James Lawton: Aguero's priceless gifts may be the making of City


We knew the cost of Sergio Aguero to Manchester City but we couldn't know his value to the richest football club in the world. Now we can. Now it hits us in the face with the force and the urgency of his brilliant 30-minute intervention in his new club's 4-0 opening Premier League victory over Swansea City, a team of quite affecting fluency right up to the moment Diego Maradona's son-in-law turned them into so many pieces of splintered matchwood.

It is true that no one player, not Pele or Di Stefano or George Best made a team, but it is also right that he can change, utterly, the way it thinks about itself. This is the promise made by Sergio Aguero.

With such a man on the field it will surely be that much easier for City to believe they are indeed ready to compete at the highest level.

The scale of his impact and potential meaning was only partly to do with the evidence of perfect technique and, at least on this occasion, ravenous hunger. There was also the joy, the explosion of camaraderie in a team which previously might have picked a whole series of arguments at the Last Supper. The new man suddenly made anything seem possible.

It is that sensation when a new player arrives and all those who play alongside him, and those who merely watch, feel a gust of not hope but certainty. Zinedine Zidane did that when he arrived at the Bernabeu, as did Marco van Basten at San Siro and Dennis Bergkamp at Highbury.

No, you're right, we shouldn't get carried away. Aguero will doubtless face much heavier challenges than the one provided by the newly promoted Welsh club but this is no reason to hold back a powerful suspicion.

It is that when set against all of City's wealth, and their previous predilection for throwing such great lumps of it at players of questionable talent and extremely troubling personality, the £38m signing of Aguero already looks like stunning good value.

This is because what Aguero did in a few minutes was something that had proved beyond the powers of such as Carlos Tevez, Yaya Touré, Gareth Barry, James Milner and Mario Balotelli, especially Balotelli, and manager Roberto Mancini.

It is not to dispute such varied talents, only to say that Aguero's astonishing gift was to slash away all that talk of two-, three-, four-year plans and a slow march to the peak of English and European football, and say that there is only one way to push back the horizons of even the most expensive football team, and that the time when you do that is not tomorrow but today.

What you do, if you crave the transforming moment, is inject into your team an authentically inspiring player, one who has both the talent and self-belief to impose on any situation. Even in their march to Champions League qualification and their first significant trophy in 35 years, City so often displayed the body language of doubt. Their bench resembled a dressing station for the wounds of the psyche.

Tevez sulked and pouted in between telling thrusts on the field. Balotelli was at best a dubious asset. David Silva, for all his lovely, acute touch, must have felt he too often performed in the company of strangers.

He had no reason to feel such a weight when Aguero helped him on his way to his man-of-the-match award with an assist which came straight from the football heavens. Balotelli never made it on to the field and even he might have understood the reason for his idleness when Aguero scored his two goals with a stunning combination of bite and technical brilliance.

For Mancini, such a performance was both deliverance and a challenge. He was freed from the oppressive sense that City remained a team falling short of optimum performance – an impression only deepened by their halting effort against Manchester United at Wembley – but also obliged to build on the inspiration provided by his new man.

The most enduring criticism of Mancini is that if he understands football, as a former player of perfectionist leanings, he grasps less well the need to liberate a team from its own inhibitions. There was much of that requirement in evidence again before Aguero was sent out to introduce himself.

He put down a calling card of exquisite simplicity. He said what he could do and the manner in which he would do it. When it was over he thanked his new fans and said he was anxious to earn their trust out on the field, the only place where it really mattered.

No, one man doesn't make a team. But he can redefine its values and set new standards and what would any top club pay for that? City – for once in their new life – must feel they have parted with just a little loose change.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas