Neil Humphreys: Only Haaland can replace City's departing Aguero

Neil Humphreys: Only Haaland can replace City's departing Aguero

31/3/2021 4:15:00 AM

Neil Humphreys: Only Haaland can replace City's departing Aguero

Sergio Aguero's goal makes Erling Haaland the obvious candidate to replace him at Manchester City. You know the goal. The whole world knows the goal. The strike strained both the net and Martin Tyler's vocal cords and gave birth to an empire. English football...

With Aguero scoring 257 goals in 384 appearances, City picked up those trophies, including four EPL crowns (soon to be five) and a domestic treble.The planned statue for Aguero seems fitting. He laid the foundation for the Etihad structure behind his future likeness.

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He scored more EPL goals - 181 and counting - than any other overseas player in history. At his peak, Aguero scored an astonishing 28 goals or more in six consecutive seasons.Ironically, Aguero fed the beast that eventually consumed him, surpassed him even. City's insatiable hunger for sustained success meant that the Argentinian was always going to reach a use-by date at a franchise he helped to build.

And Haaland is the clear and obvious replacement.Aguero was a once-in-a-generation striker and Haaland appears to be taking a similar path among his contemporaries. The Easter eggs haven't been cracked yet and he already has 21 goals in 21 Bundesliga matches, with another 10 from six Champions League fixtures for Borussia Dortmund.

PRESTIGEBut it's not the numbers for City, not entirely anyway. It's not even the style of play. If anything, Haaland risks being lumped into that awkward category with Aguero and those strikers who"only" score goals.Goal-scoring strikers are never enough for Pep Guardiola. Like a socialite with a platinum credit card, the City manager has a habit of perusing a person's wares and then asking what else he has to offer.

Even the irrepressible Aguero was never allowed to fall back on his unimpeachable goals record when it came to justifying his selection.Guardiola didn't need a conventional No. 9 when he arrived at City and encouraged Aguero to adapt his game (which the Argentinian did, to his credit).

And Guardiola certainly doesn't need a high-profile striker now. But the City project arguably does.When Aguero became"Aguerooooo" in the final seconds of the 2012 season, the club's paymasters clearly anticipated Champions League glory and the winning of those priceless hearts and minds.

Neither happened.Liverpool and Manchester United are still the dominant brands, particularly in this part of the world. Asia, the coveted territory, still sees red.Haaland's raw numbers and style of play may prove less relevant than the prestige that his name will bring to the Etihad. The 20-year-old comes with an immediate spotlight and real global reach.

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Naturally, a grotesque sum of money is going to be required to secure his signature in a Covid-weary climate. But City will not hesitate. Almost £1.5 billion (S$2.8b) has been lavished in a decade. What's another €180 million (S$286m) among billionaires? Hearts and minds are at stake here.

Being the son of Alf-Inge Haaland, a former City player, does no harm, but being the most marketable asset of his generation might help Haaland Jr a lot more.There are other options, including Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe and even Lionel Messi, but only Haaland offers a potential goal supply for the next decade, just like Aguero before him.

Even so, there's a subtle difference now. When the Argentinian signed for City in 2011, the would-be rulers needed him. Today, they don't desperately need Haaland on the pitch, but they want him for the next stage of global expansion.And the wealthiest usually get what they want.

Read more: The New Paper »

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