A version of this article was first published on 21 May 2021
“King”. “Magical”. “Inspirational”.
Asked to describe Sergio Aguero in one word, Jermaine Jenas, Micah Richards and Nedum Onuoha provide answers that say it all.
Aguero leaves Manchester City for Barcelona this summer after 10 years, 260 goals and unprecedented success at the club.
Though he was unable to help City conquer Europe for the first time, he leaves with five Premier League titles, one FA Cup and six League Cup triumphs to his name.
His individual numbers are possibly even more impressive. He is City’s all-time leading goalscorer. He has the best minutes-to-goals ratio in Premier League history. He has more Premier League hat-tricks than anyone else. He is the top overseas goalscorer in league history. And he is fourth in the Premier League all-time scorers list.
After his departure from City was confirmed – but before it was announced he would join Barcelona – former City team-mates Richards and Onuoha joined ex-Tottenham and England midfielder Jermaine Jenas – and a few others – on a BBC Radio 5 Live special to discuss Aguero’s impact and the legacy he leaves behind.
The arrival of ‘the genuine article’
Aguero joined Manchester City from Atletico Madrid in 2011 for £35m, aged 23. The Argentine had already helped Atletico to Europa League success, had won two Under-20 World Cups and claimed Olympic gold in 2008.
South American expert Tim Vickery: It always amazes me how little City had to pay and how little the competition was to sign him because he was already the genuine article. The first time I ever saw him in 2005 was when he was 16. The surprise was how complete he was.
He was strong, good on the ball, great in small space and there was a comparison that instantly leapt into my mind – the Brazilian Romario.
Before the player comes to Europe, there is always that question about how will they adapt. Atletico Madrid were horrified by his diet – red meat, fizzy drinks. They tried to work on his diet – so at the point City bought him, I couldn’t see any risk whatsoever.
He had made it very clear he wanted out of Atletico. It has worked wonderfully for him because he has carried Manchester City to the next level and will forever be associated with the club.
‘Worst trainer in the world’ to ‘superstar’
Aguero’s Premier League debut came in City’s opening game of the 2011 season. Brought on as substitute in the 59th minute with City 1-0 up against Swansea, the striker scored twice and created another to mark the start of what was to come.
Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards: From the moment he came through the door, you are in awe. You have that feeling of ‘wow’. The only other time I had that was when Robinho came through the door. For us growing up, Shaun Goater or Nicolas Anelka was a big thing – so when Aguero comes, you can’t believe this is happening.
He was the worst trainer in the history of training. He had that laid-back style. Aguero would just walk around. Sometimes he wouldn’t even have his boots tied up. But the moment it came to the finishing, it was game over. I thought he was going to be sensational but when I trained with him I thought ‘have we made a mistake here?’ I thought Tevez was better – but then he makes his debut…
The fans just erupted when he came on and it was like a genuine superstar here. You can’t write it and from them I knew we had signed a player.
I was there for four years with him. With Aguero, you don’t associate him with being a superstar in terms of how he was off the pitch. He was the most humble person ever.
Ex-Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha: I always found Aguero was a good guy to be around. The writing was on the wall for me but he still carried on around us. Someone like Sergio was as humble as they came.
In a very short space of time, it went from a team hoping to be in the top six to a team who expected to be top. Players such as Sergio had been brought in to win the league. The mentality had changed.
A ‘quality marksman’ who ‘became iconic’
Aguero will always be remembered for that injury-time winner against QPR on the final day of the 2012 season that brought City their first Premier League title. But just a glance at the trophies he has won and goals he has scored show why Aguero will always be considered a legend at Etihad.
Onuoha: What he stands for for the football club is the most exciting time in the club’s history.
In his first season they won the league and he has barely been out of the top three in his entire time there. Ultimately if you have played with Sergio Aguero over the past 10 years, it means you have had a very, very good time.
For Manchester City, even though they were on their way up, a lot of people come through the doors hoping to leave and go somewhere bigger. But Sergio knew he was the project himself – and he has taken that role, he has become iconic.
With the way Manchester City have played over the last 10 years, you could not have asked for a better striker. He knows how to get to the right areas and that is understanding, skill and intelligence. His footballing IQ is out of this world.
If he doesn’t do what he has done, City don’t do what they have done over the past 10 years. If we are talking goalscorers, he has been the most important and best overseas player in Premier League history.
Richards: When you come to Manchester it is a great city and when you are the main man in Manchester, the fans are behind you, you win the Premier League. What more do you want? Man City were still growing and he was the missing piece in that puzzle.
Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all-time leading scorer: Class, quality, goals, touch technique. Just a wonderful all-round centre forward who has been brilliant for Manchester City and the Premier League.
He will always be remembered for that last-ditch goal that won City the title in 2012, arguably the most famous goal in Premier League history. That’s what sets the quality forwards apart – they look so calm. If you wanted the ball to fall to anyone in that moment, it would have been Aguero.
City needed something, someone special to give them that piece of magic and that’s what he delivered when they most needed him. He was a quality killer, a quality marksman.
We should admire him and respect him for what he has done for our league. It has been a joy to watch him. All we can say is thank you for the entertainment he has given us.
A statue or a big regret?
With his move to Barcelona now confirmed, how should City remember him?
Richards: A statue for sure, 100%. He is a legend. Probably the best player ever for City for what he has done for the club and I can’t believe we are getting rid of him.
I won’t question Pep, but City are going to need to buy a striker soon. I believe we are letting him go one year too soon. We have seen what Edinson Cavani can do at Manchester United.
Onuoha: The statue thing is not for the players but for the fans and they like to remember the players. He has made Manchester his home. In my lifetime, he has been far and away the best City player we have ever seen. It is not even a question.
He has helped change the club – for £35m – his impact… City were not winning Premier Leagues before he came.