Sergio Aguero Can Win the Ballon D'Or Under Pep Guardiola at Manchester CitySeptember 26, 2016
There was a time when neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo owned the Ballon d’Or.
It was nearly a decade ago in 2007 when George W.Bush was still in the White House, and Twitter and the iPhone were both only a year old.
The winner that year was Kaka, the Brazilian playmaker, who is now better known as a pub quiz answer as the last Ballon d’Or winner before the Messi-Ronaldo era.
But this unprecedented dominance from Messi and Ronaldo, which has seen the pair triumph in the annual poll for eight consecutive years, could soon be coming to an end.
It is unlikely to be this year for Ronaldo’s success in winning both the Champions League and European Championship makes it very difficult to see a winner other than the Real Madrid man, who should collect his fourth Ballon d’Or in January next year.
But in 2017, Messi and Ronaldo’s duopoly of the award could finally be broken, and one of the leading contenders to do this has to be Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.
The Argentinian striker has long been a very fine player, a natural and prolific goalscorer, who has twice helped deliver the Premier League title to the Etihad Stadium, in 2012 with that dramatic and late winning goal against QPR, and once again in 2014.
Over the course of the last five years since his arrival from Atletico Madrid, his goals, 147 at the last count, have helped transform City in to a major force at home and abroad.
But there should be much more to come from Aguero, who turned 28 this summer, now that he has Pep Guardiola guiding his career.
It was Guardiola who nurtured Messi, and for the four years the pair worked together at Barcelona between 2008 and 2012, the Argentinian was presented with the Ballon d’Or every year.
Now Guardiola could perform the same service to Aguero.
In recent years, sheer weight of goals has helped both Messi and Ronaldo win the Ballon d’Or and deny the more nuanced talents of Andres Iniesta, who finished runner-up in 2010 and in third place in 2012, or Xavi, who finished third in 2010 and 2011.
Goals shout the loudest when the electorate comes to vote for the winner of this award.
This bodes well for Aguero, who so far under Guardiola has already scored an incredible 11 goals in just six games this season, and this total would have been swelled even more had he not already had to serve a three-match domestic ban in September.
In the Champions League, Aguero has already registered two hat-tricks, against Steaua Bucharest, a match where he also managed to miss two penalties, and then against Borussia Monchengladbach.
In the Premier League, his goals have helped City reach the summit of the table by winning their first six games.
On his return to the side on Saturday against Swansea City, he was in imperious form, scoring twice, with a brilliant spin and shot, as well as a chipped penalty, to give City a 3-1 win.
The system Guardiola has imposed on City is designed to get the very best out of Aguero and will continue to provide him with a steady supply of goal-scoring chances.
The Argentinian plays as a lone striker up front behind the attacking trio of David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling.
The fluid movement, pressing and creativity of these three players, and the way in which they move the ball quickly between themselves, seeking gaps in which to feed Aguero, has been a trademark of City’s stunningly effective football this season.
Aguero’s pace and predatory instincts have always brought him goals, but he should now gorge himself even more under Guardiola’s commitment to this football.
The City manager has been impressed with how Aguero has thrived under him, and adapted to his pressing tactics. “I don’t want Sergio running too much without the ball,” he told the Guardian. “I don’t want him running 40 metres without the ball. I try to convince them, what they have to do – four, five, six seconds of effort – he can do that.”
At 28, an age where some footballers might believe they already know it all, Aguero is now being asked to become even better by Guardiola.
In the aftermath of his two goals in the 3-1 win against Swansea, Guardiola was not content to merely praise his striker, but instead he publicly challenged him.
"Congratulations to him for his first goal and for the personality for the penalty for his second,” Guardiola said on Saturday, as reported by the Daily Mail.
“He's scored a lot of goals in the games, so I am so happy for him. But he knows that I want more. He can play better. ... He can make other things that is going to help us. I will try to help him to develop his abilities like a football player.
"I want him to be involved in our game, in our process, and keep the ball and help us. Of course in the box I cannot help him – he's going to help us a lot in the box, he's magnificent.
“The first goal, the first control, how quick he made the first steps, and after his finish – excellent. But I want to help him to be a better player.”
Guardiola will find a receptive and willing student in Aguero, who has previously stated his desire to win the Ballon d’Or.
It remains an anomaly that Aguero has never been voted the Footballer of the Year, or the PFA Player of the Year or even won a place in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.
But he now has the manager and the system to aim even higher and compete with Ronaldo and Messi to claim the biggest personal prize in football: the Ballon d’Or.