Manchester City believe they have seen off “Operation Aguero” by Independiente in their attempt to get Sergio Aguero back to Argentina this summer.
Aguero’s former club have been on a charm offensive to get their Academy product to return to Buenos Aires for the final part of his career, but the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted priorities following the cancellation of competitions in April.
They had hoped to tempt Aguero a year before the end of his contract at City, which expires in 2021, and have kept his No 10 shirt free for his eventual return, with the 32 year-old often insisting he will end his career at the club.
City had looked at contingencies in the transfer market but there is confidence Aguero will lead Pep Guardiola’s attack next season in his 10th campaign at the Etihad Stadium.
Independiente manager Lucas Pusineri is a former team-mate of Aguero’s from when he was a youngster at Estadio Libertadores de América and he has led the attempts to get the City forward back home. “I have a beautiful friendship with Kun and hopefully I can be his coach tomorrow,” Pusineri said recently.
In Argentina, they have labelled it “Operation Aguero” with players adding their support to his return. His £16.5 million departure to Atletico Madrid in 2006 helped his old club refurbish their stadium and pictures of him are still used around the arena.
After playing regularly as a teenager at Atletico, he moved to City in 2011 where he has been responsible for their most iconic moment in the Premier League - scoring in the last seconds against QPR to win the title.
Such is his standing at the club, Guardiola has insisted it is likely to be Aguero who decides his own future and when he should return to his homeland. "Sometimes I have to take a decision but in most of the cases it's the players who decide. These kind of players like Sergio decide if they want more or it's over," Guardiola said.
During his time at City, which has included four title triumphs, Aguero has scored 180 goals at a rate that could see him reach the 200 mark next season, should he stay fit. He underwent surgery on his knee in June in a bid to play in the final games of City’s campaign in the Champions League.
He is 80 goals behind the Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorer, Alan Shearer, but has Wayne Rooney (208) and Andrew Cole (187) in his sights having hit double figures for goals in every season in England.
Guardiola has described Aguero as “irreplaceable”, given the goals he has contributed during his time at the club. During Aguero’s injury, Gabriel Jesus was given a run in the team and scored four goals in the final five Premier League matches of the season. Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling were also options as a “false nine”.
During his previous contract, he extended by one year in 2018 when his deal was within two seasons of expiring.