Aguero's off to a flyer but best is yet to come

Pablo Zabaleta tells Tim Rich that his fellow countryman will only improve at City if given time to settle

Sign or straight through? As they reach the barrier to the training ground in their Bentleys, Range Rovers and Mercedes, a security guard asks Manchester City's footballers if they want to stop to deal with the shirts and autograph books that lie at the end of the drive. Most sign but Carlos Tevez, who leaves Carrington in a strangely modest A-Class Mercedes, is straight through.

The autograph they would all want belongs to Sergio Aguero and, after his debut against Swansea last Monday night, he is in the mood to oblige. Those eager fans who surround him are struggling to recall a better beginning for Manchester City and no one is better placed to offer a perspective than Pablo Zabaleta, Aguero's captain for Argentina and now his team-mate at City. Zabaleta understands the devotion Aguero inspires back home and clearly expects more of the same at City once the striker adapts to the new surroundings.

"He looked so comfortable in his first game," smiled Zabaleta, reaching for the nearest understatement. "We always knew how good he was but we need to look after him and remember that it is difficult when you come from another country. Before he came here, we were talking about the club and the city," said Zabaleta, whose attitude to Manchester is very different from Tevez's comments on Argentinian television that: "there is nothing to do, everything is small and there are only two restaurants".

"I told Sergio he would be happy here because this is a city that gives a lot of respect to football players," added Zabaleta. "He knew a bit about Manchester; he knew the club is growing and they are already a strong team." You would hope Aguero adopts Zabaleta's attitude to Manchester rather than Tevez's. Zabaleta was out on Wednesday night, not at San Carlo, one of Tevez's "two restaurants", but among 250 at Hyde, watching City's reserves beat Oldham in the Manchester Senior Cup.

This is Zabaleta's fourth season at City and he will no doubt have briefed Aguero on his experiences, which began by living in Didsbury, a kind of Mancunian Islington, where he would mingle with supporters queuing for fish and chips. After what happened on Monday, Aguero will struggle to find that sort of anonymity, although at least he can ask his father-in-law for advice on how to cope with the pressure. Married to Diego Maradona's daughter, Aguero is known in Argen-tina as God's Son-in-Law and prompted the Chelsea manager, Andre Villas-Boas, to joke that Aguero'stwo-year-old son, Benjamin, should be put under contract because, for a professional footballer, his genesare impeccable.

"Manchester City made great efforts to bring him here, so naturally there is a lot of pressure on Sergio," said Zabaleta. "But he is a clever guy; he knows what is expected of him. When he was at Atletico Madrid, Maradona would come over to watch games and spend time with his family. I wouldn't be surprised to see him at the Etihad Stadium."

Whether Zabaleta would be surprised to see Tevez in Manchester in a month's time is another question, and one into which he does not want to delve too deeply. "In training [Tevez] is the same he has always been. He is always smiling but where he will be when the transfer window closes is another matter," he said.

"If Carlos stays or goes, it shouldn't really matter. Yes, I want him to stay because he is a great team-mate and a fantastic player. But, if he goes, you have to accept it, carry on and look forward. We can win without him because we have great quality up front with Sergio, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. It is not bad."

There is plenty that links Tevez and Aguero. They are tough, compact players and each has been anointed by Maradona as his natural successor. They also come from similar backgrounds. Aguero grew up in Quilmes, a tough outpost of Buenos Aires. When he started playing for Independiente, the club found his parents somewhere safer to live.

"It happens all across South America," said Zabaleta. "You see very great players come from very poor areas and when they come to Europe they know they are setting an example to everyone back home. They show people living in the area they come from that if you do everything right you can have a good lifestyle. You appreciate football more because it gives you another life."

Coming to England should have been more difficult after the southern winter Aguero had endured. The Argentinian dream is to win the 2014 World Cup in the Maracana, the citadel of their eternal enemy, Brazil. But first it would be as well to win the Copa America in their own country, a task in which they failed lamentably, eliminated by Uruguay on penalties in the quarter-finals.

"It will be hard for Sergio coming from the Copa America because the Premier League is non-stop and, especially around Christmas and New Year, it is hard," said Zabaleta. "It is a long nine months and this time the season will be more compressed because of the European Championship. We have had two weeks' rest since the tournament. We are here because we have to be here but we are not 100 per cent."

Which probably comes as news to anyone who witnessed his display on Monday. Today it is the turn of the Reebok Stadium.

Bolton v Manchester City on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 4pm

Aguero: All you need to know: A question of class and the secret shared with Torres

Where does Aguero stand in the Argentinian tradition?

If Argentina wanted to erect a statue to its footballing spirit, the journalist Borocoto wrote in El Grafico in 1928, it should depict ''a pibe [kid] with a dirty face, a mane of hair rebelling against the comb; with the intelligent, roving, trickster and persuasive eyes and a sparkling gaze that seem to hint at a picaresque laugh that does not quite manage to form on his mouth, full of small teeth that might be worn down by eating yesterday's bread". Aguero ticks most of the boxes. Having grown up in a villa misera in Quilmes to the north of Buenos Aires, he fits the right social background, the urchin kid who learned the game in the streets and still plays with an impudent charm. Only the short hair differs from the template, but Borocoto would probably allow for the changing of fashions in that regard.

How popular is he in Argentina?

Before Argentina's Copa America match against Colombia earlier this season, the stadium announcer hit upon a key truth: "Con el 10," he said, "el mejor jugador del mundo, Lionel Messi. Y con el 11, el jugador del pueblo, Carlos Tevez." Messi is the best player in the world, but Tevez is the player of the people. Fans look at Tevez, and they see spirit and effort, a tough guy with his scar and his pibe hair, who comes from one of the roughest areas of Buenos Aires, clearly giving his all for the shirt. They look at Messi, and they see the middle-class boy from Rosario with his neat hair whose genius is somehow cerebral and unflustered. And so when things go wrong, even when it is Tevez who has missed the vital penalty, it is Messi who takes the blame. Aguero lies somewhere between the two: his emotions not worn on his sleeve quite as Tevez's are, but not as hidden as Messi's. He grew up in poverty, but nothing like the Fuerte Apache area where Tevez comes from. Even his hairstyle falls somewhere in the middle.

Can Aguero and Tevez play together?

On the evidence of the Copa America, Sergio Batista, Argentina's then coach, thought not. He played them for just 46 minutes together, as Aguero came off the bench for the final quarter of the draws against Bolivia and Colombia. Diego Maradona, similarly, kept them apart during the World Cup. The complicating factor, of course, is Messi, who occupies for Argentina the "false nine" role in which Tevez tended to operate for Manchester City. When the three were played as a fluid front line in a 4-3-3, as in the latter part of the4-0 friendly win over Albania in June, they impressed, Aguero and Tevez both scoring. It was only a friendly, it was only Albania, and it was 2-0 at half-time, but still, their inter-movement was good; at the Copa though, whenever Tevez and Aguero were on the pitch together it was in a 4-2-3-1 with Tevez advanced of Messi and Angel Di Maria on the left. That tended to mean Messi and Tevez getting in each other's way; whereas against Albania, Messi had dropped off, creating space for Aguero and Tevez to attack from wide. At City, it's possible to imagine Tevez dropping off, and Aguero and one of Adam Johnson, Mario Balotelli or perhaps even David Silva cutting in. It's hard to see, though, how both could play with Edin Dzeko without play becoming very narrow. Still, Aguero has proved himself a tactically intelligent player, and he thrived with the highly mobile Diego Forlan at Atletico and with Maxi Morales, another in the pibe tradition, with Argentina's Under-20 side.

Why do Aguero and Fernando Torres both have their own names tattooed in Tengwar (one of J R R Tolkien's Elvish languages) on their forearms?

Frankly that remains something of a mystery. Aguero has said merely that "it's a popular one". Asked about the tattoo in Bloemfontein during the Confederations Cup, Torres said that he didn't want to talk about it, but then seemed genuinely interested to learn that Tolkien had been born in the city, and that his mother had insisted on moving him to Birmingham after he had been bitten by a spider at the age of three. Torres even speculated that the incident had led to Tolkien fearing spiders, something reflected in Frodo's battle with Shelob, the giant spider in Lord of the Rings. Given that the midfielder Maniche and the goalkeeper Antonio Lopez have similar tattoos, it's safe to assume the film was popular in the Atletico Madrid dressing-room in 2006-07.

Jonathan Wilson

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
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

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game