Had Sergio Aguero done little else in his Manchester City other than score the winning goal against QPR with virtually the last kick of the 2011/12 season he would have been instantly immortalised as a club legend regardless.
That goal, scored deep into stoppage time after rivals Manchester United thought the title was theirs, handed City their first top flight league trophy in 44 long years and only their third overall.
The reality is different because Aguero has done far, far more for the club than just that. He is not a City legend solely for that moment, but for nine seasons and counting of consistent brilliance, propelling his team into the elite bracket of the best in the world.
Consistency over many years is what separates truly great players from the rest. Aguero has never let City down and has been driving them on to new highs for close to a decade.
Between 2014 and 2019 the Argentine netted 20 or more Premier League goals five seasons in a row. He got at least 30 in all competitions in four of those years – he got 29 in the other – and even hit 30 in his debut season. The 30th that year, against QPR, was the most important, but it started in spectacular fashion as well when he netted twice against Swansea to kick off the campaign.
By November 2017 when City were on the way to their historic ‘Centurions’ season, Aguero had surpassed Eric Book as the club’s all-time top scorer. Book was a member of City’s golden side of the 1930s and his record of 177 had stood for 78 years since 1939. Aguero now has over 250.
In Premier League terms, Aguero has scored more hat-tricks than any other player – he has 12 to his name, one more than Alan Shearer. He is also one of only five players to have got five in one game.
In 2015, Aguero named Ronaldo – O Fenômeno – as the player whose style of play has had the most influence on his own game. The Brazilian icon was at his electric best in the mid to late 1990s when a young Aguero was taking his first steps by joining the youth ranks at boyhood club Independiente.
He ranks Ronaldo and Ronaldinho alongside his fellow countrymen Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi as the very best he has ever seen play the game.
Despite Ronaldo influence, former City manager Roberto Mancini once likened Aguero to another legendary Brazilian, labelling him a ‘photocopy’ of Romario after his debut in England in 2011. Their short and stocky physical stature but lethal eye for goal makes it an obvious comparison.
City boss Pep Guardiola commented in August 2019 that Aguero will ‘die scoring goals’.
The goals haven’t only come for Aguero in Manchester. He was prolific at former club Atletico Madrid, whom he just within days of turning 18 in 2006, and had an impressive record for a player so young at Independiente, where he made his senior debut at just 15.
At international level with Argentina, Aguero has scored 41 times in 97 appearances.
And yet, for his ability, his numbers and all his achievements, Aguero still seems underappreciated compared to other elite players.
His remarkable consistency has perhaps counted against him because it is simply expected that he will produce. He has also lived in the shadow of both Cristiano Ronaldo and the aforementioned Messi, and even latterly more traditional ‘number nine’ Robert Lewandowski. Others who might be more spectacular but whose form is usually more erratic also tend to command more attention.
It was 2017/18 before Aguero was named in the PFA Team of the Year for the first time, while his last global individual award was the 2007 Golden Boy and he has been a genuine Ballon d’Or contender.
Even in 2018, when Aguero had scored almost a goal per game for City during an historic season, questions were being asked about whether he should be replaced by Gabriel Jesus. That year, he got only one more point in the Ballon d’Or vote than Gareth Bale, whose stop-start campaign was more or less defined by two goals in a single game.
The tide in that respect has at least started to change in the last couple of years, but the time to appreciate one of the best strikers of his generation while he is still playing is fast running out.