Sunday 25 February 2018

Guardiola keen to keep Aguero as PSG lie in wait

Arrival of Jesus leaves City striker's future uncertain

Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero. Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero. Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

James Ducker

Manchester City want to keep Sergio Aguero this summer, but Paris Saint-Germain are monitoring the situation in the event the Argentina striker becomes unsettled after being dropped by Pep Guardiola in favour of new arrival Gabriel Jesus.

Aguero's future has been the subject of much conjecture, amid claims Guardiola will be open to offers at the end of the season for the third-highest scorer in City's history.

The player's representatives are thought to be aware of PSG's interest, although Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez is also on the French club's radar.

Guardiola, though, is keen to keep Aguero and the City manager believes Jesus' arrival will provide the competition the 28-year-old needs up front.

Uncertainty over Aguero's future has only increased in recent weeks following the arrival of Jesus from Palmeiras in a £27 million deal.

Aguero raised doubts about his position on Sunday when he admitted "the club will decide if I have a place here or not" after being omitted from the starting line-up for the second successive Premier League game.

Jesus had responded to Guardiola's show of faith by scoring twice, including a stoppage-time winner in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Swansea, just four days after the 19-year-old Brazil striker scored on his first league start for City in the 4-0 rout of West Ham.

Aguero signed a 12-month contract extension last year that ties him to City until June 2020 and senior sources at the Etihad Stadium are insisting that he remains very much a part of Guardiola's plans.

Aguero has insisted publicly he wants to stay at City and fight for his place and there is a view among the club's hierarchy that the signing of Jesus could help reinvigorate the player.

There is a belief that Aguero will benefit from being pushed more and having greater assistance in attack, after carrying the goalscoring burden for too long.

PSG have been monitoring Aguero's situation since late last year and could offer the striker a way out of City in the summer if he finds himself regularly playing second fiddle to Jesus.

Guardiola is likely to rebuff any approach, but the City manager is thought to have harboured concerns that the succession of injuries suffered by Aguero in recent seasons has impacted on his ability to press with the sustained intensity demanded by the manager.

At times, Guardiola has felt Aguero has expended too much needless energy chasing balls over long distances and has encouraged the player to focus on making shorter, sharper bursts. Furthermore, it has been noted that it is increasingly taking Aguero longer to get back up to speed after injury lay-offs.

Guardiola believes Aguero has taken unnecessary risks with his fitness in the past, certainly while on international duty. Aguero's decision to play for Argentina against Paraguay in October, despite limping out of a World Cup qualifying game against Peru five days earlier with a calf complaint, frustrated Guardiola.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach has also admitted publicly that Aguero needs to improve his record in big games. Only two of his past 39 goals in the Premier League dating back to May 2015 have come against top-six sides.

On Sunday, Guardiola repeated his message in recent months that City cannot achieve what they want without Aguero.

"It must not be easy, I understand that," he said when asked about how Aguero has taken being dropped.

"Sergio remains one of the most important players in our squad and with what we have to do he will be so important. He is going to play a lot of games, with Gabriel and without Gabriel."

Pablo Zabaleta, Aguero's City and Argentina team-mate, said: "He'll be OK, he's a mature guy . Listen, years ago it was [Carlos] Tevez, [Mario] Balotelli, [Edin] Dzeko. It's not the first time he's been dropped. We need a strong squad to win titles.

"It's good to have two players with that quality. It's always good to have healthy competition in the team." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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