Dubai: Sergio Aguero was given one last chance to play himself into a fairy-tale farewell at Manchester City as Pep Guardiola gifted him a rare start on Saturday afternoon.
The English Premier League champions-elect took on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park — and one man played it perfectly, just as he always used to do for the men in sky blue.
Aguero, the City legend and all-time club top-scorer, was given a run out after his return to fitness and ahead of his departure from the Etihad in the summer. As one of the true dedicated men for City over the past decade, he once again worked his socks off like a 21-year-old for a full 90 minutes during a pivotal, clinical and crucial 2-0 win for City. He did not work miracles. He did not walk on water. He did not haul a team over the line that were desperate for leadership. He simply did what he always does — get into spaces and turn half-chances into chances. He made that one moment of magic to turn a game.
This result essentially reinstates City as English Premier League champions once again, but Aguero’s display speaks volumes. This was not just another Sergio 90 minutes.
He knew what it meant. He also knows what lies ahead.
Sadly, with a second leg in the Champions League semi-final against Paris St-Germain coming up, Aguero will not be permitted another starting berth with so much on the line. On Saturday, Kevin de Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan all watched on from the bench. They will all be on the pitch against the French giants, while Aguero will be forced to warm the sidelines.
This outing against Palace may have been his last competitive hurrah for City (he may get a run out at the end of the season with the title won). But — just like everything else — he did it with grace and aplomb.
Sure, the first half was frustrating as Aguero tried to get up to speed and the Palace defenders — aware of the danger he can be and out of respect — shut him down. But he dug deep to find a wonderful piece of trickery to grab the opener and send City on their way to another three points.
Just like the true magician he is, Aguero threw off the shackles of injuries and time to turn a frustrating day into a victory.
This season has been a penance for Aguero as his poor old legs took the toll of 20 years of hammerings by desperate and jealous opposition players. Scars, operations and agony have left their marks on those weary knees, shins and ankles.
Despite his injuries, Aguero wants to move on and play on. Transfer rumours spin around from day to day, be it Barcelona, Real, Juventus, Atletico or Paris St-Germain, but the truth is Sergio is City’s ‘Kun’ — their ‘boy’.
We already have a statue of Vincent Kompany. We have one of David Silva in pride of place at the Etihad. But maybe Aguero’s will be the pinnacle of an amazing journey over the past decade or so for City. Even if he does not get his chance against PSG, Aguero will be imprinted on every City team for decades to come.