Lionel Messi was liberated by winning last year's Copa America and is relishing his leading role in Argentina's World Cup bid, according to former team-mate Sergio Aguero.

Messi scored his ninth World Cup goal – and his first in a knockout tie – as Argentina claimed a 2-1 victory over Australia on Saturday, teeing up a quarter-final meeting with the Netherlands.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's strike, a trademark left-footed finish after cutting inside from the right, also saw him surpass Diego Maradona's tally of eight World Cup goals for Argentina. Only Gabriel Batistuta (10) now has more for the country.

Messi highlighted his "beautiful" bond with Argentina's supporters after the win, but Aguero believes that is a recent development, one which came about as a result of the Albiceleste ending a 28-year wait to win the Copa America last July.

"Leo is going to do everything possible to achieve the goal that we all want," the former Argentina international told ESPN. 

"Leo is happy and content. The Copa America changed his life, it gave him life. After the Copa America, he was happy again in the national team, like when we were in the under-20s.

"He lived with criticism and lost finals for a long time. The Copa America was liberating for him."

 

Prior to Argentina's triumph over hosts Brazil last year, Messi had suffered the ignominy of losing four major international finals, failing to help his team over the line at the 2014 World Cup or the 2007, 2015 and 2016 editions of the Copa America.

Recalling that victory in Rio de Janeiro, Aguero said Brazil – who could meet Argentina in the World Cup semi-finals – would not relish a rematch.

"If we made it to the quarter-finals, let me be excited," Aguero said. "Do you think that Brazil wants to meet Argentina in the semi-finals? 

"Brazil has just lost the Copa America final, I think they don't want that match."

Pep Guardiola's new contract with Manchester City will see him remain at the Etihad Stadium until 2025, when he will mark nine years at the club.

The Catalan coach has already remained in the Premier League for longer than he has at his previous roles with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, finding a home within English football and establishing a dominant force with his City side.

Throughout his six and a half years in charge so far, Guardiola has been in charge of numerous superstars and club legends, with an all-time squad that would be of envy for any manager in world football.

But how exactly do you break that down into a full XI? Stats Perform has taken on the task and done exactly that.

Ederson

Guardiola made a bold choice upon his arrival in Manchester, swiftly making it clear England international Joe Hart, a two-time Premier League winner, would not fit into his plans moving forward. After a disappointing season with Claudio Bravo, Ederson arrived in 2017 and has been number one ever since.

All of Ederson's 260 appearances across all competitions have come as a starter, higher than any other player under Guardiola, while he sits fifth in the list for total appearances under the Catalan boss.

Kyle Walker

Signed from Tottenham Hotspur in 2017, Kyle Walker has been a mainstay in the City side that has dominated domestic football over the course of the past five years, ranking fifth for the most starts under Guardiola in all competitions (207).

Walker's versatility has been a key benefit for Guardiola and England, with his attacking play also fitting into City's style of play well. Since arriving at City, Walker has contributed 17 assists across all competitions, behind only Joao Cancelo (20) among defenders.

Aymeric Laporte

Among defenders during Guardiola's spell in charge, only John Stones and Walker have started more games than Laporte (155), with both players having joined the club in the seasons before Laporte's arrival from Athletic Bilbao in January 2018.

A total of 163 appearances across all competitions puts him narrowly ahead of Nicolas Otamendi (161) for most games under Guardiola.

John Stones

Snapped up in 2016 as one of Guardiola's first signings, Stones has had to contend with incredible competition for his spot at the heart of the defence, with the likes of Laporte, Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake all drafted in.

Despite that, Stones continues to be an important player for City and has made 175 starts under Guardiola and 206 appearances overall, ranking second in both among defenders behind only Walker.

Joao Cancelo

The versatile Portuguese full-back moved to City in 2019 from Juventus and has excelled for City, tallying 149 total appearances and 135 starts in all competitions since joining the club, and provides a huge boost in the attacking third.

A total of 20 assists puts him above any defender during Guardiola's spell in charge, even those who have been at the club far longer.

Kevin de Bruyne

Few players fit the Guardiola philosophy more than De Bruyne, who has hit new heights under the former Barcelona boss to stand among the finest players in world football – with a record in front of goal that many would envy.

De Bruyne has registered 117 assists under Guardiola, way ahead of second-place Raheem Sterling (66), while he has scored 73 goals – only behind Gabriel Jesus, Sterling and Sergio Aguero.

Ilkay Gundogan

With 205 starts under Guardiola, the midfielder has been an integral part of the City side since following the Catalan from Germany to Manchester, ranking only behind Walker, David Silva, Sterling, De Bruyne and Ederson in that regard.

Only six players have scored more goals under Guardiola than Gundogan (51), who ranks ninth for the most assists (33).

Fernandinho

The rock of City's midfield for years, Fernandinho started 200 games under Guardiola and made a total of 244 appearances, the latter seeing him rank behind only Ederson, Bernardo Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne and Sterling.

A total of 12 goals and 16 assists in those matches represents a decent return for a player renowned more for his defensive strength.

Bernardo Silva

Slotting into the attack ahead of Phil Foden and David Silva, both of whom have a stellar record under Guardiola, Bernardo Silva narrowly gets the nod due to his own impressive numbers in the final third.

Silva has 104 direct goal contributions (50 goals, 54 assists) in 273 appearances, starting in 208 of those matches. Only Sterling and De Bruyne have more assists under Guardiola, while Silva is one of eight players to hit the half-century mark for goals.

Sergio Aguero

In the future, Aguero's spot in the team is likely to be under significant threat from Erling Haaland following his blistering start to life at City, but the Argentine superstar retains the edge for the time being.

Aguero scored 124 goals under Guardiola, more than any other player, with Sterling the only other to have broken the century mark. Those goals came in just 183 appearances with Guardiola in charge, displaying his deadly ability in front of the net.

Raheem Sterling

An unsung hero of the Guardiola era, Sterling played 292 times under the Catalan boss, more than anyone else, while only Aguero scored more goals than Sterling (120).

Sterling also contributed 66 assists under Guardiola, sitting behind only De Bruyne, and is the only player to have scored over 100 goals and added over 50 assists under the Catalan boss.

Sergio Aguero has compared Manchester City talisman Erling Haaland to the likes of Lionel Messi and Ronaldo Nazario, backing the Norwegian to continue breaking records with Pep Guardiola's team.

Haaland has scored 20 goals in just 13 appearances since joining City from Borussia Dortmund, sending records tumbling during an incredible start to life in England.

The 22-year-old set a new Premier League record in August by scoring nine times in his first five outings, and he became the first player to score a hat-trick in three consecutive home games in the competition by starring in a 6-3 win over Manchester United this month.

Haaland's spectacular start in Manchester has earned him lofty praise from City legend Aguero, who has compared him to two South American greats.

"There's been many strikers worthy of awe I can think of," Aguero told Stake.com. "One of my favourites was Ronaldo Nazario, who time and time again proved to be the full package as a player, and a menace before the goalposts.

"Each era usually has two or three players with that ability – and usually with different styles. 

"Diego [Maradona], Romario, [Robert] Lewandowski, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, and Leo, of course! Each had their own flair, but they were all tremendous scorers to a fault.

"Speaking of Haaland specifically, he's got potency, athleticism, and a particular instinct for goals, which makes him very dangerous. 

He's got everything to keep racking up amazing stats, especially being part of an offensively-minded team like City. That in turn means plenty of opportunities to score. 

"He's young and has a lot of potential to continue breaking records. Key to this, of course, will be consistency."

Aguero – City's all-time top scorer with 260 goals for the club in all competitions – believes Haaland, supported by the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, is the ideal man to lead the club into a new era.

"When I left City, I shared how proud I was to have been part of a generation of players that made it one of the top clubs in the world," he added.

"That was a re-foundational period, with many big changes, that allowed City to become a force to be reckoned with.

"I also said it'd be up to a new generation to maintain this status and reach new heights. I think this new team is ready for that. 

"Kevin [De Bruyne] has an amazing record as a player, Haaland is on the right path. But it's not just the two of them. Phil Foden – my own favourite, Bernardo [Silva], [Ilkay] Gundogan, Rodri, [Aymeric] Laporte... each of their contributions make the team stronger."

Harry Kane swept past Sergio Aguero on Saturday to establish a Premier League record for the most goals with a single club in the competition.

The England captain has tormented top-flight defences as the leader of Tottenham's attack, and he took his Premier League tally to 185 goals by scoring for Spurs against Wolves.

It shuffled him one ahead of Manchester City great Aguero, and two clear of Wayne Rooney, who struck 183 times for Manchester United.

Kane began the season level with Rooney and one behind Aguero, before moving level with the latter by netting in the dramatic 2-2 draw at Chelsea.

Spurs' opener against Wolves was also their 1,000th in the Premier League - the fifth team to reach that tally after Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.

The 29-year-old Kane still has a long way to go to become the Premier League's all-time record scorer, given Alan Shearer ended his career with 260 goals in the competition, netting 148 for Newcastle United and 112 in his time at Blackburn Rovers.

Tottenham are not the only team Kane has played for in the English elite league, given he featured three times for Norwich City during a loan spell in the 2012-13 season.

He could not find the back of the net for the Canaries but has been a consistent marksman for Tottenham over the past eight seasons, hitting at least 17 goals in each Premier League campaign.

Kane managed 29 goals in 29 games in 2016-17 and 30 in 35 appearances during the following campaign, arguably his peak years.

Although he has only reached the 20-goal mark once in the last four seasons, Kane has remained integral to Tottenham's plans, with the club resisting strong interest from Manchester City last year to keep him in north London. 

Leicester City have been his favourite opponents in goalscoring terms, with Kane scoring 17 times in 14 Premier League outings against the Foxes, while he has managed 13 against both Everton and Spurs' fierce rivals Arsenal.

Kane has also reached double figures against Southampton and West Ham, hitting 11 against both sides.

Of all the Premier League teams he has faced, Kane has only failed to grab a goal in the competition against Brentford, missing out in his two games against the Bees to date.

Sergio Aguero would be surprised if Bernardo Silva leaves Manchester City for Barcelona, but believes the midfielder could play a key role in Xavi's rebuild if a move goes through.

Barca have signed Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie during a busy transfer window.

With Frenkie de Jong expected to leave Camp Nou, reports have suggested Portugal international Silva is Xavi's next target.

Silva made 50 appearances for City in all competitions last season, a tally only bettered only by Joao Cancelo (52), scoring 13 goals and providing seven assists.

Only Kevin de Bruyne (129) and Jack Grealish (78) created more chances for City than Silva's 76 last term, but he could be on the moving after stating the Premier League champions "know what I want" this week.

 

Aguero – a team-mate of Silva's before leaving City for Barcelona in 2021 – is unsure whether a move will materialise but believes the 28-year-old would suit Xavi's new-look side perfectly. 

"Bernardo is a great player. He carries the ball, he sacrifices, has quality to assist and score goals and he can play in different positions," Aguero told Stake.

"It would surprise me if City let him go. He is a player who contributes a lot every season, but everything is possible.

"If he finally arrives at Barca, then he will be someone who can be key to the possession game that Xavi likes."

Sergio Aguero does not understand why Manchester City sold Raheem Sterling to Chelsea, while also suggesting Erling Haaland will need time to adapt to the Premier League.

City sold Sterling to Chelsea for a fee in the region of £45million last month, with the England international following fellow forward Gabriel Jesus out of the exit door and to London, with the latter having joined Arsenal along with Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Sterling scored 17 goals in all competitions for Pep Guardiola's team last season, a tally only bettered by Riyad Mahrez (24) and Kevin De Bruyne (19), as they conducted a successful defence of their title, but wanted guaranteed game time that City were unable to offer.

That, in part, was due to the signing of Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, while Julian Alavrez has also arrived to bolster a prolific frontline that features Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Mahrez.

Yet Sterling's former team-mate and City's record goalscorer Aguero was confused by the decision to sell the 27-year-old to a Premier League rival.

"I don't understand the sale of Sterling," said Aguero on his Twitch channel.

"There are times they [City] make strange decisions."

Haaland struggled on his competitive City debut, cutting a frustrated figure as Pep Guardiola's team went down 3-1 to Liverpool in the Community Shield on Saturday.

The Norway international only managed three touches in the opening 30 minutes, all of which came in his own half, and he missed the best chance of the game from open play, according to Opta's expected goals model, when he struck the crossbar from six yards out deep in stoppage time.

"He was too used to Germany," Aguero said of the 22-year-old's performance.

"Haaland thought he was alone, then [Virgil] van Dijk arrived and said 'welcome to the Premier League'."

Alvarez did however impress, coming on from the bench to add a different dimension to City's attack and dragging them level when he bundled in from close range following a goalmouth scramble.

Asked what advice he gave to his compatriot when Alvarez signed for City, Aguero quipped: "Julian sent me a message to find out how life is in Manchester. I told him that he was going to be very cold!"

City start their Premier League campaign away at West Ham on Sunday, while Sterling will likely receive his competitive bow for Chelsea at Everton a day earlier.

Manchester City favourite Pablo Zabaleta believes Pep Guardiola's men have signed the world's best player in Erling Haaland, as he refuted suggestions departing winger Raheem Sterling was a club legend.

Having scored a remarkable 86 goals in 89 appearances during a two-year spell at Borussia Dortmund, Haaland agreed to sign for City in May before officially joining the Premier League champions on July 1.

In his final campaign with the Bundesliga outfit, Haaland scored 29 goals in 30 games in all competitions, putting away 65.8 per cent of his big chances as he became one of world football's hottest properties.

Haaland is part of a City squad embarking on a pre-season tour of the United States, and could make his bow when they face Mexican giants Club America in Texas on Thursday.

Zabaleta, who made 333 appearances for the club between 2008 and 2017, believes City have acquired the world's finest in the Norwegian striker, and hopes his arrival will fire Guardiola's team to a first Champions League title. 

"He's a big lad, eh? I saw him and was like, 'wow'," Zabaleta told Sky Sports. "He was one of the main players on the market and a lot of top teams were looking to sign him.

"We're all very pleased to have him at the club, I think he's got that connection already with Man City, because of his dad playing for the club.

"For me, I would say he's the best player in the world. 

"He's a world-class player, he's a great signing, the same as Kalvin Phillips. Fernandinho left and the club needed to bring someone in to replace him. He's been really good at Leeds.

"All the players have been doing everything they can to make the club better, domestically they won everything, they have been very successful [and] dominated English football for the last 10 years.

"The Champions League is probably one of those competitions the club is looking for. I'm confident, hopefully they can win it soon."

Haaland's arrival has been facilitated by City allowing versatile attackers Sterling and Gabriel Jesus to leave for Premier League rivals Chelsea and Arsenal respectively.

After joining from Liverpool in 2015, Sterling scored 91 goals and recorded 42 assists in 225 Premier League appearances for City.

Only Sergio Aguero with 184 has scored more goals in the competition for the club, while only David Silva (93), Kevin De Bruyne (85) and Aguero (47) have laid on more goals for team-mates.

Sterling also won four league titles, one FA Cup and five EFL Cups with the club, but Zabaleta does not believe that is enough to put him alongside some of the most illustrious names in City's history, as he accused the England forward of showing a lack of respect for City since departing.

"I think the word 'legend' these days in football is a bit overused sometimes," he added. "I think he's done a great job for the club, he came at a very young age, and he's been absolutely brilliant for the club.

"When I say 'legend', for me, it's Silva, Aguero, [Vincent] Kompany, those guys are on a different level. That's why they have statues outside of the club.

"Raheem, he's been great, so we wish him all the best. He went to a team which obviously is a big contender for the Premier League, I wish him all the best, he's a great lad.

"But Man City is always the most important thing and when you come to this club you have to give 100 per cent respect. The moment that you leave you always have to talk nicely to the club that you've been playing for, so I wish he could behave in that way."

Meanwhile, City announced on Tuesday that Sterling's old number seven shirt will be worn by full-back Joao Cancelo during the 2021-22 season.

Sergio Aguero has provided a glowing endorsement for Argentina compatriot Julian Alvarez after his move to Manchester City.

That is the message from former City and England defender Joleon Lescott, who expects Alvarez to become a key figure for Pep Guardiola's side in the Premier League in the coming years.

Alvarez signed a five-and-a-half-year deal with the Premier League champions from River Plate in a deal worth a reported £14million ($18.8m) back in January, before being loaned back to his former side.

The 22-year-old initially caught City's eye after 20 goals and 12 assists in 35 games in the Argentine Primera Division last year, with those 32 direct goal involvements at least six more than any other player in 2021.

He added another 11 goals in 15 league appearances in 2022 and, while it remains unclear whether Alvarez will be loaned out again, Lescott revealed the forward has the backing of City great Aguero.

"He's definitely got the quality [to perform in the Premier League]," Lescott told City's official website.

"I've seen little bits, but I've also spoken to Sergio about him briefly and he said he was a top talent. He was excited for him, which was good, so that'll be a high expectation.

"Sergio said he will score goals. He can also excite fans, Sergio said possibly more than him, not in terms of scoring but in terms of the way he plays.

"He wants to dribble a little bit more than what Sergio did, who was more 'let me score', which was great for us but a different mindset.

"But with the likes of [Gabriel] Jesus leaving, you're not going to do that if you're not replacing him with an exceptional talent as well. I'm excited for him and hopefully he gets opportunities to score."

Alvarez will provide able competition to fellow arrival Erling Haaland should the Argentine stay at the Etihad Stadium for the season.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 appearances during his two-and-a-half-year spell at Borussia Dortmund, a tally bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (123 in 108 games) and Kylian Mbappe (93 in 111 games) of players from Europe's top five leagues during that period.

Yet with competition aplenty within Guardiola's squad, Lescott encouraged Alvarez to seize his pre-season opportunities as opposed to settling for a back-up role behind Haaland.

"I'm sure Julian has come in and wants to play and not just come to watch Erling Haaland score goals and perform," he added.

"There's an opportunity for him to play and I'm sure he's going to back himself to do that and do well. The age of the squad is good, it helps keep everyone competitive.

"The younger lads from the City academy as well will respect what it is. They'll understand that yes, they need to perform, yes they need to train well and get themselves ready for whatever season they have."

Julian Alvarez has been provided with plenty of information about Manchester City by club legend Sergio Aguero after officially making his move following his final game for River Plate.

Argentine forward Alvarez penned a five-and-a-half-year deal with City in January for a reported £14million fee but remained with River on loan.

Alvarez's switch has now been completed after River suffered a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Velez Sarsfield in the Copa Libertadores last 16.

The 22-year-old caught the attention of several of European heavyweights thanks to a record of 53 goals and 31 assists in 120 River appearances.

He will have to go some to emulate the achievements of countryman Aguero in a City shirt, with the now retired striker becoming the club's all-time leading goalscorer with 257.

"We all know how important Kun was for Manchester City and what he means for the world too, as a club player and as a player for the Argentinian national team as well," Alvarez, who will wear the number 19 shirt, told City's official website.

"I had the opportunity to speak with him and he told me many things about the city, about the team-mates, about Manchester City in general.

"I also spoke with Willy Caballero and Nicolas Otamendi since we are team-mates in the national team.  

"I am very excited about what's to come and I'm very happy to be part of this club."

Alvarez is another piece in an exciting window for City, who have already added Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips and Stefan Ortega to their ranks.

For Alvarez, the chance to work with Pep Guardiola and play in the Champions League were among the huge lures of leaving South America for Europe.

"I was able to talk to him [Guardiola] in February, when the signing was confirmed," Alvarez added.

"He welcomed me to the club. I am glad to be part of the City project. I think he is one of the best coaches in the world and he has been at incredibly successful clubs. 

"I want to do a good job for him, to continue growing as a footballer and as a person.

"I am very excited and proud having come this far.

"The Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world. As a boy I always dreamed of playing in Europe, playing for the best clubs, in the major leagues and so to be here today is a privilege.

"I have watched a lot of City games. It's very satisfying to watch them play. City are one of the best clubs in the world and they have an incredible playing style."

Sergio Aguero hailed Premier League champions Manchester City after a thrilling comeback against Aston Villa delivered another title for Pep Guardiola's team.

It was Aguero who was the hero when City landed their first Premier League triumph 10 years ago, when he struck deep into stoppage time to earn a 3-2 win over QPR on the final day.

A statue in honour of that moment was unveiled outside the Etihad Stadium earlier this month.

Aguero, who left City last year, is the club's record scorer and was quick to send his congratulations after Ilkay Gundogan's double and Rodri's strike saw the table-toppers roar back from 2-0 behind to beat Villa.

The comeback crushed Liverpool's title hopes, and Aguero wrote on Twitter: "Campeones campeones, I love you @ManCity."

Former City winger Leroy Sane, now at Bayern Munich, proposed City now build a monument in Gundogan's honour, offering an appreciative nod to his fellow Germany international.

Sane tweeted: "Maybe City should give this man a statue, too. Congrats Gundo, Congrats @ManCity."

Manchester City have been crowned Premier League champions for the fourth time in five seasons, seeing off a spirited challenge from Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola's men may not have won as many trophies as they would have liked this season, but they have been exceptional in defence of their league title in the face of stiff competition.

If City were not already intimidating enough, they will be adding one of the best strikers in world football to their ranks next season in the shape of Erling Haaland.

The lethal Norwegian will surely come in and plunder plenty of goals, just as he has in the Bundesliga at Borussia Dortmund before his £51million (€60m) move to the Etihad Stadium.

However, will his arrival realistically improve them all that much, or more to the point, can it?

That may sound like a ridiculous question, but looking at City's output this season, they have left themselves with very little room for improvement such are the levels they have consistently reached.

Stats Perform has broken down the numbers to try to predict just what kind of impact the impressive 21-year-old is likely to make in Manchester next season.

What Man City need

It has been a popular opinion that City have achieved what they have in the league in spite of not having a traditional striker.

Since Sergio Aguero left at the end of last season, Guardiola has mostly gone with any three of Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus in attack.

They did spend a lot of time ahead of this season trying to lure Harry Kane from Tottenham, but failing to do so has arguably allowed them to find another way to break down opposition teams. 

Playing without a striker, City have still clinched the league title while collecting 93 points, the third-biggest total they have ever achieved, and scored 99 goals.

By not having an obvious focal point, it has been tricky for the opposition to know who is supposed to be on the end of attacks, and given none of those mentioned has scored more than 11 non-penalty goals in the league, that seems to have been the plan all along.

The perception might be that Guardiola's team have become less direct without a striker, and while that was true last season when Aguero played just 12 league games (seven starts) and they averaged a shot every 42.82 passes, and a goal every 309.05 passes, that came down to a shot every 36.63 passes this season, and a goal every 263.85.

Given Aguero's injury issues in his final campaign at City, you could argue the last time they regularly played with a striker was the 2019-20 season, which was the last time they did not win the league and collected only 81 points.

Since Guardiola arrived at the Etihad until the end of that season, his team averaged a shot every 38.10 passes, and a goal every 271.16, so they have possibly become more direct this term than they were with Aguero in the team.

By comparison, you may assume Haaland has been playing for a more direct team in Marco Rose's Dortmund, and this season in the Bundesliga, BVB scored once every 230.95 passes.

However, they actually only took a shot at goal once every 43.34 passes, so if anything it seems City are more direct than Dortmund, or maybe German teams are simply better organised defensively to stop shots.

 

What Haaland can bring

When you think of Haaland, you think of those direct and explosive runs into the penalty area, usually followed by emphatic finishes. When you think of City, you, erm, don't.

His addition could mean a change in style for the English champions, and the thought of Haaland getting on the end of the ridiculous range of passing from Kevin De Bruyne does indeed make the mouth water.

Do City as a team generally produce more with an orthodox striker, though?

Their record with and without Aguero makes for interesting reading. In the Premier League, the Argentine made 125 appearances under Guardiola, while City played 65 games without him.

In that time, they actually had a win percentage of 72.0 with him and 76.9 without, and even had a slightly better goal average (2.4 goals per game with, 2.5 without).

It is almost just as interesting to see Dortmund's record with and without Haaland. Since signing for the German club in January 2020, he has played 67 games, with Dortmund winning 65.7 per cent and averaging 2.4 goals for. Without him, they won just 61.1 per cent, though averaging only a slightly fewer 2.2 goals for.

It is questionable therefore whether the addition of Haaland will actually generate many if any more wins than they currently enjoy, but will he suit the way City play and can he add to their already impressive haul of goals?

Despite scoring more than any other team in the Premier League this season, no side missed more big chances (a chance from which a goal would normally be expected) than City's 65, though only Liverpool (97) created more than their 87.

City finished fifth in the league for big chance conversion (46.72), and so they will be hoping that part of what Haaland will bring them is putting more of those opportunities away.

In terms of finishing off big chances in the Bundesliga, nobody who scored at least five goals could match Haaland's incredible rate of 78.26 per cent, with even Bayern Munich great Robert Lewandowski only managing 46.67 per cent.

It must be noted though that Haaland's big chance conversion went down to 42.86 per cent in the Champions League, which is probably where City will hope he can make the biggest difference.

 

The league has not been their issue this season, though, rather the big games in cup competitions.

Their defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley was relatively convincing, despite the 3-2 scoreline. With an xG (expected goals) of 1.75, it was more their leakiness at the other end that was their undoing, going in 3-0 down at half-time.

However, it is the Champions League where their biggest letdown occurred, despite what City fans will tell you about their apparent disdain for the competition.

Heading into injury time at the Santiago Bernabeu, City were 5-3 up on aggregate, only to somehow concede twice in two minutes, before a Karim Benzema penalty put them out at the semi-final stage.

Perhaps Haaland could have made a difference, particularly in that second leg where City slightly underperformed their xG of 1.37, though they did score four in the first leg off an xG of 2.70.

Again, you could argue it was more the defence that let them down, somehow conceding six goals despite largely dominating both legs, but in those key moments where City missed golden opportunities, you would think Haaland would have had more ice in his veins.

Match made in heaven?

How could one of the deadliest strikers in Europe not be a good signing? Haaland will almost certainly be a fan favourite and score plenty of goals in the sky blue of his father's former team.

In the league, it seems likelier he will more or less replace the goals of others rather than add to what they are already producing. It would be surprising to see the likes of Sterling, Mahrez, Foden and even De Bruyne score as many as they have this season if Haaland is already banging them in.

However, those fine margins in the cups could well be where he comes into his own, with Haaland either scoring important goals himself, or distracting defenders so that others can do the honours.

It will be interesting to see how City play with a striker, as it of course will mean they line up with one fewer attacking midfielder and will they therefore be able to dominate quite as much as they currently do?

Either way, it is difficult to see how they can do anything other than continue to be dominant with the big Norwegian around as Premier League defenders await what promises to be a busy season from August onwards.

Toni Kroos had a friendly prod at Manchester City and Sergio Aguero after the Premier League club unveiled a statue in honour of their former striker.

Aguero, who left City last year and has since retired due to a heart condition, is the club's record goalscorer. 

On the 10th anniversary of Aguero's last-gasp, title-clinching winner against QPR back in 2012, City unveiled a statue of Aguero's famous celebration.

However, the statue arguably looks more like Real Madrid midfielder Kroos, who picked up on that resemblance.

"Sure?" Kroos tweeted in response to a tweet from BBC Sport journalist Simon Stone, which included a photo of the statue.

It would not be the first time a statue of a player has drawn some ridicule – Cristiano Ronaldo, anyone? – but it may be the first time it has looked so similar to another star name.

Sergio Aguero said it was the goal that "changed everything" as he returned to Manchester City on Friday for the unveiling of a statue to recognise his famous title-winning strike.

The Argentinian hit City's stoppage-time winner against QPR on May 13, 2012, earning a 3-2 win that delivered a first top-flight title for the club since the 1967-68 season.

It marked the beginning of a spell of dominance for City, who are on the cusp of achieving a sixth Premier League crown in 11 seasons.

Aguero, who went on to become City's record scorer, left the club at the end of last season to join Barcelona and has since retired after a heart condition was detected.

He was guest of honour at the Etihad Stadium as a statue in his likeness was revealed, a full 10 years to the day since the goal against QPR.

The 33-year-old described that as the standout goal of his career.

Speaking to Sky Sports News and BBC Sport, Aguero said of his latest honour: "For me, it is fantastic. I'm very happy for the statue. Now I'm enjoying it, you know.

"It's special. For me, that moment changed my life, it changed the club, everything. It's the best moment in my life. That moment will always be in my heart."

"We don't know what [would have] happened if we lost the Premier League that year, so that year changed everything."

When the Premier League asked its Twitter followers on Friday whether Aguero's goal was "the most iconic moment" in its 30-year history, Aguero replied to say, "Of course", adding a laughter emoji.

A little over two minutes before the moment that will forever define his career, Manchester City hero Sergio Aguero showed sharpness in the QPR goalmouth that would not have been out of place at Old Trafford.

Old Trafford cricket ground that is, just down the road from City's bitter rivals Manchester United and their home of the same name.

As Edin Dzeko's equaliser from David Silva's right-wing corner bounced back off the netting, Aguero pounced, snaffling it like a short-leg fielder and darting back to the centre circle for City's final tilt at the improbable. It was 2-2, the Premier League title could still be won.

There was certainly nothing wrong with striker Aguero's movement after Joey Barton brazenly tried to dead leg him – one of many surreal and key incidents that fed into a frenzied and famous race against the clock on May 13, 2012.

Ten years on, as a statue of Aguero is revealed, this is a reminder of the special moment that brought City their first top-flight league title in 44 years.

The whole story is now as well-worn as any in football history.

On the cusp of a first top-flight title for 44 years, Robert Mancini's Manchester City faced relegation-threatened QPR on the final day of the season. In their previous 18 Premier League home matches that season, they had won 17 and drawn the other – the most recent of those being a 1-0 win over United that tipped a titanic Mancunian tussle back towards the blue side of town.

City simply needed to match United's result at Sunderland and led 1-0 at the interval thanks to Pablo Zabaleta, only for second-half goals from Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie to turn the contest on its head.

It remained 2-1 heading into stoppage time despite QPR operating with 10 men. City youth product Barton was dismissed for tussling with Carlos Tevez and responded to Mike Dean's red card by thumping his knee into Aguero's thigh before aiming a headbutt at Vincent Kompany. Fireworks enthusiast Mario Balotelli poured some petrol on this particular bonfire by confronting the combustible Barton as he stomped towards the tunnel.

Aside from that significant blemish, QPR's discipline was impeccable. Despite ceding 81.3 possession overall and 84.1 per cent during the second half, they only made seven fouls. Stoppages were infrequent as City thrashed and flailed with increasing desperation and diminishing artistry around the opposition penalty area.

Without Barton's meltdown, there is little chance five minutes of stoppage time - or the three minutes and 20 seconds they ultimately required - would have been signalled. It was time City desperately needed and time they could put to good use with their top scorer's fast-twitch fibres bristling.

Barton was not the only QPR man with City connections. His team-mates Shaun Wright-Phillips and Nedum Onuoha had also graduated through Jim Cassell's Platt Lane youth system, while Rangers boss Mark Hughes was Mancini's immediate predecessor, having been axed shortly before Christmas in 2009.

Hughes, of course, also played for United with distinction across two spells, and those loyalties struck a chord as news came through Bolton Wanderers had failed to beat Stoke City, meaning the Londoners were safe irrespective of the outcome at the Etihad Stadium.

"[City] got back on level terms and I always remember, at that point, I knew we were safe because the other result came in," Hughes told the Coaches Voice in 2020.

"I'm thinking, 'I wouldn't mind United winning, if I'm honest'. It's 2-2 and Jay Bothroyd looked over, asking what we wanted them to do [from the restart]. The players understood the [Bolton] game was over and we'd stayed up. We just said kick it as far as you can, right in the corner and the game's over."

Hughes' recollections from that point credit City with a poise they absolutely lacked. Rarely can a team have scored twice in this space of two minutes and – save for a crucial few seconds – played so shambolically.

Bothroyd's hoof found touch and scampering Joe Hart ran out of his goal to take the throw-in. The England goalkeeper almost missed the pitch.

Gael Clichy carried the ball down the flank, only for his attempted cross to turn into a block tackle with Mackie. Samir Nasri's aimless, floated effort that followed did little more than give Clint Hill a ninth successful clearance of the afternoon.

Nasri then excelled himself by shepherding the ball out for a QPR throw-in. Just 40 seconds before that explosion of ecstasy there was fury and anguish in the stands. Aguero watched it all from roughly the QPR penalty spot. Apparently he'd seen quite enough.

Aguero honed his lethal skills playing against bigger boys in Buenos Aires on the neighbourhood potrero – the hard gravel and mud neighbourhood pitches that football purists in Argentina bemoan are a diminishing presence.

"When you play you have to think fast. Who to take on, who not," Aguero said when recalling those days in a 2018 documentary for City's in-house television channel. "You know who is going to play dirty, who isn't.

"You start to realise what you can do on the pitch and what you can't."

Reflecting further in the 2019 book 'Pep's City' by Pol Ballus and Lu Martin, he further explained the proving ground that readied him for Barton and others.

"Getting kicked black and blue was all part of the game," he said. "You held on to the ball any way you could.

"Running with the ball was a whole different concept for us. I'd be up against big, tough boys and I was always the smallest. But I learned how to survive."

Aguero remembered those matches were played for the prize of a peso, which would garner one of his favourite sweet treats, an alfajor or dulce de leche.

As United's players took in full-time and three points at the Stadium of Light, and Nigel de Jong brought the ball forward in Manchester to the soundtrack of QPR celebrations – their fans aware of Bolton's fate – the stakes were somewhat higher.

Vacating his spot in a penalty area already crowded by substitutes Dzeko and Balotelli, along with a marauding Kompany, Aguero took possession from De Jong 30 yards from goal.

He faced up to a compact QPR back four, with the visitors' four midfielders all in his immediate vicinity.

A shuffling touch to his left engineered space outside Shaun Derry, but Aguero needed help. Ideally from someone reliable, given the complete lack of any margin for error.

Balotelli was on the pitch in a Manchester City shirt for the first time in over a month.

Mancini had not trusted his wayward protege since a red card in a 1-0 Easter Sunday defeat at Arsenal left City eight points behind United with six games to play. Tevez represented a far more dependable option.

But with nowhere left to turn, Aguero dared and prayed for Mario to be super.

Introduced in the 76th minute, Balotelli gave the impression he had not just been banished from Premier League arenas, but football pitches altogether since his previous game.

The Italy striker managed to run through seven goal attempts – two on target, five blocked – during a frenzied cameo. It was probably as well Aguero found him with his back to goal, inside the D and grappling with Anton Ferdinand.

"I tried to control the ball and I had a contact from the defender and the ball went a little bit far from my foot," Balotelli told City TV five years on. "I thought in that half second there is maybe going to be a little bit of space for Sergio."

If Balotelli had stayed upright, the likelihood is QPR would have seen through their final piece of dogged tireless defending. In being forced on to his backside for the only assist of his Premier League career, he created opportunity and chaos.

Facing his own goal, Derry had to hurdle a prone Balotelli, while Wright-Phillips' route back to defend was also compromised. With his centre-back partner grounded, Hill held his position square on, while Kompany's haring towards the six-yard box dragged left-back Taye Taiwo with him.

A pocket of space opened up. A spot of turf Balotelli was able to locate from his sedentary position. As limbs flailed around him and a tight defence scattered, Aguero was thinking fast.

Argentina's tradition of tough, uncompromising neighbourhood football goes hand in hand with the mystique and mythology that cloaks the country's national sport.

A playing style grounded in skill and improvisation – La Nuestra, which translates as "our way" – was locked into the collective consciousness during the first half of the 20th century. The pre-eminent football magazine El Grafico, served to deepen this romantic attachment, with depictions of the pibe – literally a kid or urchin, whose rough and ready footballing technique combined street smarts and skill and was something of an archetype. Typically they would dribble in the gambeta style, a description that implies close control, cunning and deceit of opponents.

The idea that the likes of Diego Maradona, Ariel Ortega, Lionel Messi and all those other squat, explosive and technically brilliant attackers from Argentina immersed themselves in the yellowed pages of El Grafico archive is far-fetched, but the style is unquestionably embedded. Think of the amount of barrelling, dribbling goals such players have produced – close control, small pauses and faints as thighs piston their way through defences.

As the walls were closing in on City's title bid, Aguero showed himself to be a proud product of this lineage. When Balotelli began his battle against gravity, he deftly checked his run behind and around Wright-Phillips to open up a path to the penalty area.

Letting the pass roll, he shaped to shoot, drawing a scampering Taiwo, who left his Kompany decoy a little too late to remain in control. Aguero did not actually touch Balotelli's return pass until his body position persuaded a rash slide tackle that he nudged beyond with the outside of his right boot.

With Taiwo suitably gambeta'd, there came one last stroke of fortune.

"I touched it again and saw I was close to the goal, so I said 'I'll shoot'. The worst thing was that I wanted to shoot hard across goal and it went to the near post, I don't know what happened," Aguero told TyC Sports – the latter sentiment at least aligning him with every soul inside the Etihad Stadium that day.

"After watching it back, I realised that if I had shot across goal a defender could have blocked it. I celebrated the goal and told everybody, 'I hit it so well!'."

Goal 23 of a personal Premier League tally that reached 184, one of 130 with Aguero's ferocious right boot, understandably left an indelible impression on the suddenly defeated Hughes.

"Of all the games I've been involved in, that noise at that moment when that goal went in is different to anything I've ever heard before or since," Hughes said.

"It was just unbelievable sound – different sound to a football crowd. It was a mixture of screaming and noise. It was just an unbelievable moment."

That racket has since been replayed thousands of times across the world. A goal on a tightrope that altered the course of English football, which began with gifting the opposition a 92nd-minute throw-in and ended thanks to a miscue after the main protagonist's strike partner fell over.

It is the Premier League's most famous goal – a moment as synonymous with Manchester as cotton mills and the Hacienda, and yet Argentinian to its very bones.

Whether 10 years on, 20 years on, or 50 years on, expect to see it replayed another few thousand times. On the blue side of Manchester, it stands as an immortal moment.

Paul Scholes and Didier Drogba lead the latest slate of inductees to the Premier League Hall of Fame, it was announced on Thursday.

Former Manchester United midfielder Scholes and ex-Chelsea striker Drogba head the remaining six names of the Class of 2022.

Patrick Vieira and Wayne Rooney had already been announced as two of the eight players to be bestowed with the honour, following last year's inaugural group of players.

They are joined now by Scholes and Drogba, alongside Arsenal legend Ian Wright, ex-Red Devils goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany.

Widely acclaimed as the greatest midfielder of his generation, Scholes – a one-club man between 1993 and 2013 – won the Premier League 11 times during his playing days.

Drogba, who spent two different spells with the Blues, proved a cornerstone of Chelsea's elevation to regular contenders in the competition.

Wright helped Arsenal to the title in 1997-98 before a brief spell with West Ham and remains the Gunners' second-highest scorer ever, behind only previous inductee Thierry Henry.

Schmeichel, who remains the only goalkeeper to win the Premier League Player of the Year Award, in 1995-96, is the first shotstopper to be inducted.

Kompany, a four-time Premier League winner during an acclaimed spell at City, helped usher in the team's modern era of dominance.

Aguero, meanwhile, is the highest-scoring overseas player in Premier League history, having scored 184 goals in just 275 appearances.

The six players were inducted via a public ballot, after Vieira and Rooney had been selected as automatic picks.

Page 1 of 11
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.