket.
“What a goal, what action, what player, what a man!” Exclaimed the Spanish coach, when they mentioned Agüero’s 1-0. “It is an incredible pleasure to have you back. We will enjoy the last matches with him. In that goal he showed what he has been and what he is. I am delighted because I am in love with this person ”.
“Those who did not play in Paris needed to speak on the pitch and they did it perfectly,” observed Guardiola, referring to the 1-2 achieved against PSG last Wednesday. “In the first half it was difficult but in the second we read perfectly how to attack them. The grass was dry, the field was slow, we couldn’t give rhythm to the circulation and the players had to attack the spaces without giving too many passes ”.
It was just Agüero’s fourth goal this season. After suffering all kinds of setbacks, between a Covid-19 infection, an injury and some distractions, the 32-year-old top scorer in City history is preparing to leave the club for June. With a little luck, maybe he can make his mark on the Champions League, the tournament that always resisted him.