The Manchester City striker has once again been overlooked for the PFA’s individual award, despite showcasing his talents and uncanny goalscoring ability year upon year.
Jesus Navas is a man of few words, even in his native Spanish, but the two he used to describe Sergio Aguero earlier this season were suitably precise: “Es gol”. He is goal.
Aguero scored his 100th Premier League goal against Newcastle United on Tuesday night, in just his 147th appearance. Only Alan Shearer, who scored goals on this ground for fun, got there quicker. But no striker in Premier League history has a better minutes-per-goal ratio – 107.55 minutes – than the Argentine. Not Shearer, not Thierry Henry, not Ruud van Nistelrooy, not Luis Suarez, not Cristiano Ronaldo. The criteria for that particular list is 10 league goals, let alone 100.
He does not particularly favour the Etihad Stadium, either: 41 of his league goals have come on the road. He has netted against 29 different top-flight clubs, including each of City’s current league rivals. And he is no flat-track bully: he has netted 19 against Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. That tally is boosted somewhat by his seven goals against United – not that scoring in a derby has ever been easy.
If his displays over the past four and a bit seasons do not highlight Aguero’s abnormal aptitude for scoring goals, perhaps those numbers will. But for some even that does not seem to be enough.
Despite his incredible record, he has never been named in a PFA Team of the Season, let alone won an individual award. His only nomination came in his first Premier League season, when he secured City’s first ever title with the final kick of the season. Van Persie had already won the award. Three weeks earlier, in fact.
Perhaps it is the timing of the PFA award that has counted against Aguero. Voting slips are distributed in late March or early April – most footballers will disappear on holiday as soon as the season ends, few would stick around to receive an award, let alone vote for one.
City had seemingly thrown it all away when the votes were cast in 2012. Mario Balotelli was sent off in a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal which left Roberto Mancini’s men eight points off leaders United. Aguero scored six in his next three games, two against West Brom, Norwich City and Wolves. The brace against Wolves put City within three points of United but came on the day Van Persie picked up his award: minds had been made up. Oddly, City dominated that season’s team of the year, with Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Yaya Toure making the XI. No place for Aguero.
It should not be the case that Aguero is scoring too late, but that the votes are cast too early. Last season, he scored eight goals in five games across April to sweep to the golden boot.
This season he is on course to do so again. He has 22 league goals, as many as Jamie Vardy and just two fewer than Harry Kane. He has played 900 minutes less than both of them. Both of them are up for the PFA award this time around.
It is true that his goals do not look to have boosted City towards the title. With the voting already well under way, the Blues’ poor run of form, including defeats to Leicester City, Tottenham, Liverpool and United, was fresh in the mind. But it should be looked at the other way around – Aguero has held up his end of the bargain in a relatively underperforming team. Vardy and Kane have both been central to their clubs’ title challenges.
The same goes for his injury record. He has rarely played a full season, but has scored at least 20 goals in three of his five campaigns. The fact he still racks up the numbers despite missing so much action should surely only count in his favour.
Manuel Pellegrini has said it is “strange” that Aguero has never won an individual award and hinted that there are a number of different reasons.
Perhaps the perception of City as a club counts against him as much as anything. For an institution that has come to be scrutinised more for the number of pounds they spend than the trophies they win, Aguero’s excellence may be taken for granted. If you spend that much money – City’s kind of money – your achievements must count for less.
After all, superstar forwards at other top club have been recognised, regardless of success: of the past five PFA winners, only one actually won the title: Eden Hazard last season (and he tailed off dramatically once the voting was done).
If Aguero’s timing has cost him awards, it has benefitted City on too many occasions to mention. His knack of being in the right place – and keeping a cool head when he’s there – is perhaps unrivalled in the Premier League era.
He has been a cornerstone of the club’s modern success, and is within 33 of Eric Book’s 177 goals for the club. If he continues at this rate, he will easily surpass that record and become widely regarded as the best player in the club’s history. In the future he will unveil a statue of himself outside the Etihad.
At City, as Navas demonstrated so succinctly, he is admired by his team-mates and fans alike, and gets the recognition he deserves. Maybe one day the rest of the country will catch up. He cannot do much more.