The good news at Manchester City keeps on coming. After confirmation of new deals for David Silva and Vincent Kompany earlier this week, the club have announced that Sergio Aguero has signed a new five-year deal, keeping him tied to City until 2019 (via The Telegraph).
Aguero’s new deal, which caps a remarkable few days for the club after they signed Eliaquim Mangala from Porto, was announced directly to fans at the City Live event in Manchester yesterday.
The Argentine has scored 75 goals for City in 122 games, including 52 in the Premier League alone. He’s become a cult figure among the City supporters since his £38 million move from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011, and this news will ease their fears surrounding a move away from the club.
The reality seems to be that ever since I came here, during every close season, there have always been rumours suggesting that I might be returning to Spain.
There has always been this speculation, but I certainly never pay much attention to it.
People hear this stuff flying around and they take it seriously, but I can tell the fans and everyone at City to relax - I'm going to be here until I see out my contract.
I got back here last week and the aim to begin with is two weeks of just hard work to strengthen the legs and to get my fitness right. By the third week I'll be fully 100 per cent and ready to go.
And fitness will almost certainly be the key. Last season, despite an impressive goals-to-games ratio, Aguero’s form was disrupted by three injury layoffs, a theme which continued at the World Cup where he rarely looked fully fit.
The goalscoring burden at City is laid squarely at his door. If he can remain healthy for the majority of the campaign, another 30-goal haul like the one he managed in his debut season seems perfectly possible.
Many feel a system with Silva playing in the No. 10 role just behind Aguero as a lone striker may well be City’s best option. Silva was switched to that role during the final weeks of last season and flourished, but it was a period in which Aguero was struggling with his fitness and, therefore, the two rarely combined.
It will be fascinating to see which system Manuel Pellegrini chooses, with a wealth of options now at his disposal after another summer of spending at City.
There were times during the first half of last season where Aguero looked almost unplayable. His pace and sharpness in front of goal saw him score 26 goals in his first 25 games in all competitions, culminating in a wonderful first-half display at White Hart Lane at the end of January where he tore Tottenham to shreds before injury curtailed his evening.
He scored just two more goals before the end of the season, including a superb effort in City’s all-important trip to Goodison Park during the title run-in. His value to the club is clear, and he is now rightly considered one of the finest strikers in European football.
However, not only does his new deal underline his importance to the club, it’s the latest example of Txiki Begiristain’s brilliance. His influence is now such that it’s arguable he is the most important person at City in terms of the day-to-day running of the club.
Since his appointment as City’s director of football in October 2012, he has set about making them one of the slickest and shrewdest operators in English football. Efficient, effective transfer windows and contract renewals for the club’s best players have become the hallmarks of Begiristain’s Manchester City, an approach which means they are one of the most settled sides in the Premier League.
Both summer transfer windows overseen by Begiristain and Pellegrini have been a masterclass in how to identify the right targets and sign them speedily in order to steal a march on your rivals and give the manager as much time as possible to shape his squad before the season starts.
Just 12 months ago, City signed Alvaro Negredo, Jesus Navas, Fernandinho and Stevan Jovetic a full month before their season opener at home to Newcastle, while other clubs were left struggling to make additions. It meant a pre-season in which the Chilean could fine-tune his side before the serious action got underway.
City’s League Cup and Premier League triumphs suggests their transfer strategy worked wonders.
And again this summer, a host of players have arrived to bolster the squad in the right areas and player sales have been executed shrewdly—Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia both leaving for a combined £22 million.
With UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules now in action, City are no longer able to allow players to leave on the cheap, and Begiristain has begun to alter their reputation from a club that often sells and loans benevolently to one determined to get the right deal on any outgoing player.
The former Barcelona man is known for his ability to change the off-field strategy of big clubs. He undertook the same role at the Camp Nou in 2003 and oversaw a period of remarkable success, with former Barca president Joan Laporta once remarking: "Bringing in Txiki was the best decision I ever made" (via The Guardian).
Begiristain is now the most important person beneath Sheikh Mansour in the Etihad hierarchy—the driving force behind the City power base, which includes Pellegrini, the man he identified as the right manager for Blues, and Ferran Soriano, the club’s chief executive.
It is Begiristain who wanted to implement an attacking style of football at every level of the club. It is Begiristain who saw in Pellegrini a manager capable of delivering that style whilst at the same time representing the club with class. And it is Begiristain who knew City needed a world-class youth development and training campus.
He has drastically changed the face of a club already heading in the right direction when he was appointed.
All of which gives City’s manager the best possible chance of bettering his debut season in English football. Speaking at the City Live event at Manchester Central, Pellegrini suggested adding the Champions League trophy to City’s growing silverware cabinet is his next objective.
He said: "We won two titles—the Capital One Cup and the Premier League—but I think there is space where we can put a third one with two big ears."
Champions League success has so far eluded City, who have underwhelmed in each of their three seasons competing in Europe's elite club competition. Even last season, where they qualified for the knockout stages for the first time in their history, the meek surrender to Barcelona, a side who were more than beatable, left a feeling of what could have been reverberating around the Etihad.
It's a tie which will give City's players confidence, though. They will look back and realise they showed the Catalan giants too much respect and could easily have caused them more problems had they shown a more daring side to their play in the home leg.
Thanks to the work of Begiristain and Pellegrini, the club are once again in even better shape to have a successful season in 2014/15.
*All quotes gained firsthand unless otherwise specified
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard.