Any historian of English football would be hard-pressed to deny Sergio Agüero a place amongst the game’s greats. A first-half penalty against Burnley at the weekend brought Manchester City’s diminutive Argentine level with the club’s all-time goal-scoring record: the 177 goals scored by Eric Brook almost a hundred years ago.
However you look at it, this achievement is impressive: where Brook scored his goals in the course of a career that spanned 11 years and 499 games, Agüero has accomplished the task in a mere 6 years over 262 games.
Yet in spite of his career statistics, there are some who still remain undecided as to Sergio Agüero’s greatness as a Premier League footballer. For instance, on the BBC website last month, Garth Crooks seemed caught in two minds about Agüero’s credentials. On the one hand, he ascribes any greatness on the part of the 29-year-old from Buenos Aires to his team mates: ‘Sergio Agüero is nothing without the delivery of the pass’, he writes. ‘And Kevin de Bruyne’s quality of pass is as good as it gets.’
But no sooner had Garth Crooks belittled the talents of Agüero, he was immediately singing his praises. ‘His third against Watford… really blew me away and reminded me of the final phase of that phenomenal run by his countryman and relative Diego Maradona against England in 1986,’ Crooks gushed. ‘This was just genius at work.’
This wavering of the pundits is backed up by the players themselves. In the course of the six full seasons that he has played in the Premier League, Sergio Agüero has only been nominated for the award once, despite winning the golden boot one season and finding himself in the top three scorers of the competition on three occasions.
Throughout his career, then, Sergio Agüero has been dogged by questions as to his true greatness. The question is: why has Sergio Agüero consistently been overlooked during his time in the Premier League?
Consistency the Enemy
In some senses, Sergio Agüero has suffered because of his consistency at Manchester City. In his time at the club, he has scored over 25 goals in all competitions in all but one of the six full season’s he has played in. His average goals scored per season across this period has been 28.16.
This remarkable dependability is often touted as that thing which separates the truly great Premier League players from the very good Premier League players. However, in Agüero’s case, so high is this level of consistency that it seems people have become immune to it.
Taking into account his 188 appearances in the Premier League in which he has clocked up 13,940 minutes on the pitch, the Argentina international has scored 129 goals and racked up 39 assists. This means that he has been involved in the scoring of a goal every 82.98 minutes across his time in the highest division in English football.
To put this into perspective, over a much shorter career span, Harry Kane is running a minutes per goal involvement of 95.92.
A Unique Style
Another area in which Agüero is differentiated from those players who are considered Premier League greats is at the level of style. We are living in a period where the evolution of the number 9 away from a target man to a more well-rounded forward player has come full circle. With the modern-day penchant for the lone striker giving rise to the return of the ‘big man striker’ — Romelu Lukaku, Edinson Cavani, Alvaro Morata, to take some examples — Sergio Agüero is unusual for a striker particularly in the Premier League.
Due to his lower centre of gravity, his turn of pace and his close control, Agüero’s game is about far more than goal scoring. To match his 129 Premier League goals, the Argentine has 39 assists. Added to the fact that in every season in the Premier League, he has recorded a figure higher than 1.5 dribbles per game, it is likely that Agüero’s legacy suffers from his inevitable comparison to the other strikers within the English competition.
Another aspect of Agüero’s game that is fundamental to his disputed reputation in England is his injury proneness. Unsurprisingly, the City forward has never been ever-present throughout a Premier League campaign for the club. Where it might be tempting to use this as a negative against his record, it is important to remember that the effect that regular injury problems can have on the flow of a player’s career.
For Agüero, the ebb and flow of his form can be traced
against his medical history: the slow peak of form after injury being cut short by another set-back. In fact, since the 2008/09 season when Agüreo was at Atletico, he has always missed at least four games per season. In his six full seasons at Manchester City so far, he has missed an average of 7.83 games per season.
In many respect, set against this background of injury problems, Agüero’s time in the Premier League may in fact be more impressive than once thought.
For many football fans, the challenge of international football offers a subsequent challenge against which the greatness of players might be tested. Sergio Agüero is part of the ‘Best Argentinian team never to win a World Cup’ and no doubt the failure of the golden generation to lift the trophy will blight the reputations of a number of players.
Despite achieving a not-unimpressive tally of 33 goals in 82 international appearances, the merit of an international player is weighed on their tournament achievements rather than their aptitude to scoring goals against what are often weaker defences. Brought on at half time in the 2014 World Cup final, Sergio Agüero was unable to change the course of a game which, had he played his part in winning, he might have achieved world-class status amongst English fans.
Last season on the other side of the city, a similar all-time goals record was broken by a similar striker. But in the case of Wayne Rooney, the achievement was secured to almost universal acclaim. This says more about the way that a player’s legacy is more reliant upon the idea of a player in the minds of fans than upon the specific details of their careers. In the case of Sergio Agüero, then, it may be the case that his next few seasons offer him a last chance to achieve recognition amongst the English contingent.
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