Sergio Aguero’s four goals for Manchester City against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend took his tally to ten in all competitions this season. His stellar performance also saw him become City’s record Premier League goalscorer, while the most impressive statistic of all concerning the Argentinian is that with an average of one goal every 108.3 minutes, he has the highest goals-per-game ratio in the league’s history.
Quite simply, when Aguero plays, he scores. It is what he is paid to do, and he does so phenomenally well. His lethal finishing has been among the best in the world for some time, stretching back to his five seasons at Atletico Madrid, and he shows no signs of regressing. It was he who also famously scored in the dying seconds of the 2011/12 season against QPR to clinch the Premier League for Manchester City – the first in their history – which was enough by itself to ensure that he would go down as a club legend. But is he a Premier League legend?
If we take into account the wealth of superlative statistics, the answer would be an overwhelming yes. Aguero is one of the finest strikers ever to play in the top flight of English football, and as it stands is definitively the most prolific. But to be considered as a Premier League great, a player requires some intangible quality that transcends cold, hard stats, facts and records. He needs to possess some kind of uniqueness of character or of playing style which sets him apart from others, a one defining, unforgettable trait that leaves its mark on the league, more so than any goal ever could. For all his brilliance, Aguero is not one of these players.
The Argentinian is a supremely talented and ruthlessly efficient goalscorer – a description that most other footballers could only ever dream of earning – but nothing else. His accuracy in the penalty box is breathtaking, his technical ability astounding and his work rate first-class, yet there is no originality to his game, and it possesses no streak of genius that characterises a true great. Aguero is very good at finding the back of the net, just like Michael Owen, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Alan Shearer all were. And therein lies the problem. He is simply doing what other prolific strikers have been doing since the Premier League’s inception. We sing the praises of his goalscoring ability, but we do not marvel at his uniqueness, the like of which has been unprecedented in the English game. It is here that Aguero falls short of joining the greats.
So who exactly are these greats? They are the players whose brand of football or whose magnetic personalities could never be imitated. The smooth-as-silk suaveness of Thierry Henry and his effortless ability to score the most eclectic mix of incredible goals; the cocky, combustible swagger of his compatriot Eric Cantona, whose sheer brilliance made him the only man capable of pulling off the upturned collar look; the dentured dynamo that was Luis Suarez, his unparalleled ability to skip past the most crowded of spaces and to score the most speculative of goals a testament to childhood days on the streets of Uruguay, not to forget his colourful and often controversial on-field antics.
There are more, of course, and they do not all happen to be strikers. Yet these players have earned their place in the pantheon of Premier League greats because they brought something to the league which had never been seen before. Sergio Aguero should rightly be considered as one of the best strikers in Premier League history. But being the best is not enough to be deemed a true great.