FOUR years, eight years, perhaps even longer: Sergio Aguero has promised Manchester City fans that he will not leave the club until he has fulfilled his dream of winning the Champions League.
It is a welcome piece of good news for the club at the end of a week during which they have been pushed to the brink of elimination from Europe, their character has been called into question, and manager Manuel Pellegrini criticised.
Aguero, who joined in 2011, was frank about his side's deficiencies in Europe this season, saying that "we are not seeing the real City" at the moment and admitting that, if the team fail to reach the knockout stages, as now looks almost certain, it will be "the worst Champions League campaign the club has had".
In August he extended his contract at the club until 2019, but now he goes further. Until City win the Champions League, his work will not be done.
"Not only will I stay the four years to make it eight here in total," he says, "I'll stay beyond that. Until we win it." And there is a fierceness to his eyes as he says it.
The Argentinian deflected criticism from Pellegrini, saying "we are all to blame", and argued that City's likely elimination was not just about one bad game. "I don't think we need to just look at Wednesday's performance, but the first three matches as well," he said.
"None of the three games have been the real City."
The club's inability to reproduce their title-winning form in Europe is, Aguero believes, a mental issue. "We have to repeat the mindset that we have in the league," he said.
"We are not seeing the real City playing in Europe at the moment. But we still have these last two games. We have to go out with a different mentality and, as they say in Spain, go out with a different chip in your head."
Scrutiny has naturally fallen on Pellegrini; in particular, whether in attempting to effect a clean break from the fiercely pragmatic Roberto Mancini, the club have gone too far in the opposite direction, appointing a manager who is perhaps a little too unflappable. Aguero rejects this.
"Roberto was quite sparky, quite animated on the touchline," he said. "He didn't hide his feelings at all.
"Manuel is a bit more calm. But that isn't to say that when we get in the dressing-room at half-time or after a match that he isn't the first to let us have it. He doesn't hold back.
"It's easy for everyone to suddenly decide it's the man at the helm who is to blame, but we are all in it together. We are all to blame, and we need to work our way out of this situation as a group."
If City are in need of a tonic, they could hardly have picked better opponents this afternoon. They play Queens Park Rangers - the team against whom Aguero scored his career-defining goal, the last-minute title-winner in 2012.
On the wall of the Argentinian's house in Cheshire, there is a picture of that very moment: Aguero pulling off his shirt, his team-mates wildly chasing, the crowd in delirium.
"That will remain etched on my memory for ever," he said. "I've watched it loads and loads of times, as you can imagine. Whenever you mention the words 'Queens Park Rangers' it always comes to mind."
Meanwhile, Pellegrini has given a huge vote of confidence to the much-criticised Yaya Touré by making him captain for today's match in the absence of Vincent Kompany, who is sidelined by a calf injury.
The manager is adamant the midfielder has the strength of character to perform. Pellegrini believes that rather than rest his player, the best way for Touré to recapture his form is to stay in a side who have themselves been struggling to regain the sort of level that led them to the Premier League title last season.
"If I think that Yaya needs to rest mentally from the pressure, I think he is not the player that he is," he said. "He will continue to play because that is the best way. I know he would want to continue."
As for reports that Touré will be sold, Pellegrini responded: "Yaya is a very important player. He played very well in the first half (against CSKA) - he scored a goal. In the second half he made a mistake and he was sent off but I am sure nobody at the club is talking about selling Yaya Touré.
"Maybe that news comes from other teams (who want) to see our team weaker."
With Kompany absent, Eliaquim Mangala, who has featured in just five of City's 14 Premier and Champions League games, could return. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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