The evidence of what it means to be a folk hero in a sky-blue city starved of success ought to be well known to Sergio Aguero after his four months in Manchester, though the frayed images of Diego Maradona which you will still find on walls and lamp posts in this city tell of a different type of worship.
Maradona was not here to receive his son-in-law Aguero last night. He is in Buenos Aires mourning the death of his mother, Dona Tota, though it doesn't take his presence to know what he achieved here. The ghosts of those late 1980s days still stalk the frayed, decaying Stadio San Paolo and the talk of them is still fresh enough for Aguero to aspire to something similar in east Manchester.
"It's definitely my dream, to do what Maradona did for Napoli," he said last night. "He did not tell me how to play this game but in the past he told me everything about Napoli and I saw on TV all he did for Napoli; how important hewas for the fans."
Amid the flashbulbs and frenzy of this appearance, Aguero's every word needing translated into Italian and English, it was not an opportunity for revelations. It had been in the seclusion of Carrington, long before leaving for Italy, that the 23-year-old had reflected more fully on Manchester City's attempts to progress to a place among Europe's elite last 16 and declared that the best of that number were "still just a football team" who could ultimately be overcome.
Few can say they have beaten Barcelona several times over – as Aguero's Atletico Madrid have done at Estadio Vicente Calderon – and then predict something similar in the future. That's the steel you carry when you've escaped Quilmes, the shanty town of 60,000 near Buenos Aires.
"Barcelona are above everyone else because they've proved this over the last four years," Aguero said. "But they are still just a football team. They can't stay dominant for ever, other teams have the potential to overtake them." Dethroning Lionel Messi as a future winner of the Ballon d'Or is another aim.
For now, though, tonight is a significant 90 minutes on this particular skyblue journey. "I will not be nervous, I will enjoy playing on this pitch," Aguero said. "Maradona did very well here and I will just think of him doing the same."Reuse content