Ir­re­place­able ...that’s what you are Serg

PEP: ‘I’VE NEVER SEEN SUCH A BIG STAR BE SO HUM­BLE’

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By STU­ART BREN­NAN

PEP Guardi­ola ad­mits find­ing a re­place­ment for Ser­gio Aguero could be one of the big­gest chal­lenges of his man­age­rial ca­reer.

The City man­ager’s cur­rent deal runs out in the sum­mer of 2021, with many think­ing he could leave the Blues hav­ing al­ready stayed at the Eti­had longer than any other club.

Guardi­ola has said he is open to re­main­ing – and if he does he will have to help iden­tify the striker who re­places the club’s all-time top goalscorer.

The Blues boss likened the Ar­gentina ace to three other leg­endary strik­ers with whom he has worked – Brazil­ian greats Ron­aldo and Ro­mario, and Barcelona leg­end Sa­muel Eto’o.

And he ad­mit­ted find­ing some­one who can step into Aguero’s boots will be an im­pos­si­ble job.

“Ser­gio is ir­re­place­able,” said Guardi­ola, who has the 31-year-old avail­able for today’s Premier League trip to Wolves af­ter he re­turned from in­jury as a sub­sti­tute against Le­ices­ter last week­end.

“We have another in­cred­i­ble striker in Gabriel (Je­sus) and maybe another one will come when Ser­gio leaves, but he is ir­re­place­able.

“The most im­por­tant mo­ment of this club, more im­por­tant than when this club hope­fully wins the Cham­pi­ons League, is when Ser­gio scored that goal against QPR.

“That mo­ment is much bet­ter than four ti­tles in one sea­son and he was the guy.

“Sooner or later it will hap­pen, he’ll de­cide when. I’m sure the club will be ready to try to find the guy to re­place him but, of course, it will not be easy.”

The two men have not al­ways had a great re­la­tion­ship – Guardi­ola de­manded Aguero change his game to suit his team principles, want­ing a higher work rate and more ap­proach play from his star name.

Aguero was even dropped to ac­com­mo­date Je­sus when the Brazil striker signed in 2017.

But Kun rose to the chal­lenge and has be­come a more rounded player, as well as Guardi­ola’s num­ber one striker.

“He’s done in­cred­i­bly well,” said Guardi­ola. “I’ve never seen such a big star like him be so hum­ble, so funny, and it is a joy to work with him and how he ac­cepts my de­ci­sions when it some­times doesn’t work for him. Big stars don’t (usu­ally) ac­cept that.

“I’ve worked with other stars who be­lieve they were big­ger than Ser­gio when they weren’t and they were more dif­fi­cult to han­dle and to be with.

“It’s not easy to find a guy with his sta­tus, his per­son­al­ity, what he’s done in his ca­reer with his hu­mil­ity and ac­cept­ing ev­ery­thing per­fectly.”

Aguero signed a con­tract ex­ten­sion last year which keeps him at City un­til 2021, af­ter which it has al­ways been thought he will re­turn to his boyhood club In­de­pen­di­ente. But Guardi­ola said noth­ing is set in stone, and left the door open for Aguero to stay be­yond that.

“He can stay but it de­pends on his phys­i­cal con­di­tion and de­sire,” he said. “I haven’t spo­ken with him and I don’t know his in­ten­tions. “Like with Vinny (Kom­pany) who wanted to be here and then went to Bel­gium, like David Silva, some­times you have to take a de­ci­sion, but with most of the cases the play­ers de­cide. “I would like Ser­gio to de­cide whether he wants more or it is over. I think when th­ese kind of guys take this de­ci­sion, the de­ci­sion is taken. “I tried to con­vince Vin­cent a lot

I tried to con­vince Vin­cent a lot to stay one more year with us. I said ‘No, you are not go­ing to leave me’

Pep Guardi­ola

to stay one more year with us – a lot. In the last weeks, I said ‘No, no, no you are not go­ing to leave me’ but he left me. When th­ese guys take the de­ci­sion it is taken.”

Guardi­ola was asked whether Aguero he is the best all-round striker with whom he has worked, and said: “In the box he is in­cred­i­ble but I had other guys who were not bad.

“Ron­aldo, the Brazil­ian, Ro­mario, [Sa­muel] Eto’o, he was one of the most in­cred­i­ble strik­ers I’ve seen in my life, he could do ev­ery­thing – and Ser­gio is, of course, one of them.

“Messi is a lit­tle bit higher than them but Ser­gio is one of them.”

Je­sus has had to be pa­tient, af­ter ini­tially dis­plac­ing Aguero, he has had to bide his time and wait for his op­por­tu­ni­ties.

But Guardi­ola said he has no mas­ter­plan in which Je­sus is phased in and Aguero grad­u­ally steps out.

“The play­ers think about that some­times, and I tell them that what they’ve done or what they are de­pends on how you feel right now,” he said. “The de­ci­sions be­ing made right now are about the game we’re go­ing to play.

“There are mo­ments that Gabriel is much bet­ter or Ser­gio is much bet­ter or I feel they are bet­ter in that mo­ment and take the de­ci­sion, but think­ing about next sea­son and Ser­gio be­ing 32 and play­ing Ser­gio or Gabriel, or Gabriel or Ser­gio is un­re­al­is­tic.

“I have never thought about it in this way.

“Now Ser­gio is still not ready for 90 min­utes. When Ra­heem Ster­ling is in­jured he doesn’t need any time to get fit, maybe half a day. Ser­gio needs a lit­tle bit longer for his phys­i­cal con­di­tion. That is the re­al­ity.

“We will give him as many min­utes as pos­si­ble be­cause we need him for the next few months and the Cham­pi­ons League as we need all the play­ers.”

Ser­gio Aguero with Gabriel Je­sus and, above, Pep Guardi­ola. Top: That goal against QPR

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