Irreplaceable ...that’s what you are Serg
PEP: ‘I’VE NEVER SEEN SUCH A BIG STAR BE SO HUMBLE’
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’
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