Despite a record breaking goal haul has Sergio Agüero been underrated?

“Agüero is a legend,” were the words of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola after watching his side’s latest demolition job. “I think he is one of the most incredible players I’ve seen in this league.”

City’s record goal scorer had just struck a historic hat-trick to help City to a 6-1 thrashing of Aston Villa and in doing so become the most prolific foreign player the Premier League has ever seen. Yet despite almost a decade of terrifying defences on these shores and spearheading a period of dominance that has yielded four league titles, Agüero leapfrogging Thierry Henry in the record books almost seemed like a moment of enlightenment for many.

For those who were in the ‘I hadn’t realised Agüero was quite so devastatingly brilliant’ camp (though they may not admit it), it’s something that has been glaringly obvious for quite some time. 

Now that is not to say that they should have been aware of the child prodigy who broke Diego Maradona’s record by becoming the youngest player to play Argentinean top flight football when still not even sixteen. But based solely on Agüero’s time in Manchester, the numbers are staggering. 

Sunday’s treble took Agüero to 177 Premier League goals. It’s taken the 31-year-old 255 games to reach that figure, two less than the acclaimed Henry took to become the previous highest scoring foreigner with 175. 

Now level with Frank Lampard, Agüero has Andy Cole in his sights and will then only have English football royalty Wayne Rooney and Alan Shearer ahead. 

None however have a better goals-per-minute record than the City hitman. Agüero’s has hit the net every 106 minutes since becoming the vital piece in the Abu Dhabi scheme for Premier League domination in 2011. 

Shearer, Rooney nor England’s current number nine Harry Kane can compete. Foreign stars to have graced the league like Luis Suárez, Robin van Persie and Didier Drogba trail in Agüero’s wake and even those with the benefit of a smaller sample size like Mohamed Salah or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fail to match the numbers posted by Kun. 

And prolific numbers aside, this level of consistency simply can’t be overlooked. Much like old pal Lionel Messi it is perhaps this ability to maintain such a level of brilliance for over a decade which separates the merely excellent from the exceptional. 

Guardiola of course knows both well and despite acknowledging Agüero is no Messi (frankly, who is?) the Spaniard said, “The best is Messi,” when asked if Kun is the best striker he has coached.

“Messi is [the best] number nine, number 10, number 11, number seven, number six, number five, number four…But Sergio, [among] the rest, he is certainly one of them. I said many times, he will die scoring goals. It is his talent.”

With such praise from Guardiola it is worth remembering that many questioned Agüero’s future at City soon after the Champions League winning coach arrived at the Etihad. The Argentinian was thought not to be to the style of Guardiola and could find himself marginalised.  

The stats have answered that concern conclusively. From the three managers that Agüero has played under at City it is the Guardiola-era that has produced the best results. 113 goals in 151 appearances under Pep is a rate of 0.748 goals per game, marginally higher than the 0.747 goals per game for Manuel Pellegrini and better yet than the 0.53 goals per game under Roberto Mancini.

In fact now at the age of 31, Agüero is enjoying his best ever season, averaging a goal every 77 minutes and his highest shot-conversion rate (25.49%).

A style that now appears perfectly attuned to Guardiola’s style – the darting runs to make a fraction of space in a crowded penalty box with the emphatic finishing to make use of those trademark cutbacks. 

Arguably it is the fact that Agüero applies ‘only’ the finishing touch that has counted against him. The teenage forward who drove at defenders from deep and used his low centre of gravity to jink this way and that has evolved over time yet the simple, decisive art of finding the net whichever way it comes should never be dismissed. 

City’s unpopularity outside the blue half of Manchester as a result of their success built on the foundation of vast financial backing sees even Guardiola questioned as a coach. The influential Spaniard facing charges of being utterly dependent on a fortune and where his every failure is met with cries of ‘FRAUD.’ 

By the same token perhaps Agüero has the easy job of playing up front for City. Anyone could score goals when David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne are serving up chances on a plate. But could they really? 

It’s no surprise that City’s owners’ lavish search for the Premier League title coincided with a certain signing from Atlético Madrid and on that dramatic final day against Queens Park Rangers who was there to score the goal that won the title? Agüeroooooooooooooo.

Four Premier League titles in total now leave a Champions League winners medal as the missing piece. That and, again like Messi, a failure to help Argentina end their 28-year drought for major honours is harshly held against Agüero.

25 Champions League goals isn’t a bad return even if City’s attempts to land the ultimate prize have ended in frustration and if Messi can’t overcome Argentina’s multitude of institutional issues then what hope has Agüero?

Injuries of fitness issues have plagued Agüero’s international career, or at least appear to hinder his performance when it comes to major tournaments and yet only Messi and Gabriel Batistuta have scored more goals in the Albiceleste. 

Having overtaken Alan Shearer’s Premier League record for number of hat-tricks, Agüero won’t catch the great Geordie goal glutton but make no mistake the Argentinian deserves his place among the very best that the Premier League has ever seen. 

Agüero’s contract at City expires in 2021 and it remains to seen whether an extension or a romantic return to Independiente will come to fruition. For as long as Kun remains in England, he should be enjoyed. 

As Pep said, “This kind of player… there are not many in the incredible history of English football. He helps to make the Premier League better.”