Pep Guardiola has acknowledged that Sergio Aguero will be the hardest of Manchester City’s titans to replace when the 31-year-old Argentine leaves The Etihad.
Aguero, who has scored eight goals in his last five games, is tipped to start City’s FA Cup tie against Fulham today having been rested for most of the midweek win at Sheffield United.
Whereas City didn’t buy a centre-half after skipper Vincent Kompany left and want homegrown midfielder Phil Foden to succeed David Silva, the worldwide search for a new Aguero has already started to complement the different skills of Gabriel Jesus.
‘It’s a completely different approach with strikers compared to David and the others,’ admitted Guardiola. ‘Strikers is numbers. Strikers is a smell of a goal. It is not easy to find it and I think all the big clubs need this kind of guy. When Sergio is fit and happy, he can do anything.
‘We have a department here to look at new talented players in different countries. People talk about players to me and show highlights but I don’t have time to look in depth at the specific skills.’
Aguero signed for City from Atletico Madrid in 2011 and gone on to become the club’s record goalscorer with 252. He is expected to leave when his contract runs out at the end of next season with David Beckham’s new MLS franchise in Miami among those interested in signing him.
Guardiola is happy with his £27 million Brazilian striker Jesus who brings a work rate and energy to the team. But Aguero’s ability in front of goal brings a different dimension to City’s game. At Bramall Lane on Tuesday night he was introduced after 67 minutes with the game still 0-0, and scored the winner.
‘Gabriel has incredible statistics as well for goals and assists. We are lucky to have both of them and recently they’ve done well together,’ added Guardiola. ‘
City are the current FA Cup holders and their squad strength means Guardiola will be able to name two different but equally good line-ups for Scott Parker’s Fulham and then the Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Manchester United on Wednesday.
‘I am a guy who rotates quite a lot, to keep everyone involved,’ said the City boss who also has a massive Champions League tie against Real Madrid coming up next month.
Though City are 16 points behind Liverpool in the Premier League, Guardiola has been impressed by the way his players have kept going despite knowing the title is beyond them.
City are unbeaten in seven matches in all competitions and Guardiola says: ‘I’ve known for two years the mentality of my team is incredible. Other teams might drop down when they know they can’t be first, but we haven’t.
‘Liverpool will obviously be champions of the Premier League. It is phenomenal what they have done. Overwhelming. In the past Leicester and Chelsea have won the league and then not qualified for the Champions League. But we have still managed decent results even though we can’t repeat the title.
‘With our points total, we would be fighting for the league in Spain, Italy, Germany. The mentality of this team is honestly one of the best I have handled in my career. How they react in the bad moments, that is why I am so proud.’