Sergio Aguero scored a sublime hat-trick against Aston Villa at the weekend to become the Premier League's all time leading non-English goalscorer, displacing Thierry Henry in the process. However, it's not just goals that mark the greatest, and FootballTips Jon Wilde and BettingPro's Ben Darvill have taken their office debate online to find out who really is the greatest.
An integral part of a great team
Sergio Aguero has become an integral part of one of the best teams the Premier League has seen in it’s history. Pep Guardiola’s side won the 2017/18 Premier League with an incredible 100 points as they broke the triple figure mark, but perhaps most impressive was their exploits in the 2018/19 season, where they battled to 98 points meaning they pipped Liverpool to the title by a single point. While some will argue that their tally of 100 points was more impressive as, quite simply, they picked up more points, this was a year in which they dominated the league and beat second-placed Manchester United by a massive 19 points. The following year they won by a single point as both City and Liverpool jointly-dominated.
With the support of some of the Premier League’s most creative and accurate midfielders ever in David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, the Argentine has not found it difficult to score. However, simply having the creative ability behind a player is not enough to score consistent goals. Instead, Aguero has formed partnerships with all of the players around him and, at times, his goals seem to have been created via telepathic link, with the striker somehow able to know exactly where the ball will be played or where the rebound will bounce to.
This has served him well right across his time with City, where he has scored 20 goals or more in the league in six of his eight seasons with the club, netting 23 goals in 2011/12 and then 12, 17, 26, 24, 20, 21 and 21, while he has netted 13 goals in 16 matches this season, meaning he is well on his way to going past 20 goals for this season too.
Aguero is a seriously talented striker that has helped to fire the goals into the back of the net for what is a seriously good Manchester City side. Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Guardiola have all been blessed with huge funds and great teams, but one mainstay of those teams has always been Aguero, with the Argentine proving to be City’s greatest ever player, and perhaps the league’s best ever striker. His longevity in these teams only adds to his own legacy as he proves that he has maintained an incredibly high level of performance for years, all the while beating away the competition from the likes of Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Gabriel Jesus.
While Aguero did also spend time with Atletico Madrid (74 goals in 175 games) along with 18 goals in 36 games during the early part of his career with Independiente. While Aguero will be looking toward his future in football away from Manchester, the striker has cemented his place as the main forward in this City side’s history, and he will be the first name on the team sheet of nearly every Manchester City fans greatest XI’s.
There is no question Thierry Henry was truly a major part of a great team – indeed, one that continues to be known by its self-explanatory nickname of the ‘Invincibles’.
Henry joined Arsenal in August 1999, shortly before his 22nd birthday, for a fee of £10.5million from Juventus and it was in late November, when he scored both goals in a 2-1 home win over Derby, that he started making the big breakthrough that shaped his career.
Ending the season with 31 goals for his club and country France, with whom he won the European Championship that year, Henry never looked back and over the next four years went on to win two Premier League titles, two FA Cups and two FA Community Shields.
Of course, in 2003-04, the Gunners, boosted by 30 goals in 37 appearances by Henry, became the first team for more than a century to go through the entire domestic league season unbeaten, earning their ‘Invincibles’ tag.
Arsenal also reached the Champions League Final in 2006 and by the time of his departure for Barcelona the following summer, Henry had scored 174 Premier League goals and 226 in total for the North London club.
He subsequently returned for a brief loan spell from New York Red Bulls in January and February 2012, adding two more goals including one in the Premier League to increase his final tally in that competition to 175. Before Aguero, only Alan Shearer (260), Wayne Rooney (208), Andy Cole (187) and Frank Lampard (177) had scored more than Henry.
Vital goals at vital times
With so many goals in his time in the league, it is difficult to seriously go through all of his most important strikes for the Sky Blues. However, while it is difficult to pick out a top 10, it is clear which is number one.
Aguero was the hero back in the 2011/12 season when he was the scorer of that stunning last minuet goal for City against Queens Park Rangers. With City drawing 1-1 at half-time before going 2-1 down in the 48th minute, the title was well and truly slipping away as inter-city rivals Manchester United led Sunderland 1-0 and were on course to steal the title on the final day.
However, Edin Dzeko got on the scoresheet in injury time to make it 2-2 before the most incredible of finishes ensued. Aguero picked the ball up on the edge of the box from Balotelli before skipping around a number of challenges, composing himself while still on the run and hammering a low finish past Paddy Kenny to send the Etihad Stadium into rapturous celebration. The moments following his goal were ones fans of City, the Premier League, and football will likely never forget. Aguero, shirt off and being swung wildly above his head was chased by his teammates in joyous celebration, Joe Hart running in circles, arms outstretched in pure joy and disbelief at the other end of the field and Roberto Mancini, usually a cool customer, running to embrace his coaching staff as his City side secured the title in the most dramatic of fashion.
Of course, every single City fan would have taken a drab, no-frills 2-0 win before kick-off, especially if someone had offered them an exciting final game in which the tooing-and-froing would see them potentially losing, but in hindsight, no City fan would trade that game as it went done as the most incredible finish in Premier League history, and at the heart of the drama was Aguero.
The little Argentine has scored his fair share of goals, some of the them dramatic, some of them not so, but this one pips all of his strikes, and perhaps any of the goals ever scored in Premier League football.
Henry quickly became Arsenal’s talisman and it was fitting that his first goal for the club was a winner, breaking the deadlock 11 minutes from the end to earn a 1-0 victory away to Southampton.
During Henry’s first couple of years in England, the Gunners, under manager Arsene Wenger, were trying to end the dominance Manchester United had enjoyed for most of the 1990s.
They were clearly the two best teams in the country at the time and Henry underlined that he was a man for the big occasion by scoring a brilliant winner against the Red Devils at Highbury in October 2000, flicking the ball up with his back to goal, swivelling and lashing home a fabulous volley from 30 yards.
Arsenal did not win the Premier League title in that campaign but they did in 2001-02. The foundations of that triumph were most definitely laid by Henry’s goals in the first four months of the season as he banged in 15 in his first 13 league appearances, including two more against Manchester United that sealed a 3-1 home win.
And, of course, he enjoyed his best ever season in that sparkling 2003-04 ‘Invincibles’ achievement.
Again, it was Henry setting the tone right from the very first league game in which he netted a penalty against Everton and after back-to-back Highbury hat-tricks against Liverpool and Leeds, he was crowned PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year for the second consecutive season and was runner-up for the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
While his goal against Leeds may not be the biggest he has ever scored, the moment he returned to Arsenal to net that effort is worth remembering, with the joy on every single one of the fan’s faces in the stadium something that shows that they missed their best ever striker wheeling away in celebration – hit the play button on the video below to relive that moment.
Scoring against the big boys
Sergio Aguero has not ever been a player that looks to shun responsibility in the biggest matches. His scoring record in the league sees 177 goals scored in 255 appearances which means he is currently going at 0.69 goals per game which is a phenomenal record considering some of the sides he has had to face in his time with City.
In the Manchester-derby, both teams are always looking for a hero and it so often proves to be Aguero that pops up with the big goals. The Argentine has managed to net eight goals in 12 Premier League games while he has also netted seven goals in 15 league appearances against Liverpool, although even he has struggled of late against a much tighter Reds’ backline, scoring just once in his last four.
Aguero also possesses a decent record against Arsenal (eight goals in 13), but he clearly enjoys playing against Chelsea (10 goals in 14) and Tottenham (11 goals in 15) the most, with the Argentine all too often proving the difference between the top sides.
Aguero breaking Herny’s record of the most goals for a foreign player in the league is just further evidence of the fact that he must be seen as arguably the league’s greatest ever striker. Of course, the likes of Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney in their prime would dispute that, but the three were all very different strikers, and what Rooney and Shearer do not possess, Aguero has in abundance.
His diminutive stature comes with outrageous pace, precise finishing ability, a nose for goal and the ability to stand up in the biggest games. Aguero is undoubtedly Manchester City’s greatest ever player, with the amount of goals he has scored only part of the legend he will eventually leave behind. While City’s fans will be left to rue the departure of their best ever player, the loss will not just be felt in the blue half of Manchester, with the rest of the league and the fans, no matter how heated the rivalry is between themselves and City, surely able to recognise that they have been privileged to see the best ever foreign striker in the Premier League.
We have already discussed above Henry’s penchant for scoring against Manchester United, who were Arsenal’s biggest rivals for the Premier League title during his career in England.
In all, the Frenchman scored eight Premier League goals at the Red Devils’ expense plus another in the FA Community Shield and was a constant thorn in the side of Sir Alex Ferguson’s defence.
His record against Arsenal’s fiercest foes Tottenham was not as prolific as Henry bagged only five goals in his North London derby appearances, but they tended to be important ones.
His first and last goalscoring contributions against Spurs secured a 2-1 victory and a 1-1 draw respectively, while in November 2004 there was a vital leveller just before half-time that gave the Gunners the platform to go on and triumph 5-4 at White Hart Lane.
The first player to officially win the European Golden Boot award two years in a row (2004 and 2005) Henry broke all kinds of records during his Arsenal career.
He also did the business on the international and European stages and when it comes to illustrious opposition against whom he scored, they do not come bigger than Real Madrid – it was Henry (who else?) that scored the only goal of the tie on Arsenal’s way to the 2006 Champions League Final.
A player just as comfortable with the ball at his feet, running at defenders and taking them on, as he was putting it in the back of the net, Henry had it all.
Despite what the record books now say, he was the deadliest foreign striker in Premier League history.