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Aguero's rise an example to erratic Mario

Sergio Aguero's vocabulary was instructive yesterday, when he got around to discussing the striker whose latest conduct suggests that Umbro will require new supplies of its "Why always me?" T-shirts, which initially sold out in one afternoon.

"Es un buen pibe," Aguero said of Mario Balotelli. "Un buen pibe..."

There is no direct translation of this term -- neither 'kid' nor 'boy' quite defines a noun which is wrapped up in the mythology of Argentinian football. 'Pibe' describes the kid who has risen up from the dirt pitches to achieve greatness.

It was the Argentinian journalist Borocoto who wrote in 'El Grafico' in 1928 that if the country wanted to erect a statue to its footballing spirit, it should depict "a pibe with a dirty face, a mane of hair rebelling against the comb; with the intelligent, roving, trickster and persuasive eyes and a sparkling gaze. (A) mouth full of small teeth that might be worn down by eating yesterday's bread".

The point of all this was that Aguero, and not Balotelli, is the one who has carried this heroic tradition into the Etihad Stadium. 'Pibe' was attached to him almost as much as 'El Kun' -- the name of his grandparents' favourite Japanese cartoon character -- when he burst on to the scene in Buenos Aires, because he had arrived out of the dust.

His childhood, in a villa misera in Quilmes, north of the Argentinian capital, did not resemble the destitution of Carlos Tevez's early years in Fuerta Apache, but it was certainly written through with poverty.

Balotelli's story, past and present, is a different one.

Whether Aguero was attaching him to the same tradition as himself, or simply employing a piece of slang as a term of endearment, is unclear. But the Italian has not fought his way from destitution and nor is he heading beyond brief moments of high impact to Aguero's realms of greatness.

Psychoanalysis is a treacherous enterprise where Balotelli is concerned, though it is tempting to ask whether Aguero's very different approach to his work is born of knowing of the squalor that lies beyond football's gilded cage.

The bread would certainly not have been stale in the lower-middle-class home of Francesco Balotelli, a former warehouse manager, and his wife Silvia, a trained nurse and indefatigable foster-mother, who raised the future Manchester City footballer from the age of four.

The very fact that Aguero, who is a mere two years older than Balotelli, still discusses Balotelli as a "kid" tells us something about the light years between the two, in terms of maturity.

"He's a young lad, he takes care of himself and gets on with his own business, approaches his life as he wants," Aguero said of his team-mate yesterday.

"I'm a bit of a family guy; a homebird. I like spending time with my wife and my son. I love my work, do my shift. Everyone has their own path. But those of us who are really close to Mario know that off the field he's a really good lad."

Logic suggests that Aguero might yearn for a bit of space at times because to go with the pressures of fame and expectations, there are also the duties attached to being the son-in-law of Diego Maradona.

On Sunday morning, Maradona was in touch, checking City's kick-off time, and there was a congratulatory text expected when the player got home. "Before and after a game he's always in touch," Aguero said.

This is a long way from the chaotic life of Balotelli, though the one upside of a juvenile outlook is that there is no time to fret about penalties.

"I said, 'I'll take it -- are you sure you want it?'" Aguero said of Balotelli's 'pause' kick which sealed Sunday's 3-2 win against Spurs. "He said, 'Yeah, I'm 100pc sure', so it was fine for him to take it."

Looking to tomorrow night's Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool, Aguero revealed a childhood hero from that club whose stability foretold his own.

"One of the players who was my idol when I was a lad was Michael Owen," he said. "It's ever since he scored against Argentina in '98. I cursed him pretty badly for scoring that. But getting that goal didn't stop me from admiring him."

Will Balotelli ever catch some of the constancy of Aguero, el pibe? The view from Italy is a resounding "No."

Yesterday, 'Corriere della Sera' reported: "Il solito Balotelli: gol e polemiche." "The usual Balotelli: goals and controversy". (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent