Manchester City are prepared to listen to offers for Sergio Aguero as Pep Guardiola continues his attempt to reconstruct the club’s squad to match his demanding requirements, reports Duncan Castles.
While the 28-year-old remains the English Premier League club’s leading marksman with 18 goals in 22 appearances under City’s new manager, Aguero is not considered an ideal fit to Guardiola’s tactically fluid football.
Key City decision makers also harbour significant concerns over the Argentina’s striker’s fitness and disciplinary record. Now in his sixth year at Eastlands, Aguero has yet to start more than 31 Premier League games in a single campaign, and has averaged just 26 League starts per season.
Aguero’s susceptibility to muscular injury is such that City’s medical department is understood to consider it almost impossible to keep the free scoring forward in excellent physical condition for an entire domestic and European campaign.
When he is fit to play, the Argentine’s irascibility has proved a further problem area with Aguero already missing six matches through suspension since Guardiola’s arrival.
In addition to such enforced absences, City’s manager has voluntarily chosen to exclude Aguero from his starting line up in an attempt to increase his team’s control of the ball and complicate opponent’s
passing options – strategic decisions that have not been well received by the centre forward.
The coupling of these issues with Aguero’s status as one of the highest paid individuals in the European game has seen City take a calculated decision to float Aguero on the transfer market with a view to a summer sale.
Director of football Txiki Begiristain, chief executive Ferran Soriano and Guardiola are hopeful that they already have a long-term successor to the Argentine on the club’s books.
Gabriel Jesus – a summer purchase from Palmeiras who arrived in Manchester at the beginning of December – was formally added to City’s Premier League squad this week following completion of the paperwork on a transfer that included the obligatory buyout of third-party ownership rights.
Both Barcelona and Juventus made offers to extract Gabriel from Palmeiras, but were outbid by City’s proposal of what is understood to have been a guaranteed $35million. Palmeiras owned only 30 per cent of Gabriel’s economic rights with the player himself holding 15 per cent.
Gabriel broke into Palmeiras’ first team in August 2014. During the following campaign he was voted the ‘Revelation’ of the Brazilian Championship as the Sao Paulo club won the Copa do Brasil. In 2016, the quick and technically accomplished forward led Palmeiras to their first
Brasileirão in 22 years, established himself in his national team, and was voted Brazil’s player of the year.
Unusually for a player of his ilk, Gabriel has been praised for both his work ethic and his willingness to take on defensive duties. “He is a boy who is easy to speak with and work with and who is different to the others in the question of training, always giving more than 100 percent,” says Palmeiras academy coach Bruno Petri.
Those are qualities of particular value to Guardiola, who repeatedly favoured younger and more open-minded footballers during his silverware-laden campaigns at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. He and Begiristain believe the teenage Brazil international’s ability to play anywhere in a front four will be better suited to the Catalan’s finely detailed tactical plans than Aguero’s skill set, with their hope being Gabriel will be sufficiently established in City’s first team by the summer window that the Argentine can be sold and another striker be brought in to operate alongside the Brazilian.
“Gabriel is a technically gifted player who was chased by some of Europe’s biggest clubs and we are delighted he decided to join City,” said Begiristain on Thursday.
“He has the potential to become one of the best attacking players in the game and we look forward to watching him develop further here in Manchester. I think with Pep Guardiola as manager and the squad we already have here, Jesus has the perfect platform to reach his full potential.”
City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has also been effusive in his praise. “He’s an incredible talent,” said Al Mubarak. “We have a lot of aspirations for him, but we have to be patient. He’s 19 and there’s
still time to adjust.
“When we first started looking at him about a year ago, he was unknown. He wasn’t a global name by any means. We were successful in acquiring Gabriel in the summer. Even then he was still relatively unknown.
“We are delighted he is here and what we are looking for is for him to settle as soon as possible, to try to help him to be happy here and to have a good connection with his team-mates. Hopefully he can do what he is with the national team of Brazil, his old club, playing in front and help us to score the goals which is his big value.”