By Aliyu Yakubu Yusuf
Teenage Sergio Aguero first came into my football consciousness sometime in 2006 when his team Atletico Madrid took on their arch-enemies Real Madrid at the legendary Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. The match ended one apiece, and Aguero wasn’t on the score sheet. However, his name was on the lips of everyone who watched the game after he ran Fabio Cannavaro and Pepe ragged all afternoon long. Those 90 minutes were more than enough for me to realise that a legend was born. Before that match, I had no idea Atletico had signed the next footballing sensation from the football-mad Argentina.
Being an avid follower of everything regarding Argentina national team players, I am still surprised how I didn’t notice the presence of Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero in the victorious Argentina team at the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2005. Perhaps, it was because he wasn’t part of the favoured starting lineup. And perhaps, it was because of the presence of another boy wonder, Lionel Messi, who won both the top scorer and the best player in the tournament. This tournament marked the beginning of a friendship between Aguero and Messi that has seen them share the same room for 16 years during national team duties.
If Aguero was upstaged in that 2005 FIFA U20 World Cup, he made up for it when he, too, guided Argentina to another title at the same tournament in 2007. And like Messi previously, Aguero also won both the top scorer and the best player gongs. That makes him the only player in football history to have played in and won two consecutive U20 World Cups. And just two years down the line, Aguero, alongside his friend, Messi, went on to win the Olympic gold medal for Argentina.
Aguero’s career is a spectacular story of success and glamour. This is a player who, at 16 years of age, became an undisputed starter in one of South America’s most storied clubs. From Independiente to Barcelona via Atletico Madrid and Manchester City, Aguero’s incredible talent, goalscoring exploits, and professionalism saw him capture the hearts of fans of all the clubs he played for.
If Aguero’s club career is that of being the first go-to man, in Argentina set up, the story was somewhat different. Despite playing alongside some of the best arrays of attacking talents in Messi, Higuain, Tevez, Lavezzi and Di Maria, Aguero more than held his own. His tally of 41 goals in 101 games is a respectable return for a player who had to share attacking duties with other illustrious names.
Although he won several trophies for almost all the clubs he played for, it is beyond doubt that the moment that best defined Aguero’s career came at the colours of Manchester City in 2011 when he scored a stunning stoppage-time winner that handed City their first-ever EPL title. This, coupled with four more EPL titles, more than 200 goals for City and being the non-European player with most EPL goals, saw him etched his name as one of the best ever foreign imports in the history of English football. And with a little south of 500 career goals, Aguero will surely go down as one of the best strikers of this generation.
As fate would have it, this remarkable player was diagnosed with a heart problem after playing just five games for his new club, FC Barcelona. As a result, doctors advise that it would be risky for him to continue playing professional football. As tearful Aguero announced his retirement from what he loves most, I just can’t shake the nostalgia. After all, this is a player with whom I shared so many happy and sad memories. All I have to say is: Adieu ‘El Kun’. The streets will never forget you.
Aliyu Yakubu Yusuf is a lecturer at the Department of English and Literary Studies, Bayero University, Kano. He can be reached via email@example.com.