Life After Aguero: What’s Next for Manchester City?
By Scott Page
On March 29th it was announced that Sergio Aguero would be leaving Manchester City after 10 years and the main talking point from this news was who was going to replace him. Pep Guardiola has tried to dampen this by claiming that City won’t go out and buy a striker to replace Aguero but with the only two recognised strikers in their squad being Gabriel Jesus and Liam Delap, neither of which are anywhere near the level of Aguero, surely City have to spend big in that position in order to compete at the highest level. So who could they sign? Let’s take a look at 3 possible contenders for that soon-to-be vacant no. 10 shirt.
"Sergio Aguero" by Nathan Congleton is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Erling Braut Haaland
The most talked about player in world football at this moment in time, Erling Haaland is the name on every fan’s lips. A €75million release clause kicks in June 2022 and that has led a few teams to consider putting an offer forward this summer to stop the potential of a bidding war the following summer. Despite reports saying Borussia Dortmund want €180 million (£156 million), Manchester City are one of the few clubs in world football that could afford that fee. However, the Sky Blues do not often spend huge amounts of money on one player, usually they’ll spend a combined huge amount of money on a few players. If you look at their record signing, Ruben Dias cost them £64.3 million last summer, that’s less than their inter-city rivals Manchester United spent on Paul Pogba - £89.3 million – and less than Chelsea spent on Kai Havertz - £72 million. So why would they spend such an astronomical amount on a 20-year-old Norwegian?
To answer that you only need to look at Haaland’s numbers from both his time at RB Salzburg and at Borussia Dortmund. This season Haaland has scored 21 goals in 23 games and has also contributed 6 assists across those games. In addition, Pep is still searching for the one piece of silverware which has eluded him during his stint as manager of City – the Champions League – and Haaland is no stranger to this competition. In fact, Haaland broke the record this season for shortest number of appearances needed to reach 20 goals in the Champions League, which he did in 14 games. To put that into perspective, Lionel Messi took 40 games to reach 20 goals and Cristiano Ronaldo, the all-time leading goalscorer in the Champions League, took 56 appearances to reach 20 goals. Haaland has all the tools to take Manchester City to the next level, but that price tag, plus the prospect of working with Mino Raiola, could turn Manchester City off so who could they look at instead?
The 2019 Golden Boy award winner had a slow start to his Atletico Madrid career after his £113 million move from SL Benfica but this season he has managed to adapt to Diego Simeone’s defensive style of football, and he has looked much closer to the player he was at Benfica. He has been able to form a good strike partnership with Luis Suarez since the Uruguayan’s move from FC Barcelona and has so far scored 10 goals and provided 5 assists across 34 matches this season. Even though Felix is only 21, he has shown his versatility when it comes to playing in multiple positions across a forward line, something that Pep has seen to appreciate as it allows his forwards to interchange positions and create more spaces for the more creative players in the team. Felix has already had comparisons with Aguero by some of the media and with his ability to know exactly where to be in the box, his dribbling ability combined with that low centre of gravity and his passing ability in tight spaces, it’s not hard to see why. But with how hot and cold Felix has been across his spell in Madrid and with how much pressure will be on him should he move to Manchester, is it worth that gamble, or is there another striker that has shown a higher level of consistency and is at a better age to handle that pressure?
Very little was known of Lautaro Martinez following his €22.7 million move from Racing Club in Argentina to Inter Milan, and he wasn’t able to fully flourish in his first season with the Nerazzurri; that all changed once Mauro Icardi left the club and Martinez became first-choice striker. Since then Martinez has been on fire, scoring 38 goals in 88 games including helping Inter complete the league double over rivals AC Milan for the first time since the 2011-12 season. He also managed to become only the fifth Argentinian to score in four consecutive Champions League games after Hernan Crespo, Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Sergio Aguero. Of the three players mentioned, Martinez is the closest to Aguero and not only because of their nationality. He has the shooting ability matched with the dribbling ability that Aguero showed at City and he also possess that same level of strength that Aguero possessed despite both of their short statures. In fact, these comparisons have been noticed by others within the sport, with Hernan Crespo likening Martinez to his compatriot in an interview in 2020. Martinez’s off-the-ball work fits in with how Pep likes his forwards to play, with his pressing as well as his movement opening gaps for others to move in to. With the financial troubles that Inter find themselves in and with a new stadium to fund, Martinez may be the cheapest option for City and with how easily he fits the mould of Aguero, he may be the best candidate to replace the City legend.