Sergio Aguero has ability to be as good as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo
Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. He currently plays in Japan for Cerezo Osaka. Forlan’s column will be written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.
I’m not surprised to see my former strike partner Sergio Aguero doing so well at the Copa America in Chile. Of course, I’d rather he hadn’t scored the only goal against Uruguay in Argentina’s second game, but then I know how good he is.
Playing with him was one reason I joined Atletico Madrid in 2007. I’d first seen him on television in Argentina where he made his debut age 15 for my old team Independiente; a boy stood out against men. He scored one goal in a derby against our neighbours, Racing, and I jumped up off the sofa in astonishment. He collected the ball in his own half, on the left side, and ran towards the Racing goal, tricked his way past defenders and shot. Wow. Everyone was talking about him at my old club.
Like me, he left Independiente for Europe, joining Atletico in 2006. A year later I was his teammate and I was comfortable with him from the start. He was young, just 19, and liked to spend time on a PlayStation with his mates Maxi Rodriguez and later David de Gea.
I knew then that he was world-class. He had everything. He was quick, strong and a confident boy who knows he’s a good player, without being arrogant. He’s professional in the way he leads his life too – you have to be to get to his level.
Aguero and I had a great four years together at Atletico. He’s deadly in the final20 yards, more of a central player who works between the defensive lines.
We started up front against Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona, in March 2009, the year they won everything. We were 2-0 down at home after 30 minutes to goals from Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry. Then Aguero and I started to click. We scored four times – two each – and won 4-3. They were great goals, too, with Aguero getting the winner right at the end. It was our finest performance together.
It’s great when two strikers have that telepathy. I knew when to wait, when to take a defender, he did too. And we did that against the best team in the world. He’d win the Golden Boot for sure if it wasn’t for Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo scoring so many.
Aguero has a natural instinct for scoring goals. He’s a nice guy, too, but he can be hard. We were part of a group of players who changed the mentality at Atletico. We didn’t believe all the rubbish about the club being cursed and always failing. We didn’t fail. Everyone said Atleti had the players to be a good team, but not a great one.
Aguero’s doing really well in England and he’s happy at Manchester City, but he’s good enough to be playing in side that wins the Uefa Champions League, not just the English Premier League. The very best players in the world make their mark in the biggest games and the biggest games are in European competition.
Messi and Ronaldo win all the time. Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben have been major performers. City haven’t come close to winning the Champions League. On one level it’s strange because they have players who are good enough to win the competition and they’re also experienced. On another, I’m not surprised. Teams take time to become the best and money doesn’t guarantee success. It’s the same with Paris Saint-Germain. They’re good enough to win the French League, but the best teams are grown from the roots – or at least a big part of them are. Look at Ajax in 1995, Manchester United with their Class of ’92 and Barcelona’s youth system – they build an identity and a trademark which can last decades.
If both Manchester clubs are in the Champions League next season, I’d expect United to attack in games no matter what. It’s what’s expected. City might have a better team, but what’s their identity? They haven’t yet got one.
But what does Aguero do? He’s often linked to Real Madrid, and he’s good enough to play for them. Or does he hold out and remain the best player at City and hope to lift the team like Messi does with Barca?
There’s also the matter of Argentina. They have incredible players but they’ve still yet to win anything. Now is that time. Aguero, Messi and Angel di Maria are all 27, prime age. They’ve all been playing together for several years, too.
They have looked good in Chile so far, but not invincible and need to improve. In their opening game, they were leading 2-0 against Paraguay, the most dangerous scoreline in football. You can relax but when your opponent scores they have all the momentum to score again.
Paraguay, who are always so hard to break down and so well defensively organised, equalised. And now in a repeat of the 2011 final Paraguay play my Uruguay in their third group game tomorrow to see who will qualify automatically for the knockout stage.
Aguero and Messi will be doing their best to make sure that Argentina make the final this time, but as they’ve already found out in Copa America, the competition is very, very tough.
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Published: June 18, 2015 04:00 AM