Today (December 15 2021) Sergio Agüero has announced his retirement. The man is a true footballing legend (I don’t use that word lightly!) and deserves to be acclaimed for his incredible achievements and career. He has brought immense joy to millions throughout his career. As a tribute I am posting here a free to read feature on Sergio’s Manchester City debut on August 15 2011. Enjoy this flashback to a time before he became renowned in England for his major contribution to the Premier League!
Sergio Agüero’s Debut
Sergio Agüero joined Manchester City from Atletico Madrid for a fee reported to be around £35 to £38m depending on which sources were to be believed. During 2010-11 the player had netted 20 league goals for the Spanish side. City boss Roberto Mancini commented at the time of the transfer: “Agüero can play any position – he can be the main striker, he can play behind the striker, he can play left or right. He is not tall but he is quick and strong and he can score a lot of goals. Now he can play behind Dzeko, Carlos or Mario.”
The Premier League campaign opened at the Etihad Stadium – the City Of Manchester Stadium had been renamed during the close season – with the visit of newly promoted Swansea City. This was to be Swansea’s first season in the Premier league.
New signings Stefan Savić and Sergio Agüero made their City debuts as substitutes that day while another summer arrival, Gael Clichy, started the match. Clichy had made his first appearance at Wembley against Manchester United in the Charity/Community Shield the previous week.
The match opened in a worrying manner for City. The team wore their new all-blue kit which had caused some fans to criticise the break with tradition (as it often does when City drop the white shorts – maybe I’ll write an article on City’s use of blue and white one day, comparing the successes in seasons with blue shorts to ones with white?) and the loss of white shorts, however it was not the kit that brought the worries in the opening period it was the pressure exerted by Swansea. They came looking to make their mark following promotion and they did all they could to play football in a positive manner.
Swansea pressured the Blues throughout the opening thirty minutes. Mancini’s side clearly had the quality but the visitors seemed the more determined. However, the Blues had been soaking up the pressure and taking stock of what Swansea had to offer. Whereas earlier City sides may have become anxious during the period of pressure, the new Blues were more than equipped to deal with a determined opposition.
The game remained goalless until the 57th minute when David Silva dodged past Leon Britton before progressing from City’s half and well into Swansea’s. He passed to Adam Johnson, who raced forward, cut inside and then tried to curl a shot past the Swansea ‘keeper. The shot was saved but the ball dropped in front of Dzeko who, from six yards out, sent the ball home.
A minute or so later Sergio Agüero came on for Nigel De Jong and within nine minutes of his arrival the Argentinian made it 2-0 with a simple tap-in. Three minutes later he played his part in the third goal.
Agüero lifted the ball over the advancing Swansea ‘keeper and then managed to hook it back to a waiting Silva on the penalty spot who sent his own shot into the net.
By this time Mancini’s side were in total control of the match, although Swansea were still playing decent football themselves and certainly did not adopt negative tactics as many other sides may have done.
Shortly before the end Agüero made it 4-0 with an absolutely brilliant swerving 30 yard shot. Afterwards Mancini was delighted with his new signing: “I’m not surprised by what I saw tonight. Agüero has scored a lot of goals in Spain and Argentina – he’s a fantastic striker.”
Two debut day goals – significantly he was only on the pitch for around 31 minutes – made Agüero a hero from the start and caused the wider football world to look at City’s new signing as a hugely positive arrival to the Premier League.
A flashback to a high scoring win for Manchester’s Blues on this day in 2013…
After the 2-1 last gasp defeat at Chelsea in their previous League game, manager Manuel Pellegrini took the decision to drop goalkeeper Joe Hart for this important match with Norwich. The decision brought much scrutiny City’s way but Hart’s replacement Pantilimon had little to do as the Blues thrashed Norwich 7-0. The win lifted City to fourth in the League but more significantly demonstrated the fire power the Blues possessed and demonstrated to all that Pellegrini’s men were determined to mount a serious challenge for the title. Seven separate scorers – including an own goal – made this City’s largest top flight win since 1968. Afterwards Pellegrini was delighted that his side kept striving for more: “Normally a team 4-0 ahead finishes working.”
City had a 100% home record in the Premier League but away from home life was not so easy. At Sunderland in the next League game the Blues were unfortunate to lose 1-0. The BBC’s Sam Sheringham explained: “Referee Mike Dean’s leniency was on display once again in the build-up to the opening goal. The official opted not to penalise Bardsley when he appeared to bundle over Milner, allowing the full-back to race on to Brown’s long pass and curl a precise finish past Costel Pantilimon.”
The Blues were back down to eighth in what seemed likely to be a tight title race.
2 Nov Norwich City (H) W 7-0 Silva, Nastasic, Negredo, Toure, Aguero, Dzeko & Johnson (OG) 47,066
10 Nov Sunderland (A) L 0-1 40,137
30 Oct Newcastle United (A) W 2-0 Negredo, Dzeko 33,846
Now that Sergio Aguero has left Manchester City it seems an appropriate time to review where he fits in the all-time appearance list for the club. City’s appearance holder is Alan Oakes and it may be some time before another player comes close to his total of 676 (plus 4 as substitute) appearances.
Here for subscribers is a feature on the top 25 appearance holders for Manchester City with some commentary on how the record has changed over the decades.
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I like this… it’s not just creating a standard statue it’s significantly better than that. If you’ve seen The Kelpies you’ll recognise that Andy Scott uses history to produce modern, impressive, artistic pieces. Anyway, here’s City’s press release (it’s not often that a major city’s leader talks about footballing statues either but Richard Leese does here – see below):
City has revealed that award-winning sculptor Andy Scott was the artist who won the commission to create permanent statues of Club legends Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. The appointment followed an exhaustive selection process that began in March 2020.
Born and raised in Glasgow and a graduate of the city’s School of Art, Scott is one of the most respected sculptors of his generation and is known for his large-scale figurative pieces, which he creates by blending traditional craftmanship with modern fabrication techniques. His portfolio of more than 80 contemporary projects can be found both in the UK and in many corners of the world.
Now creating from his studio in Philadelphia, USA, Andy works frequently in galvanised steel and counts The Kelpies and Beacon of Hope amongst some of his most celebrated work.
Uniquely, the Kompany and Silva projects have been conducted entirely remotely from Scott’s securing the commission in June 2020, through to creation, completion and transportation of the pieces, which arrived on schedule in Manchester from Philadelphia in August 2021. The statues of Kompany and Silva are to be installed outside the Club’s Etihad Stadium ahead of this weekend’s fixture against Arsenal, with Aguero’s tribute to follow in 2022, after his departure from the club this summer.
The legacy project was announced by Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak following the departure in Summer 2019 of Vincent Kompany, the Club’s most successful captain in its 127-year history. The decision to honour the three players was based on their unparalleled contribution to the Club’s transformation over their combined thirty-one years at the club. Al Mubarak has since indicated that further work is being undertaken to ensure the legends of earlier eras are appropriately celebrated.
Speaking of his appointment to the project Andy Scott said: “On hearing that I had secured the commission to bring Vincent, David and now Sergio to life in sculpture form, I was absolutely thrilled. It’s an unbelievable honour to work on something that will be visited by hundreds of thousands of fans as they remember and celebrate the achievements of their footballing heroes. I have always been struck by how sportsmen and women move and perform, and in the case of football specifically, how they anticipate the ball, how they combine with their teammates, and sometimes simply how they stand. Reflecting these elements was always going to be challenging, but it was particularly so during a global pandemic as we were only able to meet with Vincent and David virtually. But with their insights and extensive research of film and photographic footage, I have tried to capture their unique physical characteristics and their distinctive movements in a way which I hope does justice to both of these phenomenal footballers. It’s been such a pleasure to work on this prestigious project and I can’t wait to finally get to meet the team in person as we set about the final installations at the Etihad Stadium this week.”
Manchester City’s Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak commented: “We are delighted with our choice of Andy to bring this project to life. His portfolio speaks to his expertise, and his contemporary approach, together with his chosen medium of industrial materials, made him the perfect fit to create artwork for Manchester City. Ultimately, Vincent and David do not need statues to enshrine their achievements at Manchester City over the past decade. They are already revered as icons of their generation. But what these artworks give us, and generations to come, is the opportunity to be reminded of, and savour, the truly magical moments created by both men.”
Leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese said: “City’s decision to commission the statues of their iconic players and the appointment of Andy Scott to deliver them, is such an exciting development for our city. The benefits of public art are well accepted and in addition to the cultural and aesthetic advantages that come with high quality artwork, it can also generate significant economic value for the city.
I have seen Andy’s work and I’m thrilled that Manchester’s landscape will be blessed with new artwork from someone of his standing and whilst naturally, these pieces will be of appeal first and foremost to Manchester City fans, it is clear that this calibre of artwork will be admired and respected by millions around the city and beyond.”
On this day (August 15) in 2011 Sergio Agüero made his Manchester City debut after signing in the summer of 2011 from Atletico Madrid. Here’s an article on his debut for subscribers to this site. Enjoy!
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last night I was fortunate to attend the premiere of the new Manchester City film Together at the Everyman Cinema, ABC Building on Quay Street, Manchester. Here is my review of the film and the evening.
Guests were welcomed from 6PM with some drinks and nibbles at the cinema. I’d never been to the Everyman before. It’s a fairly new, stylish cinema and a welcome addition to Manchester’s entertainment offering. The bar area encouraged a relaxed mood and it was good to chat with various City staff and guests, most of whom I haven’t seen since before Covid. I spent quite a bit of time with actor John Henshaw who, like me, had worked on The Keeper (the film about Trautmann – he played Bert’s father-in-law and I was a historical consultant to the film).
About 7pm we were invited into the cinema room, passing the Premier League and League Cup trophies. The seats are plush, most are two seater settee style seats and some are single. Popcorn was of course readily available.
Rob Pollard, a member of City’s media team who many Blues will know, did a great introduction. It was great to see a regular member of City staff fronting the premiere like this and Rob represented all those involved well. Great work and much better to me than bringing on a celebrity announcer who hadn’t a direct connection to the film to present it. The name of the film is Together and Rob’s introduction added to that general theme in my opinion.
The film then started. I won’t give away too much in this review but it is worth explaining what the film is and a few key points/memories from it.
The film follows the players through the final stages of the 2020-21 season showing City’s fight in four competitions. Obviously, there are high points and a few lows in the film but this isn’t a typical ‘let’s see City scoring goals from every angle’ film. Instead it’s a fly on the wall style supported with interviews with players looking back at certain points. Goals and match action are often filmed from a camera in the stands or on the sidelines rather than typical broadcast coverage. I think this adds to the view that we’re observing something we don’t normally see.
There’s quite a bit of humour in there and the personalities of some players really come out. De Bruyne displays a deadpan style of humour – at one point he’s asked what would be going through Mahrez’s mind as he’s preparing to take a penalty and he simply says ‘I don’t know’. Scott Carson arrives dressed as a fireman one day and we learn how popular he is with the rest of the squad. Everyone’s delighted when he gets to appear in his first Premier League game for a decade.
Phil Foden features a lot and he talks about Aguero, explaining how he was in awe of him when Foden first made his way into the team. We also see Aguero telling Foden that he’s ‘Different Gravy’ after the League Cup final.
Food features a lot… we see smoothies being made, Walker helping the chefs and we hear how Riyad’s Pasta has become the most popular dish for several players. Oh, and then there’s Pep trying a bacon sandwich!
There was a personal bonus for me when I spotted two of my nephews on screen holding up an Aguero banner in the film.
Overall, the film is a great watch and lasts over 90 minutes. It’s available on City+ from today and I think that all those involved deserve praise for what they’ve achieved. Considering this is an in-house production the quality of the production is impressive. Football clubs traditionally don’t produce film productions of this quality. Nice work City’s media team.
The ending was always going to be tough for a film that chronicles the last weeks of the season but I think they did a great ending… I won’t say how it ends but keep watching after the CL final conclusion.
Oh, and if you do watch Together make sure you look out for the in-depth description of the ‘boot steamer’ when watching!
On this day (June 16) in 1947 the Western Mail carried this match report of Manchester City’s 5-0 victory over Newport County, which was played on June 14. The game was remarkable for a number of reasons:
Prior to the 2019-20 Covid affected season this was the club’s latest finish to a season. 2019-20 ended in August (Champions League) with the League campaign ending on July 26 2020. The 1946-47 season had been affected by snow and frozen pitches, causing many games to be postponed.
City played with only ten men for much of the second half due to an injury to Billy Walsh
The Blues won 5-1 with George Smith scoring all five goals. No player has ever scored more goals for the Blues in a League game (Sergio Aguero of course also scored 5 v Newcastle in October 2015). Denis Law did score 6 goals in a FA Cup tie v Luton but this was abandoned and wiped from the records.
Roy Clarke made his City debut and, as City were promoted, he became the first man to play 3 successive league games in 3 different divisions when he appeared in his next City game. He’d joined from Cardiff (Division 3); made his City debut in Division 2 then played in Division 1. Subscribers can read more about Roy Clarke here:
City had achieved promotion over a month earlier (May 10) when they defeated Burnley 1-0 in front of a Maine Road crowd of 69,463. You can read about that game here:
This season has seen Manchester City players win several prominent player of the year awards with Kevin De Bruyne winning the PFA player of the year award; Phil Foden the PFA young player of the year and Lauren Hemp won the women’s PFA young player of the year award. There was also Ruben Dias won the FWA footballer of the year award and the Premier League player of the year award.
This is an incredible array of awards. The following subscriber post details all the Manchester City winners of these awards since their formation:
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On Saturday May 29 2021 I attended the Champions League final in Porto. Despite the result (a 1-0 victory by Chelsea) it was a wonderful experience and so I’ve decided to post here my story of the weekend. I know every one of us who attended had a different experience but I hope this gives those who were unfortunately not able to be there a taste of what the trip was like.
If you did attend and would like to talk about your experiences then please post them as comments to this piece or participate in the City Voices project and submit your memories. See this page for details:
Porto 2021 was always going to be a historical moment in the history of Manchester City but, because of Covid and the worldwide situation, it was one of the most challenging finals to stage, participate in and attend. All of us who travelled to Porto had to have numerous covid tests (and I have seen on the Bluemoon forum that some fans on various official and unofficial flights have received news that they need to isolate– I feel for anyone on there in this situation).
Fans travelling on the official day trip were told that if they took a Covid PCR test after 1pm on Thursday that should see them through for the journey out, stadium entry and return journey as a test had to be performed for each of these within 72 hours. I was flying out on Friday and returning on Sunday so initially I arranged for my PCR test to occur after 1pm with a company called Dam. At the time of booking they guaranteed that the result would be with me before midnight on the day of the test so that seemed fine but then, on the Bluemoon forum, fans were talking about a change in Dam’s level of service which meant results were no longer guaranteed that same day. Instead 24 hours was being stated by Dam, though when I discussed this with their helpline even the 24 hours could not be guaranteed. Panic followed!
I eventually moved my test to Wednesday afternoon and booked another via the Official Supporters Club offer with Blindspot which I intended dropping off at Bar Pop on Friday morning on my way to Manchester airport.
The Dam test came back on Thursday, meaning I could fly out, and I dropped off the second test at Bar Pop on my way to the airport. There were a few issues at Dam with the booking but eventually everything was sorted. The Supporters Club/Blindspot test and drop off went really well (though the Day 2 return test result has still not arrived – we’re on Day 5 at the moment) and I am grateful to those involved for sorting this all out. You did an excellent job at short notice and in a pressured environment. Thanks.
After leaving Bar Pop I travelled to the airport, making a detour to take a look at Maine Road and surrounding areas. Somehow it seemed appropriate that this journey to the most significant European final the club has ever been involved with should include a brief look at the site of so many wonderful moments over the decades. I saw my first European match at Maine Road (which also staged the first European Cup game ever played in England as well!) in the early 70s.
At the airport everything went smoothly and I was delighted when I realised that I would be flying out on the Etihad Manchester City plane. I had received an invitation from the club (for which I will be eternally grateful and I know how lucky I am) and to experience that flight, while seeking to chronicle this landmark historical moment, added enormously to the occasion. Thanks to those involved (you know who you are. Thanks).
The flight included several former players, officials and key figures in the club’s development. Knowing City’s history, personalities, and key moments I recognise that it was no mean feat to have some of these on the same flight. It was remarkable that City remembered and acknowledged the contribution made by these people, which included Chris Bird, Garry Cook, Paul Dickov, Brian Horton, Francis Lee, Andy Morrison, Ian Niven, Dennis Tueart and Alex Williams. Others, including Pablo Zabaleta joined the group in Porto and stayed at the same hotel.
Once in Porto it was great to see so many City fans in and around the city, especially the historic area near the river. Over the weekend I bumped into several friends and faces from my City-supporting life including Jon Bell (Colin’s son), Howard Burr (and other Reddish Blues), Geoff Homer, Will Perry, John Stapleton, Kate Themen (one of the original Manchester City Women/Ladies players who played with my wife back in the late 80s and she was a drummer with The Fall), Dave Wallace, Steve Welch and of course lots of City staff.
On Friday night I was invited to a club event which saw most of the official party board boats at the riverside for a cruise. We had to walk through many crowds of Blues to board the boats and it was great to see and hear fans bursting into song whenever they saw Morrison, Dickov, Zabaleta and other members of the group.
The boats then dropped us off at a venue where City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak made a brilliant, heartfelt speech about his journey with Manchester City, recalling the moment he was asked by HH Sheikh Mansour to become chairman and his first day in Manchester when he was taken to Carrington, Platt Lane and the stadium. He talked with real passion for the club, its people and the fans. He recognised the history of the club and the journey that we’ve been on paying particular attention to some of the people who had helped along the way, including many of the officials and former officials in the room, as well as fans of course.
There was also a speech by CEO Ferran Soriano about the development of the City Football Group and a video was played about the Champions League journey over the last decade.
DJ Yoda put together an excellent mix of City related music, videos etc. including the recent footage of Pep and his cigar (if you don’t know what I mean do a few internet searches, it will soon appear). It was a definite highlight and something that added a bit of humour to the event too.
Saturday was of course match day. I spent some time in the City Fanzone, where I chatted to a few longstanding Blues I know, but also time around the city. Close to the bars at the historic centre there was a small group of local musicians going around playing City chants/songs such as ‘Singing the Blues’ and Blue Moon. Fans were joining in and it seemed quite bizarre hearing these musicians belt out most of the words to ‘Singing the Blues’, hoping to engage a few fans. A little later, as I wandered further down the river I spotted the same musicians doing similar with Chelsea chants/songs – you’ve got to admire their entrepreneurial skills! I can imagine them on the night the final was moved to Porto rushing to the internet to seek out MCFC & CFC songs. They must have made a few Euros from us all.
The entire atmosphere, as far as I could see and experienced, was positive with City and Chelsea fans enjoying being there. Personally, this was my first trip outside of England and Wales since November 2019 (when I talked at a film festival in St Gallen about the Bert Trautmann film I was a consultant on and then met up with a few Blues in Zurich). It was great to be outside of the UK and wonderful to finally get to see other human beings and to share an experience with fellow City fans.
I loved the way former players like Paul Dickov, Andy Morrison, Pablo Zabaleta and Shay Given were spotted by fans who, without fail, would burst into a chant or song about them. Some were mobbed too of course. At one point, I saw a group of fans opposite our hotel do an impromptu Poznan which I know was loved by the former players and staff who saw it.
Porto seemed like a fairly normal environment. Obviously, like all those attending I tried to ensure I kept to the usual social distancing rules and wore my face mask etc. but this was not always possible, especially when queuing to get into the stadium. I know others were on crowded buses too.
In comparison with the League Cup final at Wembley, it did feel as if UEFA had picked the wrong stadium. Looking around the venue it also made me realise how fantastic the Etihad Stadium is. We take it for granted but our facilities are considerably better than the majority of venues.
If we consider all the extra requirements placed on fans then UEFA definitely picked the wrong stadium and it seems so obvious, particularly with some of the stories coming from Chelsea and City fans about being told to isolate on their return, that the final should have been held in the UK.
The decision to stage the game at Porto was made exceptionally late and, because of this, both clubs were unable to prepare in the way they would have liked. I am aware from City personnel of the short notice they received about tickets, travel and so many other logistical areas. I can only admire the work they have done and the efforts they made to ensure they could get fans to the final and back again. Inevitably, there will be some who had issues (I’m aware of the delays to flight 12 which, from what I hear, has created a sort of Dunkirk spirit amongst those involved) but I do think the ordinary staff and management at City deserve praise for all they did.
As I arrived at the stadium on the coach, which had been delayed due to a traffic accident, we saw Jeremy Clarkson rushing down towards the turnstiles.
Security seemed tight and men and women were separated into different queues with somewhat zealous security types objecting to many, many items. Inflatable bananas, lipsticks, perfumes and many other items were cast aside before intrusive searches were performed (it reminded me of Leeds away back in 1983!). After security we got into the ground with about fifteen minutes to spare.
The Marshmello video was shown; the UEFA anthem was played (City fans started booing it and the volume seemed to be turned up to drown out the booing!); fireworks went off and then we were ready.
The game itself… Ah, I think we all know how we feel about that. I was on a coach going to the ground, close to a couple of former players when the team news came through. I read it out to those around me and one of the former players immediately asked about Fernandinho. He described how things would go and predicted the result immediately. Sad to say, he called it spot on. He wasn’t the only one of course.
The segregation in some areas of the ground seemed somewhat questionable. I was in level one on the side opposite the tunnel, close to the corner. On both sides at that level there seemed to be alternate Chelsea then City blocks. The block I was in was close to the main Chelsea end (to our right as we looked at the pitch) and there was another Chelseablock to our left. The same seemed to occur in the opposite stand. Why UEFA did this I don’t know but common sensewould say that these blocks should’ve had all Chelsea closest to Chelsea fans and all City closest to City fans with genuine neutral blocks in the middle (like Wembley does for major finals).
There were no major issues where I sat but we did feel somewhat drowned out by celebrating Chelsea fans from the moment the goal was scored.
At the end of the game Fernandinho came over to the section I was in; climbed over the barriers and hugged his son. Understandably, they were both emotional and the sight of a player searching for his son so that he could comfort him really got to me. As a parent seeing your child upset is one of the hardest things to experience and I loved how in this moment Fernandinho was not a footballer, he was a dad. Other players, including Ederson and Kyle Walker also came over to console family members.
I think we all saw how emotional our team was, especially Sergio. Like all fans I wish his City journey had ended with Champions League success.
As soon as it seemed right I left the stadium, went to my coach and waited to travel back to the city centre. I was invited back to a post-game event where the mood was understandably and appropriately muted. Wingman (Nigel Clucas), who had worked hard in the fanzone earlier in the day, got the mood spot on by playing The Smiths ‘Heaven knows I’m Miserable Now’; The Cure ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ and similar songs. Wingman did an excellent job that day and must have been exhausted.
The next morning we boarded our coaches and headed back to the airport. Both check in and security were somewhat time-consuming but, to be fair, many staff at the airport had probably been overworked for much of the night.
Compared to Porto, security at Manchester airport seemed a doddle (so long as the correct documentation had been completed beforehand) and within minutes of arriving at security I was on my way home.
Since then I have performed my Day 2 covid test, as required, and sent that off. Now, on day 5, I am still waiting for the results. From many Blues I’ve heard from it does seem like this part of the process is failing and may be something the Government needs to address if they expect UK residents to do these tests when they return from holiday overseas over the coming months.
There’s been the news that Portugal has now been removed from the UK Government’s green list. The cynic would say that the decision to stage the final in Porto influenced the decision to make Portugal a green list country in the first place. For me I don’t know what political decisions have been made and how they’ve been influenced but it does seem somewhat odd. Of course, we all know that logically a final between two English clubs which would see in excess of 12,000 travelling from the UK in the middle of a pandemic should have been staged in the UK. UEFA can say all it wants about fans being at the heart of the game but the bottom line was that the final was staged outside of the UK for the benefit of UEFA officials, sponsors and their friends. If they really wanted to help fans it would have been staged in the UK.
Ah well… Politics, hey?
So Chelsea won the trophy and while the result was a painful one for City fans it must be stressed that Chelsea are one of Europe’s elite and have now won more European trophies than Manchester United. In fact they are the second most successful British club in Europe after Liverpool and, like City, they won a major European trophy BEFORE Liverpool, Juventus and many other clubs. Chelsea’s fans, like City, have seen some dark days (most notably in the 80s) and we should all remember that their development, since the investment, is a few years ahead of City’s. If their achievements in Europe are an indicator of progress then clearly City are not too far behind.
Finally, I know this has been a lengthy piece but I just wanted to throw a few thoughts, memories and comments down. If you’re one of the people who managed to get to Porto I hope you managed to enjoy it despite the result. I was extremely fortunate this year (this is the first time I have ever been a guest of any football club for an away fixture and I know how lucky I was – I will never forget it).
Here’s to the next major final featuring Manchester City who, let’s face it, have won more trophies in 2020-21 than any other English club and have been incredible champions. It could be argued that the ONLY club that stopped them from winning all four major trophies was Chelsea (though Leicester may have in the FA Cup final of course) and they are the European champions.
Today we formally say goodbye to a Premier League legend – Sergio Agüero. Legend is an overused word by many within football. Personally, I’m a little more restrained than most and like to compare players from every era and to think about how a player will be viewed decades from now. So, it is not hyperbole when I describe Sergio Agüero as one of Manchester City’s – and the Premier League’s (and world football) – greatest legends. He is without doubt the greatest goalscorer ever to grace Manchester City but he is also the greatest overseas goalscorer in Premier League history. He is an absolute legend!
So, the last few months since the news that Sergio Agüero will be leaving Manchester City at the end of the 2020-21 season have been highly disappointing (that’s an understatement!) to those of us who have watched his career in England since his arrival a decade ago.
In the 1960s the great City manager Joe Mercer often described Francis Lee as the ‘final piece’ of his jigsaw – and it was Lee’s goals and arrival that helped to transform the 1967-68 season in to a title winning one – and Agüero should be described in a similar fashion. City had won the FA Cup in 2011 but it was Agüero’s arrival that ultimately led to the title in 2011-12. He was the final piece of that title winning jigsaw.
To understand why Francis Lee was called the final jigsaw piece you can read an in-depth of his career here:
Personally, I’m extremely upset that Sergio is leaving City. As with Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany and David Silva, it will be a major loss. These guys became legends (as I indicated earlier I never use that term lightly!) at City and they thrilled and delighted us. As fans, we had a chance to formally say goodbye to Pablo & Vincent but, due to Covid, we haven’t yet been able to say farewell to David and today (May 23) only a limited attendance will be in the stadium to say goodbye to Sergio (there will be around 10,000 in a 54,000 capacity stadium).
Hopefully today provides Sergio with the right kind of send off despite the limited attendance.
Here’s a profile of the man who became Manchester City’s greatest ever goalscorer. Back in 1997 I researched and wrote Manchester The Greatest City, an in-depth history of the Blues containing over half a million words. Sadly, the opportunity to update that and publish an epic history of the club is now unlikely due to changes in the publishing world, cost of production and more but if I did ever get the chance then a significant section would calmly, rationally and factually, explain the significance of Sergio to Manchester City’s development.
So many major stars have appeared for, coached and managed the Blues over the last thirteen years or so that their story really deserves to be told in-depth but, as I’m denied that opportunity these days, we’ll have to make do with features appearing on this website. Hopefully, these words will do justice to Sergio and, over the coming years, his colleagues.
Sergio was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on June 2, 1988 and was given the nickname ‘Kun’ by his grandparents due to his likeness to an anime character. In 2008 he explained to the BBC: ‘Kun actually represents a Japanese cartoon character from my favourite series that I used to watch as a child. I coined the nickname Kun because of my resemblance to the character, who was actually named Kum Kum. My grandparents were the first ones who gave me the name. I think my nickname is different in comparison to most athletes and so I have grown to appreciate it because it’s unique. It’s not every day an athlete is nicknamed after a cartoon character!’
From the moment he could walk, or toddle, football meant everything to the young Sergio: ‘Football surrounds you in Argentina and so I began playing at a very young age. The truth is that I had always lived with the ball at my feet. As soon as class ended in Quilmes in Buenos Aires, my friends and I would start up a game. In Villa Itali, the neighbourhood where I was raised, there was also a pitch where we used to gather with the local kids and organise games. At any moment of the day we could have been playing, when the sun shined or when dark fell. I would spend hours and hours out there, sometimes even coming home late.’
At the age of 15 and 35 days Sergio, playing for Independiente, becoming the youngest player to appear in Argentina’s highest league (beating Maradona’s record). Looking back he explained in 2008: ‘There were some difficult times at first. I was a lot younger and smaller than most of the players, so I had to learn how to avoid and dodge aggressive tackles. At times, especially in the beginning, I think I became a target for malicious tackles and so referees were forced to look after or protect me, or at least pay closer attention to intentional rough hits. But eventually I learned to avoid these rough tackles and improved so that I was able to anticipate and dodge injuries.’
Sergio’s form from the moment he made his debut in 2003 through to 2006 was enough for the media to suggest the 17 year old should play for Argentina in the 2006 World Cup.
On April 29, 2006 the Irish Independent highlighted him as a face to watch and a few days later journalist Stuart Condie wrote: ‘At 15, Agüero became the youngest player in Argentina’s top league and this season has eight goals in 16 league matches for Independiente. Cesar Luis Menotti, Argentina’s 1978 World Cup-winning coach, said he has “something of Romario about him.” Romario helped Brazil win the 1994 championship in the United States.’
Condie quoted the then Argentinian coach Jose Pekerman who said: ‘Kun is playing out of his skin at the moment. There are many players who didn’t get to play at the World Cup until they were 24 or 25. I’m not saying that’s going to be the case with Agüero. I remain hopeful that he can still make it.’
Sadly, Sergio did not appear at the 2006 World Cup but he did make his international debut that year (September 3) against Brazil at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium. A year later he netted his first international goal in a 2010 World Cup qualifier against Bolivia and was ultimately selected for the Argentinian World Cup squad of 2010. Sergio scored in his first finals game – he came on for Carlos Tevez in the 75th minute v South Korea and scored a minute later. Sergio, Sergio!
Often described as ‘the new Maradona’ around this time, Sergio had already won the World Junior Championships twice (2005 & 2007 – he won the Golden Boot as top goalscorer and the Golden Ball as player of the tournament in 2007) and an Olympic Gold Medal (2008 – Argentina won the men’s football tournament of course!). He had also joined Atlético Madrid, signing in May 2006.
When asked about why he had left Argentina and Independiente Sergio explained in 2007: ‘The reason I left Independiente is because I care for the club so much. If I hadn’t been sold for so much money there would not be an Independiente. Their debt problems were so bad they could have gone under. I couldn’t let that happen. I felt sorry for the fans and I understood their anger. But they realise now it was the only solution. It is a great feeling to know they have not forgotten me and chant my name – I will never forget them.’
It is clear that the club continues to mean a great deal for the player and that his comments, back in 2007, were sincere. His move did ensure the club could survive but it added to the focus he received.
Inevitably, delivering so much at such an early age would have put Sergio under immense pressure at times. The comparisons with Maradona (Sergio married his daughter as well); the focus in Argentina and then playing in the Spanish League… all of this could have affected him, like the pressure has so many other young footballers, but Sergio always seemed to keep level headed. When asked in 2008 he commented that he did not feel pressure, adding ‘football comes to me so naturally it’s more like having fun than a job. For me, having a kickabout with my friends is as important as playing in the final of the World Cup.’
It’s worth remembering he was still only 20 when he made those comments. The pressure of life at a top Spanish club and playing for Argentina was intense, especially after he was described by the Atlético president Enrique Cerezo as ‘the most important player to arrive in Spain since Maradona.’ There was also the small matter of Sergio punching the ball into the net – according to those who supported clubs other than Atlético of course! He didn’t, but the goal was scored off his hands. Sergio explained in January 2007: ‘The goal I’m famous for here is the one I scored against Recreativo when the ball hit off my hands and ended in the net. People say it was another Hand Of God goal but if the referee doesn’t disallow it, I’m not going to complain! I didn’t mean to punch the ball past the keeper. I just threw myself at the cross and it went in, although it was definitely off my hands. It’s forgotten now and I’m just concentrating on helping Atletico climb the table.’
In 2008 there were a number of features on Sergio in the media suggesting an English club may try to sign him. They talked of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United with journalist Glen Moore saying ‘He would cost €60m, but that could be cheap for a talented 20-year-old.’ The following year the Irish Independent described him as ‘a player all of Europe covets and one with the skill to unlock any defence.’
The Daily Star claimed that Alex Ferguson had Sergio on his wish list behind Dimitar Berbatov in July 2008 – it’s worth remembering that Berbatov eventually signed for United on transfer deadline day that year when the Reds were seemingly in a battle over transfers with City. It’s amazing to think of what might have happened if United hadn’t made such a determined attempt at getting Berbatov and City had signed him, not Robinho, that day. Would Sergio have ended up at Old Trafford? How different could Manchester’s football story have been over the following decade?
Similarly, in July 2009 Jason Burt, writing for the Irish Independent, claimed that City were trying to lure John Terry away from Chelsea for £28m plus and if that went ahead then the London club might prepare a bid for Sergio. Fate, it seems, played its part in ensuring City’s early spending following the September 2008 takeover did not lead to a rival Premier League club capturing the Argentinian.
In February 2011 it was reported in the Telegraph that Harry Redknapp had tried to sign Sergio for Spurs – leading to Atlético extending his contract – and then on July 17 that year the same newspaper reported that Sergio’s then father-in-law, Maradona, had given his blessing to the player moving to City. Blues’ boss Roberto Mancini was quoted as saying: ‘Agüero is a player that can play for Manchester City because he is young and he is a good player like Carlos [Tevez]. He can score a lot of goals and can play with Mario, with Edin … it could be [that he joins us].’
On July 28 2011, after City chair Khaldoon Al Mubarak allegedly took the highly unusual step of getting directly involved in the transfer, Sergio officially joined City for a fee reported as £35m – an absolute bargain when you consider what he has achieved since BUT also a bargain compared to the amounts that other teams were alleged to have been prepared to spend to capture him at various times in the previous few years. It’s worth remembering Liverpool had paid Newcastle £35m for Andy Carroll in January of that year! I know which player I think offered the most value for money.
The great Argentinian former Spurs star Ossie Ardiles gave his view of Sergio at this time: ‘Agüero’s a wonderful player, only 23, and with a lot of potential. If you compare him with Tevez, I would say he is more of a proper striker, a traditional centre-forward. He is very skilful, strong, two-footed and he has the number one thing that all top frontmen have, and that is an ability to make scoring look very easy.’
Ossie was right and so were many others who recognised that Sergio was the signing City needed to push forward. There were some who, for their own personal reasons, wrote negatively about Sergio’s arrival (maybe they’d have written differently had he joined certain other clubs?), but overwhelmingly it was clear that Sergio was that ‘final jigsaw piece’.
David Maddock, writing in the Daily Mirror, correctly prophesised: ‘City are not just getting one of the most exciting strikers in the world… they are also, apparently, getting a talisman who can provide the impetus for them to take the final step into the elite… The signing ofAgüero promises a huge impact, as the crowds in Manchester last night suggested. By signing a similar player to Tevez, but one who is younger, quicker and with far more potential, City are upgrading.
‘The fact the Argentina striker has replaced Tevez in his country’s forward line and is rated more highly back home adds to that sense of moving onwards and upwards for the club’s supporters.’
Inevitably Sergio was quoted in most of the national newspapers over the days that followed with the Sun carrying several quotes, beginning with whether the weather in Manchester would cause Sergio problems: ‘Firstly I don’t like very hot weather so on that side of things I will be OK. I’m sure I am going to enjoy myself here and life will be fine.’ He added: “My style has always been to fight to the death for every ball, to give 100 per cent in every game, be concentrated to the maximum in everything I do. I think we are a team that in the future will be fighting every year to win trophies. And let’s hope that it is a quite a few major trophies.’ Well, Sergio, you certainly did challenge for trophies (quite a few) every year!
Sergio’s competitive City career began with a 59th minute substitute appearance against Swansea in the Premier League on August 15, 2011 (the first Premier League meeting with Swansea). Within nine minutes he’d scored his first goal (a tap in from a cross by Micah Richards) and in injury time he netted his second (a 30 yard strike). In addition, he also set up David Silva to score (he’d hooked the ball off the byline and passed it to Silva).
You can read about the game here:
Oliver Holt, writing in the Daily Mirror, correctly reported how it felt to those of us in the stadium that day: ‘City fans should be entitled to think a forward ought to be a bit special. But to be at the Etihad Stadium last night and to witness the Manchester City debut of Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero felt like being in on something momentous. It felt like a landmark… Of all the superstar arrivals that have happened here in the blur of transfer activity that has taken place since Sheikh Mansour bought the club three years ago, Agüero’s feels as if it has the power to transform the side. There was an electricity about the place when he came on for Nigel de Jong after an hour. There was a feeling that something special was about to occur.’
And something special did occur. We all know about the Agüeroooooooo goal that brought City the Premier League title but the player has always been something more than that goal.
Over the near decade that has followed his arrival incredible success has come City’s way with Agüero usually playing a significant part in each glory. Surprisingly he’s never been awarded either the PFA footballer of the year or the Football Writers’ equivalent (lots of City fans have theories why!) but he has won a whole host of personal awards including the Premier League Golden Boot 2015; Manchester City Player of the Year 2012 & 2015 and the Football Supporters Federation Player of the Year 2014.
Sergio also, of course, became City’s record goalscorer of all time. In fact he holds most of the Blues goalscoring records: Overall goalscorer 257 goals (next best Eric Brook 177); League goalscorer 181 goals (next best Tommy Johnson & Eric Brook 158) and Europe 43 goals (next best Raheem Sterling 21). He’s second in the list of FA Cup goalscorers for City on 20 goals, two behind Fred Tilson – but Tilson played 28 FA Cup games and Sergio has only played 20.
At the end of March 2021 when he announced he was leaving I calculated his League record. At that time (it will have changed slightly since) his League record was incredible: 181 goals in 232 (plus 39 as sub) appearances. That’s a ratio of 0.66789 goals per game, ignoring how many minutes he’s actually been on the pitch. Johnson’s City League record was 0.4817 goals per League game and Brook’s was 0.3511. If we consider all strikers to have made 100 or more appearances in the Premier League only Thierry Henry (ratio of 0.67829) and Harry Kane (0.67510) have a better ratio and neither man has played as many games. In January 2018 I did a profile of Sergio’s goalscoring for the Manchester City match programme and in that I calculated that his record was 0.682 goals per League game. Since then injury and less actual game time has made that figure reduce, otherwise he would still have had the best goals to game ratio in the Premier League.
Of course, goals per game totally ignores how long the player was actually on the pitch and in the last year or so Sergio has often been brought on as substitute, sometimes at a stage where City have been content with a result or with too little game time for Sergio to make an impact. When analysis of goals per minute played City have rightly claimed him as ‘the competition’s most lethal goalscorer in terms of goals scored per minutes played.’
He is the highest scoring overseas player in Premier League history and holds the record for the most Premier League hat-tricks.
At present Sergio is the 16th highest appearance holder for City. As of May 23 (before the game) he is six games behind the club’s earliest legendary figure Billy Meredith.
No wonder the City chairman has said: ‘Sergio’s contribution to Manchester City over the last 10 years cannot be overstated. His legend will be indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who loves the Club and maybe even in those who simply love football.
‘In the meantime, it gives me great pleasure to announce that we will be commissioning an artist to create a statue of Sergio to live at the Etihad Stadium alongside the ones under construction for Vincent and David. And we look forward to the opportunity to bid Sergio a fitting farewell at the end of the season.’
Manchester City have had many great goalscoring figures over the years, including World Cup stars and international heroes but, in terms of records, emotion and trophies, Agüero’s record eclipses all that have gone before. Inevitably it is difficult to compare heroes from one era with another, but whenever comparisons are made between Agüero and the modern era’s greatest strikers the evidence is clear. Sergio Agüero’s statistics speak for themselves with few Premier League legends able to compare to the record of City’s Argentinian star. For me Agüero is the best.
Today is going to be emotional for us all as we bid farewell to City’s – and one of the Premier League’s – greatest ever goalscorer. Sergio, we will miss you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this profile. As I said at the start it’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to update my epic Manchester The Greatest City (last edition was Manchester The City Years published in 2012) and a profile of Sergio, alongside all the other legends, would be something I’d have sought to include. From now on material like that will make its way on to http://www.GJFootballArchive.com – some will be free to read for a period while other content will be only available to subscribers. Currently, there are almost 300 articles posted to this site including the entire Manchester A Football History and exclusive audio interviews with Trevor Sinclair, John Bond, George Graham and Malcolm Allison (it is my intention to publish some of my historic interviews alongside new content). Subscribers get full access to all of this.
Apart from occasional books, this is now my only writing outlet. My last article for a match programme was published before the first Covid lockdown and so if you want to read more content like the above or would like to access historic articles/interviews/recordings then please subscribe. It costs £20 a year (it works out about £1.67 a month) and you get full access throughout your subscription period. You can subscribe below. Thanks for reading. It is appreciated. Gary James, March 30 2021.
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