An ode to Sergio Aguero, who redefined the role of a striker in the Premier League

After 2010, the Premier League has twisted and turned like a ballerina on an adrenaline high and lots of new moves have taken stage: mid-table teams punching above their weight — with some success, Tottenham Hotspur emerging as a top-four neophyte and, of course, Leicester City pulling the most impossible of mission impossibles. But the dominant narrative, and easily the one most talked and written about, has been centred around the city of Manchester; two teams — one as red as blood and one blue as sky — whose histories couldn't be more contrasting even if they tried to, scripting just as contrasting presents.

The rise of Manchester City somehow aligned with the fall — if one may use the term liberally — of Manchester United. Towards the end of the previous decade, United had won the league four times in five years and City, meanwhile, had been sowing seeds, investing money and getting better season after season. A flurry of forwards came to City over the years; Robinho, Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli. Only one stayed. And in just seven seasons and 264 appearances, Sergio Aguero is now City's all-time top scorer.

 An ode to Sergio Aguero, who redefined the role of a striker in the Premier League

File image of Sergio Aguero. AP

One has to say, City were patient by nouveau riche standards and took time to figure things out. They didn't start winning from the moment their bank account inflated. They made mistakes and learnt from them. They slowly climbed up the league table; from tenth to fifth to third to that fateful final-day fixture against Queens Park Rangers.

It is telling that one only needs to search 'Agueroooo' on the internet to know everything about the greatest moment in Premier League history. With his last touch of his first season at City, the Argentinean brought the league title to the other side of Manchester for the first time in 44 years. Aguero became a club legend in one season. How many players can say that about themselves?

Five-and-a-half years later, Aguero netted in his 178th goal for City this week, completing a mere formality, a signing of papers that ink his legend. Since his arrival, there has been no other Premier League forward as clockwork as him. The diminutive Argentinean has, in a way, changed the idea of the quintessential 'Premier League striker' — a tall, hunky, "no-nonsense man", who you'd want on your side in a bar brawl.

You'll find British pundits still reminiscing about them. Aguero is short, somewhat stocky, quick, technically gifted and, I'm pretty sure, useless in a bar brawl. On a football field, it's a different story. He broke Maradona's record when he debuted at the age of 15 in the Argentinean league; moved to Atletico Madrid at the age of 18 for about £20 million in 2006 and went on to score over a 100 goals over the next five years; City bought him in 2011 for £38 million, a price that now seems like a Black Friday discount, and since then his career in England has resembled a greatest hits compilation.

Yet, Aguero remains criminally underrated, especially in England. For a striker who changed striking in the Premier League, Aguero has hardly ever found himself on a pedestal. Sure, the media keeps calling him 'special' and 'class act' and has an army of adjectives ready to throw at him when he scores, but somehow, it always seems like Aguero's significance escapes them.

Partly it's down to the nature of British media itself. Every weekend, pundits grumble about English managers not getting a fair chance in the league, despite the fact the English managers they're talking about barely have a page on their CV. When Watford hire a Marco Silva or Crystal Palace get a Frank de Boer or Leicester City bring in Claude Puel, the chatter begins: give it to Ryan Giggs, give it to Sean Dyche, give it to the bloke who works at the local grocery, as long as he's British. It's that long-dormant, now emerging racist and xenophobic drivel, "They're taking all our jobs", only it's disguised as 'expert opinion'.

That bias is present against foreign players as well, though in a reduced measure. It does make for perfect irony that it is the foreign players who have maintained the quality of the Premier League. Promising English players, through no fault of theirs, are put on such high pedestals that they are bound to fall. That is not to say foreign players do not receive recognition. Indeed, the list of Premier League's all-time finest includes the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Claude Makelele, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba and many others. But an Alan Shearer or a Wayne Rooney will, explicably, be more beloved. In his seventh season now, each probably better than the last one, Aguero is yet to reach the 'beloved' status, except among City fans.

Aguero's magnificent flight just under the bracket of football elite is also down to another diminutive Argentinean. It seems as if a generation of Argentinean footballers went underrated due to the utter madness of Lionel Messi. He casts a shadow so large that it still looms on Neymar even after the Brazilian moved over a thousand kilometres away to Paris. The entire Argentinean national team is nothing but one big McGuffin in Messi's story, in 'the greatest of all time' narrative. It's never 'Argentina should win the World Cup', it's always 'Messi should win a World Cup with Argentina'. And, well, there's also the fact that Aguero plays for Manchester City, a club that's not present in the prescribed history of the English League. Unless you're Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool, you're 'w*****s'.

Aside from a few recognisable reasons, Aguero's non-reckoning in the highest echelons of football is largely mysterious and, frankly, baffling. He has got to be the best low-key striker in Europe, if there is such a thing. Yes, there are some who score more goals than him (and there are not many) and then there are some who make a big deal out of their achievements, but Aguero has just been Aguero-ing in his time, be it at Atletico or Manchester City. He just doesn't care. Players and managers came and went at City, the club kept changing shape and style, those who were crucial once are redundant today, but Aguero has been there doing his thing, making himself indispensible, season after season.

He doesn't need a statue at the entrance of the stadium; he is the statue. The commentator screaming his name in a protracted manner is an actual thing, an invention of our age. Just like memes and cat videos. We see so many great players doing so many great things in the Premier League today, but nothing comes close to the inevitability of 'Aguerooooooooo'.

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Updated Date: Nov 03, 2017 15:36:18 IST