After a forgettable end to his illustrious Manchester City tenure at the weekend in their Champions League Final loss, Sergio Aguero returns to La Liga where he’ll partner Lionel Messi at Barca – a decade after departing the country’s new champions Atletico Madrid for England.
spain return beckons for Aguero
Aguero scored 100 goals and created 46 more in 230 appearances for Atletico (2006-2011), where he played a pivotal part in their Europa League triumph in 2009-10. Yet it’s the Champions League that has continued to elude him, one he came closest to finally snatching last month.
It feels cruel that he was only afforded 13 minutes off the substitutes’ bench in Porto, but given City had already moved on without having to rely on his goalscoring prowess, it makes sense.
Fairytales endings are rare in football, but this time twelve months ago, his future was uncertain and plenty remained up in the air – both about his City stint and whether he’d venture to a less competitive environment, content retiring like many have successfully done in recent seasons.
Besides new teammates Lionel Messi (474) and Antoine Griezmann (154), there are only seven active players with more goals in the competition’s history than the Argentine’s 74.
They include Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema as well as Luis Suarez – exiled from Barca last summer – who responded by winning another league title on the final day eleven days ago.
It feels ironic Barcelona have bolstered their frontline with precisely the player Suarez was for them by their acrimonious divorce, albeit a bit younger and hoping to restore former glories.
It’s perhaps why Aguero stressed his best days aren’t behind him at Eastlands, though with such injury misfortune over the years, even he can’t be sure of that proving true. Only time will tell, but rejecting Juventus and other lucrative offers to join means he’s already got some credit banked.
It won’t take long for that credit to disintegrate if Barcelona start the new campaign poorly, or underwhelm like they did this past season. After the Suarez saga, is this just to appease Messi?
Paris Saint-Germain embarrasssed them in the Champions League last-16, before watching helplessly as a winnable La Liga title was clinched by the player they literally let leave for free.
“I want to show here what I have shown at City, it is an immense joy because since I was a kid, and even more so now with Messi, I have thought that Barca is the best club in the world.
Leo will make decisions with the club. I have been with him in the national team, know him very well and think he will stay here.”
- Aguero on his desire to join Barcelona, whether Messi will remain
The top three’s charge for domination in La Liga and beyond
Atletico didn’t win a league title in the five seasons Aguero was there, but have won it twice in their last eight despite still being seen as Spain’s third wheel as far as domination is concerned.
As Sid Lowe put it last month, there’s a reason for this: two of their best players (Marcos Llorente, Suarez) this past season were discarded by the other two perennial title challengers.
“Nor was this only a release; it was a rejection. ‘You deserved to depart as one of the most important players in the club’s history, not for them to kick you out like they did,’ Messi said.
Suárez insisted players have to accept when their time is up, but the way his spell at the Camp Nou drew to a close brought anger and hurt.
He felt that what he had done was forgotten fast and used the word desprecio – contempt or dismissiveness – to describe the club’s treatment of him, and that drove him.”
- Sid Lowe’s Guardian column on Suarez in mid-February
Real were made to look old and tired, being exposed on the European stage by eventual Champions League winners Chelsea.
Carlo Ancelotti’s surprise return this week feels like papering over the cracks, considering their ageing core and the Sergio Ramos-shaped elephant in the room.
As for Barca, they’re not much better. Their transfer dealings – especially the more expensive ones – over the past half-decade have been at best, grossly negligent. At worst? Take your pick.
That Pedri, a teenage midfield signing (£25.8m after add-ons) from a relegated Las Palmas side, can come into the team and immediately assert himself as a first-team regular, rather says it all.
Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet have been two successful acquisitions, but feel more like exceptions rather than the rule. Their short-termism just hasn’t worked. Aguero signed a two-year deal and if they get half the player he was during his City prime, it should pay off. We’ll see.
Picture source: Getty Images