Manchester City planning for the future but can still count on colossal contributions of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Fernandinho
'I think the players want us to move on,' says Guardiola as City prepare to take on Aston Villa in Premier League
Another landmark beckons for Manchester City’s greatest generation on Sunday. Sergio Aguero has 174 Premier League goals. Find the net once against Aston Villa and he draws level with Thierry Henry, twice and City’s record goalscorer becomes the most prolific foreigner in Premier League history. Meanwhile, David Silva continues his farewell tour of England with a final game at Villa Park before his summer departure. Vincent Kompany is already gone. Aguero could follow in 2021, along with Fernandinho.
“We cannot deny [what] all these names have been for this club,” said Pep Guardiola. “There are no doubts about that. Vinnie is unique and Sergio will be unique and David: this type of players are incredible.”
The trio won Premier League titles under three managers, predating Guardiola by performing for Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini. “I live my four years here with these guys,” the Catalan added. “I will be grateful for what they have done for me. In the past, they worked with Roberto, they worked with Manuel.”
Between them, the defender, the midfielder and the forward have made 1,134 City appearances, scoring 339 goals, 246 of them courtesy of Aguero. They amount to colossal contributions.
And yet, if each is irreplaceable in one respect, the challenge for City is to compensate for their eventual departures, to bridge from one outstanding team to another. It is something Guardiola’s former clubs, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, have done. It is something Liverpool and Manchester United have done when they sustained success. City have never managed it, however, and Guardiola recognises the need to marry tributes with an unsentimental analysis of how the serial trophy-winners transfer their affections to others. It is, he thinks, what the departing greats want.
“The club have the duty and obligation to find the best replacement for all of them, as quick as possible and [by] anticipating,” he added. “The big clubs move on. People arrive and people leave. The fans stay at the club with their love for the club. We can’t say: ‘Oh, what happened with Mike Summerbee?’ Because one day he retires.”
Summerbee, a stalwart of Joe Mercer’s magnificent team, left in 1975. City won the League Cup the following season, but it was their final trophy for 35 years. If a failure to recruit players of the calibre of Summerbee, Francis Lee and Colin Bell, amid some transfer-market missteps, was one reason why City slid from grace in the past, Guardiola is determined to ensure history does not repeat itself by finding worthy successors. “We have to try to find them or build them from here,” he added. “This is our obligation as a club. I think the players want us to move on.”
In one position, at least, City will find the answer within. Phil Foden is Silva’s designated heir. “David is going to leave and we are not going to buy any player in his position because we have Phil,” Guardiola added. “We trust Phil. If with we didn't believe in him we might go to the market to replace David, but we have Phil.” City’s future planning extends beyond a teenager, with Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva offering competition for the midfield spots. “Maybe he has to fight with Kevin, Gundo and Bernardo to play in that position,” Guardiola added. “When the quality is there, like with Phil, it is there.”
The label of the new Silva, however, sits uneasily with a manager who has noticed a propensity to burden emerging players with unhelpful comparisons. “We have the tendency with all the new guys that after two games [to say] he will be the new [Wayne] Rooney or the new George Best or the new David Beckham,” he said. “I think it is time to make them believe this is difficult.”
At least today City can savour the current Aguero before worrying how someone else will fare with the pressure of being the next Aguero.
Published: January 12, 2020 06:00 AM