Sergio Aguero scored the most memorable goal in Premier League history, an iconic moment, three minutes and 20 seconds into stoppage time against Queens Park Rangers in 2012. It sealed Manchester City‘s first title in 44 years and ensured that his name will always be associated with the ultimate drama and excitement that football can bring.
But as the sporting world reflects on Aguero’s career following his decision to retire — at the age of just 33 — due to a heart-related health issue detected while playing for Barcelona in October, has his defining goal denied the Argentina international the status his overall achievements would ordinarily guarantee?
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Aguero, who left City for the Camp Nou at the end of last season after 10 years at the Etihad, is unquestionably one of the greatest players to have performed in the Premier League. He was tough, with a deadly ability to score inside or outside the penalty area, and boasting a right-footed shot of brutal power and accuracy. He overtook Thierry Henry to become the highest-scoring non-English player in Premier League history, ending on 184 goals compared to the former Arsenal forward’s 175. Aguero also eclipsed Alan Shearer, the all-time leading scorer in the Premier League, by netting 12 hat-tricks to overtake the former Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United striker’s tally of 11.
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There are more records, too. Aguero has the best minutes-per-goal ratio of any player who has scored more than 10 Premier League goals, with a goal every 108 minutes on average; Henry is second with a goal every 122 minutes. The Argentine is one of just five players to have scored five goals in a Premier League game — he managed it in a 66-minute appearance against Newcastle in Oct. 2015 — and he dislodged Wayne Rooney from the top spot by scoring more goals for one Premier League club than any other player.
Aguero managed 184 for City — one more than Rooney scored for Manchester United. Aguero also shares the record with Henry of having scored 20 or more goals in five consecutive Premier League seasons. But despite all of the above — and five Premier League titles, six EFL Cups and an FA Cup — Aguero still lacks the acclaim and recognition that the likes of Henry, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo and Mohamed Salah have all earned during the Premier League era.
Perhaps it is because Aguero was happy to live under the radar at City, choosing not to pursue the wider appeal that comes with the commercial branding that Henry, Cantona and Ronaldo were all more than happy to embrace. And maybe he did not develop the mystique Salah has nurtured at Liverpool by selectively choosing when he speaks and to whom. Salah knows his commercial value and exploits it expertly with glossy interviews in Vanity Fair and Time, guaranteeing himself exposure to a much wider audience than the sporting world.
Henry, Cantona, Ronaldo and Salah have also benefited from spending their Premier League days in red shirts. Despite the successes of City and Chelsea over the past decade-and-a-half, United, Arsenal and Liverpool remain the biggest clubs with the broadest fan bases in English football, and players who shine for those teams automatically find themselves propelled into a different level of celebrity than any other.
City have given us some of the most important players of the Premier League era — Aguero, David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure — but they are not in the same league as Henry, Cantona, Ronaldo and Salah, or Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane when it comes to enduring appeal and recognition. That is perhaps one reason behind Aguero’s status beneath the absolute elite, even when his records and incredible consistency prove he deserves to be alongside all of those names in the pantheon of greats.
Until signing for Barcelona this summer, Aguero had not played for one of football’s historic super clubs. He signed for City after bursting on to the world stage at Atletico Madrid, where he won the Golden Boy award given to the most exciting young talent in the game, before spending the next decade at the Etihad.
Aguero also spent 15 years playing for Argentina during a fallow period for one of world’s great football nations and at a time when Lionel Messi claimed all of the spotlight, for good and bad. When Argentina finally ended their 28-year wait for international success by winning the Copa America earlier this year, Aguero had become a bit-part player who played just one minute during the team’s knockout campaign and spent the semifinal and final on the substitutes bench.
His summer move to Barcelona was supposed to offer Aguero the fairytale end to his career, playing alongside his close friend Messi and just maybe winning the Champions League title that always eluded him at City. But Messi left for Paris Saint-Germain before a ball had been kicked and Barca began to spiral into a meltdown, on and off the pitch, which has seen them sack manager Ronald Koeman and fail to reach the Champions League knockout phase for the first time since 2003-04.
Aguero’s move was already going badly before he asked to be substituted, four minutes before half-time, during the 1-1 draw against Alaves in October because of chest pains which turned out to be the heart condition that has forced him into retirement. After just five games for Barcelona and one goal — a late consolation in a 2-1 loss to Real Madrid, his only appearance in El Clasico — it is a sad end to a glorious career for Aguero. (It’s also somewhat odd to see Barcelona as the venue for his seismic impact in Manchester, with Barca president Joan Laporta also scheduled to be present for Aguero’s announcement, such was his limited time at the Camp Nou.)
But if you want to reflect on his greatness, take away the goal against QPR and consider everything else. That one goal made him a Manchester City legend, but it arguably overshadowed everything that should have made him a global star. Aguero’s record is up there with the very best, and he should be remembered for more than one crucial goal.