Sergio Aguero, Manchester City’s record goalscorer, is to leave the Premier League club when his contract expires at the end of the season, it was announced on Monday.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the questions arising from the news.
Is the announcement a surprise?
There had been speculation about Aguero’s future for some time. It was common knowledge he was in the final year of his contract and, having played so little football this season, it was natural questions would be asked about would might happen beyond this summer. The longer that situation went on unresolved, the more likely it became Aguero would leave the Etihad Stadium. So, in that sense, it was not entirely unexpected. The only real surprise was the timing of the announcement.
Why was it announced now?
Clearly meetings have been had between all parties and it was decided the news should be put out there now, out of respect for one of the greatest players in the club’s history. If a parting of the ways had been agreed it made sense to put an end to any external speculation. Both player and club can now look forward and consider their next options with greater certainty.
Why is Aguero leaving?
The end of Aguero’s contract offered a natural opportunity for everyone to assess the situation. Aguero’s place in the club’s history is secure. He is the greatest goalscorer in their history and the scorer of arguably their greatest goal – that memorable last-gasp title-clincher against QPR in 2012. Manager Pep Guardiola previously said Aguero had earned the right to decide when he leaves the club. The current reality, however, is that, at 32, the Argentinian is not getting any younger and a long-term replacement would be needed sooner rather than later. On top of that, Aguero’s past year has been ravaged by injury and illness and Guardiola’s quadruple-chasing team have functioned well without him. Even if he had recovered full fitness for next season he may have found he was no longer an automatic choice. City seem to have decided to make a clean break now and Aguero may have realised that, for regular action, he may need to look elsewhere.
So where will he go next?
Given he is a free agent, Aguero will have his pick of the multiple offers he is certain to receive. He has long spoken of a desire to end his career back where it started, at Independiente, which would allow him to be closer to his family, but interest from any of European football’s big guns may see him keep his return to Argentina on hold. He has been linked with Barcelona, where he would have an obvious connection with good friend Lionel Messi, although his fellow Argentinian’s own future at the Nou Camp is still to be resolved. Paris St Germain and Juventus have also been mentioned, while there could be the possibility of an emotional return to Atletico Madrid. To see him pitching up at Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal would be more of a surprise but cannot be ruled out at this stage.
What next for City?
Aguero’s departure will create a huge void in the City squad. It is certainly not easy to replace someone who has scored 257 goals in 10 years. Immediately, speculation has linked City with some of the top strikers in the game – chiefly Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane. Of those, Haaland might be the easiest to prise from his current club of Borussia Dortmund, but the prolific Norwegian would certainly not come cheap. Given City’s success this season in operating without a specialist centre forward in many games, however, it is possible they do not shop at the top of the market. Gabriel Jesus could assume the first-choice striker role when needed with relatively lower-profile forwards added to the squad.