As far as debuts go, Sergio Agüero’s was pretty special.
He was far from an unknown quantity upon signing for Manchester City – between the ages of 18 and 22 he combined for 99 goals and assists in La Liga, the fourth-most of any player during his five seasons there after Lionel Messi, David Villa and Diego Forlán. His six goals against Barcelona during that time were the most of any player, and he’d even put three past Real Mallorca in his final appearance for Atlético.
Despite all of that, his 30-minute cameo against Swansea in August 2011 lived up to and then exceeded all the expectations he’d built up with his performances in Spain.
Of the 4,360 players to have featured in the Premier League to date only six have been directly involved in three goals on their debut, and only one of those did so as a substitute. You can guess who.
His first goal was a tap-in at the back post, ghosting into the box behind an unwitting Swansea backline. He would go on to score 26 league goals from inside the six-yard box for City.
He followed that up three minutes later with a no-look-over-the-head assist for David Silva, refusing to give up on a ball that was surely out of reach. Agüero and Silva combined for 29 Premier League goals in total, the third-most behind Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba (36) and Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane (34).
He saved the best until last, smashing the ball beyond an outstretched Michel Vorm from 30 yards out in added time. That was one of two goals he scored after the 90th minute in the Premier League, you may already be aware of the other one.
In those three key moments Agüero had given us a glimpse into his future, a harbinger of what was to come from his Premier League reign. Now it’s over, we can ask if we really knew just how lucky we were to watch it in full.
The Stats Don’t Lie
Here are the facts.
- Agüero is Manchester City’s all-time top scorer (260).
- He is the highest-scoring overseas player in Premier League history, the fourth-highest scorer overall, and has netted the most goals for a single club in the competition (184).
- He has the best minutes per goal ratio in Premier League history (108).
- He has scored more hat tricks than any Premier League player (12).
- Only Alan Shearer has scored 20+ goals in more Premier League seasons (Seven to six).
- He accounts for five of the six highest-scoring Premier League seasons by a Manchester City player.
- He’s one of five players to score five goals in a Premier League match (and he only played 66 minutes in that game).
- He scored against 32 of the 33 Premier League teams he faced.
- He won five Premier League titles.
From those listed above, you’d imagine the most important achievement for Agüero will be surpassing Eric Brook’s club scoring record, one which had stood since before the beginning of World War II. It doesn’t really feel all that long since he netted at San Paolo against Napoli to make the record his own, and yet he now has an 83-goal cushion (260 to 177).
The most impressive from a purely statistical point of view, though, is his Premier League minutes per goal record. It doesn’t do his numbers justice to simply say his return of 108 minutes per goal is the best in the competition’s history, it needs more context. He isn’t just top, he leads by some distance.
When including those with at least 20 Premier League goals, his return of 108 minutes per goal is 14 minutes better than those tied in second place (Thierry Henry and Harry Kane, 122). That 14-minute difference is larger than the gap between Alan Shearer (147) and Demba Ba (160).
Agüero could play another 2,520 minutes of Premier League action (the equivalent to 28 full games) without scoring, and he would still top the list. Even if you only include his matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester, Liverpool, Man Utd and Spurs, he would still rank joint-fourth alongside Ruud van Nistelrooy (128).
He’s rightly viewed as one of the Premier League’s best ever strikers, of course, but Agüero shares a similar fate to Mohamed Salah in that the regularity and ease with which he scores can sometimes undermine his perceived ability. Despite all of the accolades listed above, he was only voted into the PFA Team of the Year by his peers twice in 10 seasons, fewer times than other attacking players such as Harry Kane (4), Sadio Mané (3) and Gareth Bale (3). He even missed out in 2014-15 despite winning the Golden Boot outright.
There was a surprising simplicity to his game, repeatedly making half-chances look like good chances, though rarely attempting anything overly spectacular. While he doesn’t have a highlight reel of wonder goals, he more than made up for it by scoring goals that will be remembered for their importance.
Flat-track Bully Antonym
Of the 35 teams that played in the Premier League across his 10-season spell in the competition, nine can name Agüero as their chief nemesis.
He didn’t save up his goals for the weaker sides, scoring more goals than any other player against Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham since joining the Premier League.
In fact, against the six best-performing opposition sides during his time in England — Spurs (11), Chelsea (10), Arsenal (8), Man Utd (8), Liverpool (7) and Leicester (5) — Agüero scored 27% of his total goals in the Premier League (49/184). A quarter of his record-breaking 12 hat tricks in the competition came against the same group.
Opening it up to all competitions, Chelsea (13), Spurs (12) and Arsenal (11) make up three of the five opponents he scored against the most for City. A google search for “flat-track bully antonym” returns nothing of value, but maybe it should link directly to Agüero’s Wikipedia page. He stepped up in the most important games.
Of course, we can’t talk about important goals without referencing that one. The most important of his career, probably the most important in Manchester City’s history, and what most people consider to be the single most dramatic Premier League event to date.
Pretty much everything there is to know about Agüero’s last-minute title-winning goal against QPR in 2011-12 has already been said. It was City’s first top-flight title in 44 years. It was the first time they had finished above Manchester United in 21 years. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were literally top of the table when their game against Sunderland had finished, only to learn Mario Balotelli had provided his only assist in 70 Premier League appearances to set up Agüero’s winner.
But there’s one more small piece of information that is testament to Agüero’s character [read: cojones] and his penchant for the big moments that has gone under the radar. During the dying embers of the game, when he came deep to retrieve the ball from Nigel De Jong, initiated a one-two on the edge of the box with Balotelli and side-stepped a loose challenge from Taye Taiwo, he was on the longest run of shots without scoring at this stage of his City career (14).
For a 23-year-old to shoulder the responsibility of an entire team in that instant, when others would have been tempted step aside so as not to make a wrong move, says everything that needs to be known about Agüero.
Missing in Action
One drawback to Agüero’s Manchester City career was his availability. Of the 380 Premier League matches that City played during his 10 seasons in England, he played no part in 105 of them. Crazily, he only played 58% of the league minutes available to him during that time (19,857/34,200).
Without persistent injuries, how much closer could he have been to Alan Shearer’s Premier League goals record? On a purely goals to games level, they were tracking at an oddly similar rate: Agüero departs the competition with 184 goals from 275 appearances, while Shearer had 183 goals after making 275 Premier League appearances. Perhaps Agüero, and not his potential replacement in Harry Kane, was the real potential challenger to a record that has felt out of reach for so long.
Never a man to disappoint in the big moments, Agüero left the Premier League as stylishly as he entered it. His brace against Everton last Sunday was only his second as a substitute for City, the first coming during his club debut against Swansea almost 10 years earlier.
Becoming the first player to score twice in both his first and final Premier League appearance, he couldn’t have bookended his league career in England any more poetically.
There is one more game to go, the Champions League final, but for all intents and purposes the Everton game was goodbye. With a final send off from the fans, a Premier League trophy lift, messages from former teammates such as Edin Dzeko, David Silva and Vincent Kompany, and even some tears from Pep Guardiola, it really did feel like the end.
As far as farewells go, Sergio Agüero’s was pretty special.