King Kun’s reign to continue as Jesus resurrects City’s fortunes
Sergio Aguero is heading to Real Madrid this summer... just like he was in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 according to the brown stuff stirring media, but low and behold he’s still at the Etihad.
The Argentine super-striker says he wants to stay at City for the remaining three years of his contract until 2020.
Pep Guardiola says Aguero is one of the most important members of his squad, and he will get plenty of game time.
City’s hierarchy say there is no question of Aguero leaving City in the wake of the arrival of Brazilian wonderkid, Gabriel Jesus.
So that’s player, manager and club all saying ‘stick’, whereas the warped wordsmiths at the aptly named ‘red-top’ tabloids strive to ‘twist’ the story.
It must be hoped that Aguero is indeed staying, as Guardiola assembles an array of attacking talent to rival – maybe even surpass – the best in the business.
The sky’s the limit for Aguero, Jesus, Sane, Sterling, De Bruyne, Silva, Iheanacho and who knows who else?
Sergio is tried, tested and proven in the Premier League – 113 goals in 168 appearances tells you all you need to know, plus a further 41 goals in 66 Champions League, FA and League Cup games.
He’s a phenomenon and, in six-and-a-half years with City, he’s been a model professional. It’ll be his 29th birthday on June 2nd hardly ancient, and still classed among the world’s top five strikers. Why on earth would City want to sell him?
At 10 years Aguero’s junior, Jesus is undoubtedly City’s future.
Three goals and two assists in three starts would even suggest the £27m steal from Palmeiras is already City’s ‘present’, but it’d be foolhardy to place too much on such young shoulders so soon.
Despite having no option other than to praise the brilliant young Brazilian’s start in English football, it’s worth noting the early signs of media mischief making and insidious scrutiny of Jesus’ time in Manchester.
Apparently Jesus getting a taxi back to his hotel from the hairdressers on a rainy Mancunian Monday is headline news for some ‘sleazy rags’ who observed he ‘…took a cab rather than walk on water like his namesake.’
But the award for the most ‘persecuted’ City player goes to another burgeoning talent, Raheem Sterling.
The knives are out from the Scouse ass-kissing media like never before – even worse than the hounding of Super/Mad Mario Balotelli back in the day.
At just 22 years old, Sterling is already a veteran of media sniping and, latterly, outrageous officiating.
Having been denied a stonewall penalty against Spurs by Andre Marriner, and a certain spot kick against Everton by Clattenburg, referee Mike Dean really had it in for Sterling against Swansea.
City’s Number 7 went down in the 18-yard area in a collision with Swans keeper Fabianski – it was potentially a penalty – but Sterling didn’t even appeal, and yet Dean booked him for diving.
The arrogance of Dean and his craving for the spotlight was breathtaking – quite incredible. He's undoubtedly one of the most self-obsessed and reviled members of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) - the commercial 'association' for so-called 'elite' referees and their sidekick assistants.
Oh, and on that topic, congratulations to Andre Marriner for landing the EFL Cup Final gig on February 26th.
His masterclass impersonations of a blind man when not seeing the Aguero-Reid ‘elbowing’ incident from 10 yards last August, compounded by ‘missing’ Kyle Walker’s blatant push on Sterling against Spurs in January, must’ve earned him great admiration from all at PGMOL and the FA.
It’s become increasingly clear that Pep’s City are generally taking on more than 11 opponents at any given time this season.
To rally against Spurs after the debacle at Everton, only to be blatantly cheated inside 60 seconds when what would’ve/should’ve been 3-1 to City became 2-2, was a travesty.
One can only lament the events of December 3rd when Altrincham’s most famous Manchester United fan, Anthony Taylor, aided and abetted Chelsea’s 3-1 win at the Etihad.
City were also culpable with missed chances aplenty, but that one game represents a six point swing.
How different it would be if Chelsea’s lead were down to just four points, not 10, especially with City fortified by the arrival of Jesus and the return of Vincent Kompany.
It’s difficult to envisage Chelsea dropping sufficient points for City to bridge the gap, but it’s easy to see City winning at Stamford Bridge and gaining a modicum of revenge.
City’s keeper on the day the title was, to all intent and purposes lost, was the much maligned Claudio Bravo, since replaced by a resurgent Willy Caballero.
It’s a stark illustration of the changing fortunes of footballers.
This time last year Willy was ostracized by many City fans, who feared Caballero’s inclusion in Manuel Pellegrini’s starting XI for the League Cup Final would cost City the match.
How wrong could they have been, as Willy emerged the hero in the penalty shootout!
Whether Bravo will get the chance to resurrect his City career remains to be seen, but with City’s next three games encompassing the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, the Chilean could well be back in the firing line this month.
One man enjoying a wholly unexpected new lease of life is Yaya Toure.
Sidelined by off-field issues relating to fitness levels and the utterances of his repugnant representative, Yaya has ‘put up’ and his agent Dimitri Seluk has ‘shut up’ since mid-November.
What was once unthinkable could now well happen this summer – the Ivorian colossus could earn a contract extension under Pep.
It speaks volumes for Guardiola’s man-management qualities that Yaya is back in the fold and keen to impress.
David Silva has praised Pep in recent days saying: “After all the years I’ve been in the game and with all my experience, I’ve really learned a lot in 4 or 5 months with him. He truly is an exceptional coach.”
Pep himself has been on a sharp learning curve and will be all the better prepared for the final third of the season and beyond.
The loss of Pep’s first signing, Ilkay Gundagon, since mid-December has been a bitter pill to swallow, but the emergence of fellow German Leroy Sane, really gets the juices flowing.
A top three finish, progression to the quarter finals or further in the Champions League and the prospect of lifting the FA Cup, would be a more than acceptable return, on what was always going to be a challenging first year for Guardiola in England.
If Pep is now having the major say in City's transfer dealings, as opposed to City’s Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain, then the summer window should be the catalyst to transform City’s title and Champions League aspirations into reality.
A root and branch reshaping of City’s squad should see Pep saying adios to some City ‘legends’, favourites and players who just can’t cut it, namely Zabaleta, Hart, Nasri, Clichy, Kolarov, Sagna, Navas, Mangala, Caballero, Fernando, Delph, Bravo and Bony.
As well as spending big on a pacy new defence, a commanding goalkeeper, a defensive midfielder and possibly another top notch striker, City could also be welcoming back the young talents of loanees Patrick Roberts, Marlos Moreno, Oleksander Zinchenko, Manu Garcia and Pablo Maffeo…and then there’s the emotive topic of promoting emerging CFA graduates Aleix Garcia, Tosin Adarabioyo, Brahim Diaz and Angus Gunn.
But even if City were to finish trophy-less in 2017, the perverse reality would be that the club has progressed under Pep, in readiness for years to come.
There’s speculation that Guardiola is keen to go well beyond his initial three-year contract, such is his determination to confound his critics, establish City as a European football power and leave an enduring legacy. It’s great to hear.
What would be even more harmonious to supporters, is confirmation of Sergio staying to help his manager and team mates amass medals and trophies like never before in the history of Manchester City.
By David Walker
This edition of Read But Never Red is dedicated to Philip Entwistle – a gentleman, a true Blue and a man I’m privileged to call my friend.
Last Sunday’s 2-1 win over Swansea seems destined to be Phil’s last match at the Etihad as his battle with serious health issues continue.
Tears were shed, hands shaken and embraces shared on an emotional day, culminating in the ecstasy of a last minute winner from Gabriel Jesus - a fitting finale - and a goal that will live long in the memory for reasons both good and bad, happy and sad.