Sergio Aguero looks set to call time on career in Barcelona press conference

Argentine striker will address media at Camp Nou on Wednesday after heart arrhythmia diagnoses in October

The 379th goal of Sergio Aguero’s club career came to him in the most famous club fixture in his sport. Seven minutes into injury time, 80,000 in attendance, and up he popped, the ultimate penalty-box predator to guide in Barcelona’s consolation goal in his first clasico against Real Madrid.

Many Barca supporters viewed the goal, albeit in a defeat, as a sign of optimism, a stellar new recruit doing what he does best. Aguero sensed a lift-off for what was probably going to be the last chapter of his professional odyssey. Less than two months later, Aguero, just 33, is poised to announce that chapter is being gravely interrupted.

Aguero will address the media at Barca’s Camp Nou on Wednesday and share some details of the medical examinations he has been undergoing since he withdrew from a match against Alaves in late October, his first home start since joining Barcelona from Manchester City in the summer. He had experienced shortness of breath shortly before half-time. Doctors diagnosed a heart arrhythmia, and a series of tests since have led Aguero to the conclusion there may be significant risk to his continuing to play elite football.

There have been several major, tribute-laden press conferences at Barcelona this year, the club where a manager who was once a playing legend has left, in Ronaldo Koeman, and another coach, Xavi Hernandez, come in. Lionel Messi was at the podium in August, saying a tearful public goodbye.

Messi had spent the evening when he knew he was leaving with his friend Aguero, who had just joined Barca in large part for the prospect of playing alongside his Argentinian compatriot. That dream evaporated when the club said they could not afford Messi. These have not been easy months for Aguero.

Judge a man on who his loyal admirers are and you get a sense of Aguero’s greatness. Messi, the very greatest, wanted him as an ally, and absolutely trusts him as a good-humoured, hard-working, gifted close mate.

At City, ‘Kun’ Aguero made friends of tens of thousands. His transformational effect there will be remembered in a statue for years ahead at the Etihad stadium. His legacy will certainly echo long into his retirement. There may be no more repeated piece of television commentary in modern English football than the live eruption that accompanied the dramatic moment City won the first of their five Premier League titles this century.

“Agueroooo,” announced Martin Tyler, as the striker completed his first season in England with the 94th-minute matchwinner on the last day, when City, who had trailed against Queens Park Rangers, needed a victory to finish above Manchester United in the table.

In the mayhem, the coolness shown under crushing pressure by a 23-year-old went relatively unremarked. Aguero almost lost his footing as he wrapped his foot around a thumping finish, but this being Aguero, he remained upright. Balance, from that low centre of gravity, was always a forte.

In 10 seasons at City, he finished as leading scorer eight times. Besides the five Premier League titles, there were eight domestic Cups, and what became the inevitable march to the top of City’s all-time list of goalscorers: he left Manchester with 260 City goals from 390 appearances.

When Barcelona leapt at the chance of signing him, his City contract expiring last June, they recognised a transformational footballer, and not just as the centre-forward who had guided a once-erratic English club to the summit. Aguero provided some of the impetus for the rise of modern Atletico Madrid, too.

He came to Europe, as a prodigy, from Independiente in his native Argentina, and, just turned 18, made an immediate impact in Spain. Less than a decade after being relegated to the second tier of Spanish football, Atletico were winning a Europa League final, 21-year-old Aguero taking control of their 2-1 triumph over Fulham. It was a breakthrough success for Atletico, the start of a momentum that would take them to a series of European finals in the next decade.

Aguero acknowledged that, into his 30s, fitness issues and the altered preferences of Pep Guardiola as City coach, had made him no longer such a flag-bearer for City. But, even with Messi departed, Barcelona had looked like a fitting challenge. The club needed leadership and a high-calibre goalscorer; Aguero welcomed a fresh challenge, and the platform to reinforce his credentials as Messi’s best-possible attacking foil at the 2022 World Cup. He won his 100th cap for Argentina in June. No compatriot has combined with Messi for more Argentina goals than Aguero.

This sudden interruption to his top level career will provoke deep regret, and sadness, in Buenos Aires, in Barcelona, and above all in Manchester. And some of those records he set will take a long time for anybody to eclipse.

Updated: December 15th 2021, 4:00 AM