On the verge of becoming Manchester City’s all-time leading scorer, Sergio Agüero has won over Pep Guardiola to re-establish himself as one of the world’s most feared strikers.
Just seven months ago, Agüero’s Eastlands future appeared bleak after he lost the trust of City manager Guardiola.
Agüero’s goal-scoring heroics may have made him a huge favourite of City fans, but he found it much harder to convince Guardiola of his worth in the Spaniard’s first season in charge.
Guardiola wanted a more mobile forward capable of contributing to his possession-based philosophy and he was quick to deploy Gabriel Jesus as City’s central striker once the Brazilian sensation signed in January.
By the time Guardiola left out Agüero for a clash with Swansea in February — the fifth time he had been dropped that season — there seemed no way back for the Argentine.
Yet, aside from his prolific penalty box exploits, Agüero’s most crucial characteristic might well be a bloody-minded determination to bend any narrative to his favour.
That tenacious attitude brings back memories of Eric Brook, whose City goal record Agüero is about to eclipse.
Brook was a blunt Yorkshireman who was so committed to the City cause he didn’t miss a game for 11 seasons after joining from Barnsley in 1928.
It took a car crash that left him with a fractured skull to bring a premature end to the England international’s career — but not before he helped City to win the title in a triumph that carries echoes of Agüero’s story.
On their way to being champions, City won 5-0 at Liverpool, with Brook claiming a hat-trick.
It was a scoreline City wouldn’t repeat against Liverpool for nearly eight decades — until Agüero started their demolition of the Reds earlier this month.
Having earned his way back into Guardiola’s good graces by refusing to complain publicly about his treatment last term, Agüero has made himself indispensable with a barrage of goals.
Showing he can thrive alongside Jesus or as the sole fulcrum of Guardiola’s attack, Agüero’s goal against Liverpool earlier this month made him the highest-scoring non-European in the history of England’s top flight.
Not content with that landmark, Agüero hit his 10th City hat-trick in a 6-0 rout of Watford last weekend.
If he scores twice against Crystal Palace this Saturday, Agüero would equal Brook’s 78-year-old City scoring record of 177 goals in 494 appearances.
Agüero’s tally of 175 has taken only 259 games.
Netting just once against lowly Palace would also give Agüero 300 career club goals.
Given Agüero’s current form — five goals in his last three games — both those milestones should fall sooner rather than later.
That will cap a remarkable renaissance from a player who hasn’t been deterred by any challenge that has come his way.
“He’s a legend, and it’s a part of history in the club,” Guardiola said.
“Agüero’s numbers speak for themselves; he is amazing.”
Signed from Atletico Madrid for £38-million (R685.5‑million) by then City boss Roberto Mancini in 2011, Agüero wasted little time announcing his arrival on the Premier League stage.
He marked his City debut with two goals in a 30-minute substitute appearance against Swansea.
By the time City reached the final game of the season, Agüero had scored 29 times to leave his club on the brink of becoming champions for the first time in 44 years.
Fittingly, it was Agüero who produced one of the Premier League’s most iconic moments.
He fired home in the closing seconds against QPR to clinch a dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 win that ensured City took the title at the expense of archrivals Manchester United.
Agüero’s goals were a key element of his side’s second Premier League triumph two years later.
He has also won the League Cup twice and finished as the Premier League’s top scorer in the 2014-2015 season.
Incredibly, Agüero has never been included in the PFA Team of the Year voted for by his fellow professionals.
But, like Guardiola, Agüero’s peers should be revising their opinions of his unique qualities now. — AFP