11:48 AM GMT
Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC
Enjoy Sergio Aguero while you can. The Manchester City striker’s contract at the Etihad expires in the summer of 2021 and, if the Argentine sticks to his oft-stated plan of returning to boyhood club Independiente when it runs out, we will only have another season-and-a-half to appreciate his brilliance.
Aguero’s status as one of the best strikers in the world is without question. For more than a decade, the 31-year-old has torn defences apart with Atletico Madrid and Manchester City, both domestically and in the Champions League.
He can do the routine and the spectacular, equally capable of beating a goalkeeper from 30 yards as tapping one in on, inches from the goal-line. He also scores “heavy” goals too — the professional parlance for big goals in big games — and his title-winning strike for City against Queens Park Rangers in 2012, when he scored in the fourth minute of stoppage time to win the league for his club, is as memorable and iconic as it gets.
But after Aguero eclipsed Arsenal legend Thierry Henry on Sunday by becoming the highest-scoring non-English player in Premier League history, it is fair to question whether he gets the acclaim and recognition that he truly deserves.
Aguero went into Sunday’s 6-1 victory against Aston Villa at Villa Park with an identical record to Henry, having scored 174 goals in 254 Premier League games. His hat-trick against Villa took him to 177 in 255, moving him level with Chelsea boss Frank Lampard in fourth position on the list of the Premier League’s all-time top scorers, and he also went past Alan Shearer in the all-time hat trick count by scoring his 12th against Dean Smith’s team.
Even if Aguero has just one-and-a-half seasons left in England, you would expect him to surpass Lampard and Andy Cole (187 goals) in third place and become only the third player to break the 200-goal barrier in the Premier League behind Shearer (260) and Wayne Rooney (208).
Yet while Aguero is rightly lauded as a legendary figure by City supporters, is he under-appreciated by fans elsewhere? He was only named on the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for the first time in 2018, despite arriving at the club in 2011! And when the question is asked about the best, or most influential, foreign player to play in the Premier League, the same old names are often thrown up.
Henry is an obvious contender, having been a dominant force for Arsenal before, during and after their Invincible season in 2003-04; Eric Cantona also gets a regular mention because of the transformative effect he had on Manchester United during the 1990s following his arrival from Leeds in November 1992; Chelsea fans will always hail Gianfranco Zola’s impact at Stamford Bridge; while it won’t take long before Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah are elevated to similar status at Liverpool.
But Aguero always seems to slip under the radar, despite his incredible record at City since arriving from Atletico Madrid nine years ago. He has now scored more goals than Henry and has won twice as many Premier League titles as the Frenchman (4-2 in Aguero’s favour).
Cantona won as many titles as Aguero and more FA Cups — and the passage of time since he retired in 1997 has perhaps diminished memories of his contribution — but he was never as consistent in front of goal as the City man and his performances in the Champions League did not come close to the standards set by Aguero.
Despite scoring some great goals and helping to change the mentality at Chelsea, Zola never won a Premier League title during his time in England and, while Van Dijk and Salah are likely to do that this season at Liverpool, they cannot come close to matching Aguero in terms of his longevity.
Craig Burley praises Sergio Aguero for his consistency and longevity following his record day for Man City.
Aguero has broken the 20-goal barrier in six of his eight full seasons at City and he already has 13 this time around, so that gives you an idea of his consistency at the very highest level. But perhaps Aguero’s low-key persona is a reason for his failure to claim the recognition he deserves.
Nine years after arriving in England, he remains uncomfortable speaking publicly in English, so has been unable to connect with supporters and a wider audience in the same way that the articulate and outspoken Henry did at Arsenal.
Aguero does not seek publicity or use the media to his advantage and playing for City has also impacted on his status beyond the Etihad. United, Liverpool and Arsenal are much bigger clubs on a global scale than City and command far greater media attention. They also have far deeper reservoirs of supporters who help raise the profile of their star players.
If Aguero had spent his Premier League career playing in red, he would almost certainly be held in the same regard as Henry and Cantona. But whatever the reason for his lack of true recognition, Aguero’s record speaks for itself and he will continue to score goals for City until the day he packs his bags for Argentina.
The modern-day pretenders to his crown as the best striker in the league — Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Harry Kane — need to do it as consistently, and win as many trophies, as Aguero before they can even come close to challenging his status as the best of the best.