x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Blues skies the limit for the gifted Sergio Aguero

Diego Maradona's son-in-law is a dream signing for Manchester City, having acclimatised to club and country.

Sergio Aguero is keen to translate his incredible form in the Premier League to the Champions League tonight, when Manchester City take on Napoli, one of the former clubs of Aguero's father-in-law, Diego Maradona.
Sergio Aguero is keen to translate his incredible form in the Premier League to the Champions League tonight, when Manchester City take on Napoli, one of the former clubs of Aguero's father-in-law, Diego Maradona.

Bayern Munich, Villarreal, Manchester City and Napoli: it was a draw to prompt a sudden surge in traffic on the mobile phone networks.

But for one particular caller, it was a meeting of such remarkable resonance that it prompted a conversation straddling continents between short, skilful Argentines who have elevated teams in sky blue to new levels.

The participants: Sergio Aguero, who has transformed City into elegant entertainers capable of scoring 15 goals in their first four league fixtures, and Diego Maradona, a catalyst of almost unrivalled brilliance when Napoli won the only Scudetti in their history.

The younger man recalled: "I said: 'Hi Diego, we have got Napoli in the Champions League' and his reaction was 'wow, Napoli, that would be an interesting game; I would love to see that'."

Sadly, a family reunion is unlikely. Maradona will not be at the Etihad Stadium tonight and his duties coaching Al Wasl are likely to prevent an appearance in November's return fixture.

In his absence, his son-in-law is carrying on a tradition of upsetting the established order.

A Champions League debut for both clubs is City's first European Cup tie for 43 years and Napoli's in 21. A glamour game also has a novelty factor. "The most important thing for now would be to qualify from the group stage," Aguero said, aware that this is the toughest pool.

He has arrived at City in irresistible form and boasting impeccable connections. Few can say they have two of the greatest players of all-time on speed dial but such is the surreal world in which an admirably grounded Aguero finds himself.

Happily as he chats to mere mortals, he has contacts in rather higher places and, when his time at Atletico Madrid was nearing an end in the summer, he turned to Lionel Messi for advice.

"I did speak to him before coming here," Aguero said. "He is a great friend of mine, not just in football but also outside the game.

"He wished me luck and just told me winning titles is great and said he was sure I would have a bigger chance [to do that] here. He said he hopes we meet later on and the only possibility is the Champions League, so we will see how that turns out."

There is, of course, a precedent for Manchester teams to meet Catalan opposition on showpiece occasions. A turbocharged Messi propelled Barcelona to glory in May's final, and emulating his friend is an aspiration of Aguero's.

"It is a dream to win that cup," he said. "Watching any player win the Champions League is something you aim for yourself."

His initial impact in the Premier League has been explosive. Six goals in four games, including a hat-trick in Saturday's win over Wigan, have made a mockery of suggestions Aguero would take time to settle in England.

"I am very happy," he said. "I am still adjusting to both the city and the club, but I can't complain, it's been wonderful."

Adjustment seems a rapid process. He has forged an immediate understanding with, among others, Samir Nasri, David Silva and Edin Dzeko to add to an alliance with Carlos Tevez that was established in the Argentine national side.

The compatriots provide a contrast, however. Tevez's dislike of the Manchester climate and restaurants became public knowledge when he attempted to find alternative employers.

Aguero has no such grievances. "I am enjoying the city," he said. "Each person has his own look at life. He preferred to talk about the weather and the city. All in all, I am very much a family person, and I like staying at home with my family. Living here allows me to do that."

The aforementioned relatives accompany Aguero to the interview. His two-year-old son, Benjamin, attracts attention, partly because he seems to share his father's natural exuberance but largely because, when he makes a beeline for a ball, there is intrigue to see what the combined DNA of Aguero and Maradona might produce. Football's first family will be scrutinised for evidence of a third-generation superstar.

In the short term, the quest is for some silverware. While approaching 150 goals for club and country at the age of 23, Aguero's only honours for his employers are the Uefa Cup and Super Cup Atletico won in 2009. City have higher aims but a player notable for his calm on the pitch is unflustered by the expectation.

"I can't really say it is pressure per se but if you look at the investment since Sheikh Mansour [bin Zayed] arrived, all the buys that have been made have steadily improved the team in some way," he said. "It has come up several steps from where it was."

Reaching the top of the ladder involves knocking the neighbours off their perch.

"Also if you look at Chelsea in the last couple of years, those might be the two main contenders," Aguero said. "United are the bigger, not because they are nearer, but because they have won more in the last year, so they might be the rivals to beat."

His analysis of Roberto Mancini's summer spending - "I think it strengthens the league as a whole" - has a truth, but is unlikely to get a widespread welcome among the teams endangered by City's emergence.

The notion of strength in depth is one he returns to. Mancini has an enviable attacking armoury and, with Tevez remaining at City, he can perm from four out-and-out strikers.

"All I can say is I can play with anyone up front," Aguero said, a theory his early-season form alongside first the prolific Edin Dzeko and then, during the defeat of Wigan, Tevez supports.

"Even Mario Balotelli might be playing more up front rather than just behind the striker," he said. "It depends on the coach.

"We do all these rotations in training to prepare for different situations."

Preparing for all eventualities was something Aguero did during his time in Spain.

"I did watch a lot of English games," he said.

"I liked Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, but they are just the messengers for a whole troop of big players that play in this league such as Didier Drogba or [now] Juan Mata."

A mischievous grin follows. "But I sure in the same way I enjoyed watching these players, people now enjoy watching Kun Aguero," he said.

Self-deprecating as his almost apologetic body language is, there is a truth to his comments.

Among the defences he has eviscerated, however, there is unlikely to be agreement; watching Aguero can be a decidedly painful process for them.

For his own family, even those with an allegiance to the opposition, it should be more pleasurable.

It is a safe assumption that, from the UAE, Diego Maradona will tune in on Wednesday.

sports@thenational.ae


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Aguero recently signed a partnership with PUMA, having chosen to wear the PUMA v1.11 speed boot, which he'll wear for the first time on pitch tonight against Napoli.