Sergio Aguero is one of the hottest strikers around, at just 24 he already has a £35million price tag on him and has scored in more than half his games for Manchester City. Life is very good, however it wasn’t always so easy for the Argentinian.
Sergio Aguero was born a few miles south of Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires in a town called Quilmes. Awash with poverty and lacking much of an economic system, there were lots of shanty towns, one of these, Villa Itati, was where Aguero was raised. To describe the devastation of what the shanty town was like is difficult. It held 60,000 residents in small, condensed areas of land.
Houses which were known as ‘Villas’, were just shacks put together by pieces of wood or metal. Aguero was one of seven children and their own shack was so bad it didn’t even have a toilet. To further pile on the misery, his father only earned £20 a week if he was lucky, so dinners were usually boiled twigs and leaves with bread. The days where his father didn’t get paid, the Aguero family were left with nothing but to sleep and to hope that the next day brought something different. Sometimes his mother and father would simply not eat to ensure that the children were fed. One Christmas when Aguero was a child he had asked for a ball, his father had somehow managed to scrap the money together to buy one. Aguero was amazed by it, not many kids in the slums were lucky enough to get footballs to play with so Aguero counted himself lucky. He played with it everyday until one day he kicked it too far and lost it.
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Villa Itati was a drug-ridden place to grow up and more than half the residents were using a cocaine by-product called Paco. It was a heavily addictive drug and was essentially cocaine left-overs, sometimes mixed with glass or rat poison and it would sell for as little as 10p a hit. Of his time growing up there, Aguero said: “I had a very bad time. All the friends I had, I don’t think any of them are at home. They’re all in prison.” Aguero has often described it as a place full of robbery and a painfully difficult district.
For many years Aguero was surrounded by this misery but it was football that eventually saved Aguero. Playing in the shanty towns in non-official leagues, his father Leonel could tell he had something very special. Leonel spent a whole year trying to convince a sports journalist he knew to come watch him play – Eduardo Gonzalez finally caved in. Gonzalez knew as soon as he saw Aguero that the lad was special, so he recommended him to Argentine club Independiente. Luckily Gonzalez knew Nestor Rambert who was a coach of the youth setup. Giving him a trial, they signed him on first sight at the age of nine.
Rambert slotted him straight into the U-11s team in which he dazzled the coaches. Between the age of 11 and 15, Rambert personally took hold of Aguero’s development which led to him breaking Maradona’s record of being the youngest ever player in the Primera Division at 15 years and 32 days. This wasn’t without struggle, up until he was 15, Aguero still lived in the slums. His father, Leonel, had gotten involved with bad company related to drugs. So Aguero played back in the slums for money, he would get £30 a game as they knew whatever team had Aguero would more than likely win. In order to support his family this way it meant Aguero only turned up for training once a week, which infuriated the other parents. Aguero didn’t see it as a choice, he had to help his family out. With Aguero receiving bids left right and centre, including a £320,000 bid when he was 13 from Boca Juniors, Rambert decided to take action. Knowing Aguero would eventually leave if nothing got sorted, he begged the Director of Independiente to give father Leonel a job. Agreeing, Leonel went on to work for the club as an assistant to the Kit Man. Gonzalez later bought a car for Leonel so he could become a Taxi Driver. This then heralded the end of the Aguero family in the slums.
Aguero scored more than 200 goals in his time in the youth leagues and impressed at a professional level too. With everyone being much bigger physically, Aguero learned how to become quick and dexterous so he wouldn’t get hurt. This explains the style of play he has now, where he can bamboozle his way past defenders and slot the ball home. Big clubs came calling, Juventus offered £1.3million and River Plate offered £1million. Aguero held out and his big break came when Atletico Madrid offered Indepdendiente a £17million offer they just couldn’t refuse. Aguero had finally made it, and more importantly put an end to his family’s awful lifestyle once and for all. His move to Madrid didn’t come without its controversies however. New to the money Aguero found himself splashing out on posh cars and going to lots of nightclubs. This all calmed down of course when he married wife Giannina Maradona in 2007, daughter of Diego. Aguero had entered the family of a man he was compared to as a kid. Giannina gave birth to Aguero’s only son Benjamin in 2009. For Atletico Madrid, Aguero played 175 games grabbing 75 goals, he also made his international debut in 2006.
Now Aguero has won one FA Community Shield and one Premier League title, he has scored 47 times in only 87 appearances and has struck up a fierce partnership with fellow Argentinian Carlos Tevez. Aguero has come a very long way since the slum playing days and has always thanked his father for the reason he is where he is today. In an emotionally gripping tale, it’s hard to think that the ball his father must of sacrificed a lot for that Christmas, didn’t change his life forever.
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