"Were you in the Bombonera?" Sergio Agüero , 32, asked his son Benjamin, 12. "Yes," replied the boy, hooded in a white Balenciaga tracksuit, pale and visibly bored. "Did you see Palermo play?" Asked the father. “Yes, but I was very young and I don't remember.”
Immobilized by a meniscus injury and the pandemic, in the spring of 2020 Sergio Agüero created Slakun10, an account on Twitch TV , and began broadcasting his tedious soccer days idle before a millennial audience that received him fascinated. His patent ignorance of the codes used by the latest generation of technology devotees, half human beings half gamers , caused amusement and hooked a crowd of three million onlookers who became subscribers and, automatically, customers. Thanks to this multitude of new followers, probably as ignorant as Benjamín of things as remote and inexplicable as Martín Palermo, the 'Kun' became richer and more exasperating in the eyes of Cartesian Pep Guardiola and the Manchester City board .
The relationship Between the most influential coach in the world and the most popular player on his team it was complex since the two coincided in 2016. The understanding required long explanatory prolegomena, conciliation dinners at Salvi's restaurant, and a whole battery of tension marches and countermarches, détente and diplomatic approach, in view of how little the character of the club's historical top scorer resembled what Guardiola believed a reliable competitor should be. When the striker finally began to fit into City's exhaustive attack, after the conquest of the second consecutive Premier in 2019, the path that united them forked. On February 26, 2020, the night that the English team jumped to the Bernabéu to play the last 16 of the last Champions League , the player did not appear in the line-up. It was a surprise. Since then, a year has passed without Agüero having started more than four times, between the knee injury, a Covid-19 infection and the tactical disagreement. Last Saturday at Craven Cottage he played his first 90 minutes. It was to facilitate the rotation of De Bruyne and Gündogan on the eve of the return of the Champions League round of 16 against Borussia Mönchengladbach, it practically resutla from the first leg (0-2)
“Everyone who wants to get on the bus is more than welcome”, Guardiola said, after the victory against Fulham (0-3) with a penalty from the Argentine.
Guardiola hinted that being or not being on his imaginary bus is a matter of voluntarism. If he did not point to the famous fancies of the player, it seemed so. Sources close to the City indicate that the club was uncomfortable due to the complacent attitude that he showed, giving himself more fervently to Twitch than to supposed professional duties derived from his status as a top-level player. Guardiola always distrusted employees who did not show an almost clerical vocation for the trade. And the more marginalized Agüero looked, the more defiant he seemed in his stream of banal indiscretions thrown at his new global audience, like the one in which he confessed that he has a million and a half euro Aventador left over: I bought a Lamborghini. ”
Agüero played just 90 minutes divided into four games throughout the Premier's 19-game streak that marked the City's rise to the lead, between November 21 and March 7. His participation has been irrelevant in a model that sublimated the arrivals to the rival area with associations in confined spaces in charge of 'false nines' of new stamp. Guardiola tried with Mahrez, with Sterling, with Ferrán Torres, with Jesús, and even with De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva. They all scored their goals.
“There are games in which I need a striker,” the coach replied a few weeks ago, “others in which I prefer to play without a pure striker; and others in which I need a striker who comes down to combine with the midfielders. But whether you play with 'nine' or not, we have to reach the opposite area with six or seven players. ”
The carousel postponed the Argentine for weeks although, as Juanma Lillo observed, Agüero's ability to control the ball with glue and facing in confined spaces made him an ideal partner in the City's high pressure model.
The City seeks a relief
Few forwards have more technical qualities than Agüero to fit into the mold of Guardiola's nine. At the age of 32, converted with 180 goals into the highest historical scorer for City, the man is also endorsed by his legend title. But professionals do not only live by objective attributes. Playful par excellence, Agüero never gave the impression of despairing of football, much less of succeeding. Under the magnifying glass of the Spanish coach, he has always been a meritorious irregular. His contract, the third highest in the squad after De Bruyne and Sterling, with a salary of around 15 million euros a year, ends in June. The club is not only hesitant, but is looking for nine for the next decade. The renovation seems uncertain. From the surroundings of the star they repeat that the three candidates for the Barça presidency contacted him speculating about reuniting him with his friend Messi, but that he wants to continue dressing in light blue.
Good offers do not abound in the middle of the economic crisis and the man faces unexpectedly difficult challenge: renew or go free with a good transfer bonus under your arm. Three goals in 400 minutes is his worst production in ten seasons. With the league half resolved, the complexity of the problem increases because the internal competition is greater than expected, because Guardiola does not seem convinced, and because the great exhibition opportunities are reduced to the few decisive matches that remain to be played, especially in the Champions League. .
Millennials can ignore it and probably Kun Agüero, blessed by the gift of class, has not noticed it either, now or ever. Playing football well is much more complicated than being a Twitch idol.
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