Ilkay Gundogan made an immediate impression on his Manchester City debut – but Sergio Aguero made a bigger mark on him.
Germany midfielder Gundogan sparkled as City swept Borussia Monchengladbach aside 4-0 in their Champions League Group C opener at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, but it was Aguero who stole the headlines with another hat-trick.
The Argentinian’s second treble in the space of a month took his tally for the campaign to nine goals in just five appearances. With 145 goals, the 28-year-old is now just three behind sixth-placed Francis Lee in City’s all-time top goalscoring list.
“There is nothing better than that,” Gundogan said. “Every team needs to score to win games and, if you have such an incredible striker in your own rows, then it gives you the safety you are always able to score.
“He did it three times and he did an amazing performance. We are all very happy to have him.”
It may be unrealistic to expect Aguero to overhaul Eric Brook’s City record total of 178 this season, but there seems little doubt at present the former Atletico Madrid forward will get there.
How soon may depend as much on avoiding more of the muscle injuries that have hampered him in the past as his form. There can also be no immediate addition to his mark as he sits out City’s next two games due to domestic suspension.
For manager Pep Guardiola, however, Aguero’s role is about much more than scoring goals.
He said: “In the box we know how good he is, but I am especially happy about how he helps us.
“I am a demanding coach and I want to score goals – that is the most important thing – but I want more, for him to help the team, because he knows the team is going to help him.”
With seven wins from seven under new boss Guardiola it has been a highly impressive start to the campaign by all at Eastlands, and not just Aguero.
Summer signing Gundogan was the latest to catch the eye as he made a belated first appearance following a knee injury.
Called into the side at short notice following injury to David Silva, the former Borussia Dortmund man slotted straight in alongside Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling in midfield and showed no signs of rustiness.
He even went close to scoring when he brought a good save out of the overworked Borussia goalkeeper Yann Sommer in the first half.
Gundogan said: “I think this shows I was not born to score – Kun (Aguero) did it much better than me!
“It would have been nice to score, but 4-0 was the perfect score for me. I am very happy, it was a special day.
“I am very happy to be back, back with the guys and to be back on the field. I think it was quite a good start for me.”
City’s slick play created the opener for Aguero after just nine minutes and he added a second from the spot after Gundogan was fouled. Aguero completed his hat-trick following a fine through-ball from Sterling and Kelechi Iheanacho rifled in a fourth after good work by fellow substitute Leroy Sane in injury time.
Gundogan said: “It has been a perfect start for us, with great performances over the last few weeks and some very special games. I hope it will go on like that.
“Tough challenges are waiting for us, but we are all excited to prove ourselves and do our best.”