Sergio Agüero will leave Manchester City as a club legend after the end of the season. Because Pep Guardiola has long since emancipated his team from their best striker, he currently only plays a minor role. It is unclear where the then 33-year-old will move in the summer – and whether City needs a successor for him.
Soon they will be standing side by side again, the three footballing architects of modern Manchester City: defensive boss Vincent Kompany, midfield director David Silva and striker Sergio Agüero. Where statues for the recently emigrated Kompany and Silva are already being built in front of the Etihad Stadium, a third will be added in the summer after Agüero’s already established departure.
The then 33-year-old Argentine will leave the club after ten years as the top scorer in club history and the last representative of the 2012 championship team. His commitment for 40 million euros from Atletico Madrid before that title season was once the last necessary ingredient for the triumphal procession of the Abu Dhabi club, which is heavily supported by financial support, which continues to this day.
Aguero became a legend in his first season when he scored City on the final day of the match with his goal in stoppage time against the Queens Park Rangers for the first championship title in 44 years. Since then he has continuously expanded this legendary status with considerable consistency, with every further goal and every further title. On Saturday, Agüero scored his 182nd Premier League goal against Crystal Palace, placing him fourth on the all-time leaderboard.
In the current season it was only his second goal, for various reasons he now only plays a minor role. Coach Pep Guardiola emancipated his team from their best goalscorer even before he left. City is currently playing mostly and especially in the important games without Agüero – and at the same time so beautifully, consistently and successfully than perhaps never before.
Manchester City: Flexible offensive players instead of Aguero
City’s secrets of success this season are an unusually stable defense thanks to the new head of defense Ruben Dias and an offensive that can hardly be calculated thanks to a qualitatively considerable depth of the squad. For years, the team’s chances of success depended considerably on Agüero’s fitness and form. He was the team’s top scorer for eight years in a row before Raheem Sterling topped him last season.
Sterling is now one of numerous offensive players who take turns in the vacant position in the center of the attack in Agüero’s absence. Gabriel Jesus has also played there, just like Riyad Mahrez, Ferran Torres and occasionally even Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva. The team’s best goalscorer is Ilkay Gündogan, with 16 goals that seem almost ridiculously few.
Guardiola does without a well-rehearsed starting XI this season due to an unprecedented density of games and instead deliberately uses the depths of his squad. He has already used 29 players in total, and no coach has made more changes to the starting lineup than Guardiola in the course of this Premier League season. Perhaps this is the decisive recipe against the accusation, which has been continuously expressed since his time at Bayern Munich, that his teams often appear tired and overplayed at the important knockout games in the Champions League.
The fact that Agüero hardly gets any playing time despite this permanent rotation is due to Guardiola’s new approach and his own ailments. In autumn he had to fight alternately with knee and thigh injuries before he was absent for about a month at the beginning of the year due to a corona illness. When he returned, Guardiola had known for a long time: It is going wonderfully even without Agüero. Incidentally, he already suspected this when he arrived in 2016.
Guardiola was the first city coach at the time who voluntarily renounced Agüero and put him on the bench. Above all, he did not like the striker’s behavior when the opponent had possession of the ball in his own pressing phases. “Pep is a very demanding coach and in our first year together it was not easy for me to adapt to it,” said Agüero in 2018 on the Argentine TV broadcaster TyC Sports, Guardiola was even “angry” with him at times.
“We have enough players in the first team at the moment and we also have interesting players in the academy,” said Guardiola recently, confronted with this issue. “It is more likely that we will not sign a striker for next season due to the economic situation.”
Meanwhile, Haaland itself is not only traded at City, but at every top club looking for strikers. If you don’t get him, there would be a free alternative: Sergio Agüero, whose future is still unclear.
Manchester City: Do you need a successor to Agüero?
Before that, however, he will be the first player in club history to win a fifth championship title with City and possibly also the Champions League for the first time.