When Sergio Aguero made his Manchester City debut on August 15th, 2011 he came on as a second-half sub and promptly scored two goals. When he made his final league appearance in a sky blue shirt, just shy of a decade later, he came on as a second-half sub and promptly scored two goals.
These braces bookended a further 256 times the Argentine hit-man placed, drilled, dinked and headed precious goals for City; a formidable haul that secured him fifteen trophies and broke all manner of records.
He is the club’s record goalscorer, smashing a target of 177 set by Eric Brook 78 years prior. No player has scored more goals for a single club in the Premier League. No player has scored more Premier League hat-tricks. The chunky-thighed striker boasts the most consecutive seasons scoring 20+ goals in the top-flight. He leaves – probably for Barcelona – with the best goals-per-minute ratio since football was invented in 1992.
Sergio Aguero is, by every definition and metric, a bona fide goalscoring legend.
Legends, regardless of their ilk, are elevated to the same rarefied plateau but they are viewed so very differently. Staying with City, take Vincent Kompany for example who is respected and revered for his leadership qualities and then compare that adoration to what Blues feel for David Silva. With the player they nicknamed ‘Merlin’ it is an aesthetic appreciation, like the love you have for a favourite album that impacted so positively upon your life.
With Aguero it is a love that takes the form of a deep gratitude; a debt that can never be repaid, and this subservience to his gifts took root at the very beginning when the 23 year old signed for £35m all those years ago.
Having terrorised La Liga defences for several seasons with Atletico Madrid he could have gone to any established elite club in the world. He chose a club on the up; a club furnished with extraordinary wealth and lofty ambitions that were going places.
It is often said that Robinho was Manchester City’s first superstar signing, joining on transfer deadline day 2008, a mere 12 hours after City’s transformative takeover. In reality, he was a sideshow, a circus act. It was Aguero who was the ringmaster. The statement signing and the real deal. It was he who took the club from there to here.
Hence the gratitude, but it goes far, far further than that of course. In that inaugural season the Argentine bagged 23 goals, the latter of which tilted the world on an entirely new axis and secured City’s first league title for 44 years and all while depriving a hated neighbour who had one hand on the trophy.
And from this we better understand the gratitude; why on encountering Kompany a City supporter might bow as if to royalty and on meeting Silva there would be a star-struck awe, inhabiting the same space as an artist.
Coming face-to-face with Kun Aguero would unravel a million thank yous.
It’s because he has given us moments, countless moments, or at least it feels like an untold amount whereas the figures above account for them accurately. These are moments of pure unfettered joy, when your head explodes and your tonsils hurt and you lose yourself utterly in celebration.
For all that Sky would have us believe that football is about taking your son to a game, holding his hand through the turnstiles, or advertisers like to portray friends sharing pizza and beer on a sofa, and writers eulogise about the greenness of a pitch and the smell of a terrace, really football is primal and it’s tribal and it’s always about those sacred few seconds when you garble out a sound akin to ‘YEEEAAAHHHGRFGFTHFFFFUCCCKINGEETTINNNN!!!’ and nothing else matters and the world is briefly a truly wonderful place.
Aguero bequeathed so many of these joyous vignettes, sometimes grabbing a fourth or fifth with City cruising and a fist is merely clenched. Other times, the universe spins and your soul explodes and who ‘in real life’ gives us such ecstasy bar once or twice in a lifetime. Kun did it most Saturday afternoons.
All the goals, for supporters, was emotion but for the player himself it was business. Indeed, rarely has there been a forward in the modern era who has so defined himself by finding the back of the net. Across a fabulous decade he eschewed nightclubs and politely smiled and gave his time to everyone he met, but when that whistle blew he metamorphosized; his blood ran cold and his stare hardened. Keepers were the enemy. Defenders his victims. The boy was lethal and merciless.
And now he’s gone and as a Blue that hurts but as consolations go one truth is significant. All those moments, all those times I and thousands like me shouted to the heavens, they do not dissipate into thin air. They turn to memories.
From his last-gasp thump, low and hard past Paddy Kenny to his wonderful hat-trick against Bayern; from his angry hit high into Liverpool’s net to the umpteen times all hope seemed lost but then up he popped, these memories will be cherished forever. As too, the bona fide Premier League legend who gave them to us.