Jamie Carragher has had his say on Sergio Aguero being dropped by Manchester City – and feels the situation could be the defining moment of Pep Guardiola’s era at the club.
Aguero has found himself on the bench in City’s last two matches with new Brazilian signing Gabriel Jesus preferred in attack.
The decision to bench one of the Premier League’s most gifted finishers has shocked many observers – but none more so than Carragher.
Writing in his weekly column for the Daily Mail, he said:
“Decisions don’t come much bigger. Decisions of this kind shape fortunes of managers. Get them right and a team’s potential can be unlocked. Get it wrong and the consequences are huge.
“It is necessary to apply that context to the situation surrounding Sergio Aguero, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. The best forward in the division — and one of the best players ever in the Premier League — has suddenly found himself dispensable.
“It’s a huge call on Guardiola’s behalf. Aguero has been the emblem of this era at City, a man whose goals propelled them to two titles.
“There hasn’t been a better penalty-box striker in the Premier League, as his unsurpassed average of a goal every 109 minutes illustrates.
“Yet here he is, no longer guaranteed to be the focal point of Guardiola’s team. The buzz around Gabriel Jesus, who looks as if he will be a superstar, is understandable but how can it be that a 19-year-old whose experience of English football amounts to 278 minutes has leapt ahead of Aguero?
“Well, for starters, Guardiola said last week his ‘tracking back is really good’. He’d never say the same about Aguero and there is always the perception that the Argentina international is not his manager’s kind of striker.”
Carragher feels the situation with Aguero at Manchester City can draw comparisons to Ruud van Nistelrooy’s departure from Manchester United.
“I’ve thought about similar situations when managers have made big calls on other goal-scoring sensations, such as when Kevin Keegan stood on the steps of St James’ Park in January 1995 to explain to fans why he’d sold Andy Cole to Manchester United.
“Keegan waited a few months but eventually bought Les Ferdinand to replace Cole. Ferdinand was outstanding, he became the PFA Player of the Year and Newcastle, really, should have become champions.
“The best example, perhaps, revolves around Sir Alex Ferguson and Ruud van Nistelrooy in 2006 when the Holland striker was off-loaded to Real Madrid without Ferguson flinching.
“At the time, I couldn’t believe what Ferguson had done.
“United hadn’t been champions for three years and it looked to be a deal that could haunt him as Van Nistelrooy had scored 70 goals in that period and his back-up striker, Louis Saha, was not in the same class. What happened next vindicated the decision.
“Not only did United win the title for the next three seasons, they also added the Champions League in 2008. Significantly, it also allowed the young talents, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, to step forward. Does Guardiola have this in mind for his own young guns Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling?
“What made Ferguson so special was not just his ability to make big decisions, but also the fact he invariably made the right ones.
“Managers can make themselves look strong by selling or dropping players, but if the move doesn’t work, the choice looks flawed.”
Carragher added that he feels like the end of City’s old guard at the club with a number of their most successful stars being phased out to make way for the new era.
“We aren’t yet at the stage where Aguero is on his way out of City,” he continued.
“There is even the possibility he could be restored to the starting line-up for Monday’s trip to Bournemouth, given how Guardiola has tinkered with his team.
“But you can’t help feel it is pointing that way, and the famous spine that won five trophies is being phased out.
“Claudio Bravo has taken over from Joe Hart, John Stones is the future in defence ahead of Vincent Kompany, and Yaya Toure’s time in Manchester will soon be over.”