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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Sergio Aguero's Manchester City goal tally a testament of loyalty and longevity

Argentine striker has long seemed Premier League side’s finest goalscorer. Now it should be ratified in record books

Sergio Aguero has been consistent for Manchester City since his arrival in 2011. Phil Noble / Reuters
Sergio Aguero has been consistent for Manchester City since his arrival in 2011. Phil Noble / Reuters

The beaten manager was reflecting on his misfortune. “It’s a funny one, you lose 4-0 but a lot of players have shown up well,” Brendan Rodgers said.

It was August 2011 and Swansea City’s first Premier League game had ended in what seemed a rout. But, as he said, they had performed creditably.

Then they could testify to the Aguero effect. Goals change games. So do goalscorers. They distort scorelines. One is making Manchester City history.

Unleashed from the bench that evening six years ago, Sergio Aguero struck twice in four minutes, the second by juggling the ball over goalkeeper Michel Vorm and finishing from an acute angle.

They were his first two City goals.

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A further 175 have followed, his penalty against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday drawing Aguero level with Eric Brook’s 78-year-old club record of 177. Score against Wolves in the League Cup on Tuesday night, and while Pep Guardiola is likely to field a weakened team – a man with 23 goals in his last 26 games probably will – and Aguero will be the outright record holder.

Revisiting the Argentine’s reaction to his debut is instructive. “This is a chance for me to change the league,” he said in a small room to the side of City’s news conference theatre.

It was more prophetic than he probably realised.

Nine months later, in the fourth minute of injury time on the final day of the season, with Manchester United having beaten Sunderland and believing they were champions, City were drawing 2-2 with Queens Park Rangers. Then Mario Balotelli laid the ball off to Aguero, he took a touch and rifled the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

The time – 93.20 – is stencilled on the outside of the Etihad Stadium. The image of Aguero, shirt off in celebration, will remain imprinted on supporters’ mind. He rendered City champions for the first time in 44 years.

Had he never scored another goal for the club, his place in folklore would have been secured. Instead he has carried on churning them out with remarkable consistency: 30, 17, 28, 32, 29 and 33 in six full seasons in Manchester.

But for injuries, he would have overhauled Brook sooner.

Along the way, Roberto Mancini has compared Aguero to Romario, partly because of a low centre of gravity and a habit of darting away from defenders. Manuel Pellegrini felt he was the third best player in the world, behind only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Guardiola has not reached for such superlatives – at times he has preferred Gabriel Jesus – but he has added other elements to Aguero’s game. He already has three assists this season.

But he is indelibly associated with scoring, not supplying. Some goals have been spectacular and one in a Manchester derby drew comparisons with George Best.

Some have come against the best, and a player with eight goals against Manchester United, a hat-trick against Chelsea and a quadruple against Tottenham Hotspur to his name has inflicted plenty of punishment on England’s big six.

A match-turning treble against Bayern Munich was perhaps his greatest night on the continental stage. Like his winner against QPR, it felt proof that when Aguero has momentum, he can be unstoppable.

His defining features have been his razor sharpness, an electric ability to glide away from defenders and a capacity to shoot into the corners: simple statistics like the percentage of shots on target are not applicable in Aguero’s case. He rarely aims for the centre of the goal.

It is a key to his potency.

His next achievement will also be an indication of loyalty and longevity, even if Aguero is overhauling Brook at a rapid rate. It is worth rewinding to the early days after Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed’s takeover.

Some imports were accused of being mercenaries. Some signings disappointed.

But there was direction. City started to shape their future. The summers of 2010 and 2011 produced three players who have helped define the modern club.

David Silva may be the greatest footballer in City’s history. Yaya Toure, given the catalytic effect he long exerted in big games, could be the most influential. And Aguero, branded world-class by Rodgers after one game, has long seemed City’s finest goalscorer.

Now that should be ratified in the record books.