Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says he won't sell Sergio Aguero, despite leaving the Argentinian striker on the bench for recent Premier League matches. In fact, Guardiola expects Aguero to still be a City player next season, despite rumours Spain's two biggest clubs are keen on the 28-year-old.
Aguero had indicated he might move on after City's recent 2-1 win over Swansea City. However, Guardiola made it clear how neither he nor the club intend to sell the prolific No. 10, per Martin Blackburn of The Sun: “Five minutes after those statements, Man City released a note saying the opinion of the club and manager about Sergio Aguero’s future.”
Aguero's future has naturally been thrown into doubt after consecutive league matches spent on the bench. Yet Guardiola explained his decision to leave Aguero out in favour of new boy Gabriel Jesus, per Blackburn: “Basically, we have three players in top form—Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus—and that’s the only reason. The only regret I have players is I have five players in the group who cannot play, and that is unfair because they deserve to play, but I don’t have a solution for that.”
Guardiola made a big call dropping Aguero, but he appears to have been vindicated by Jesus' terrific start to life in England's top flight. The Brazilian has scored three times in two league starts.
Even so, many believe Guardiola has taken a massive risk leaving Aguero out. Among them, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher, writing for the Daily Mail, thinks the decision will determine how much success Guardiola achieves in Manchester.
The decision could well prove as significant as Carragher imagines, especially if Europe's biggest clubs decide to test Guardiola's belief Aguero will stay at City beyond this season. Rumours of major interest in the South American attacker are already building.
Real Madrid are mooted to want Aguero as a replacement for misfiring duo Karim Benzema and Alvaro Morata, according to John Cross and Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror. Meanwhile, Los Blancos' bitter La Liga rivals Barcelona are also said to be keen, per Spanish publication Marca (h/t The Sun's Jamie Gordon).
It would surely be hard for City to knock back mega-money offers from either club for Aguero, especially if Guardiola continues to be impressed by Jesus.
What's clear is how the 19-year-old has made a fantastic first impression with the Citizens. His pace, flair and predatory instincts in the box are dovetailing superbly with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, a player of some considerable potential.
This is a forward line rotating positions and combining selflessly in the way Guardiola wants his attack to work. Aguero is a talisman, but he's not as collective in his game as Jesus, Sane and Co.
Bacary Sagna Set for City Exit
Aguero's future may be uncertain, but Bacary Sagna already seems destined for the exit door this summer. The former Arsenal right-back is wanted by West Ham United once his deal expires at the end of the season, according to Sam Wallace of the Daily Telegraph.
Wallace detailed how Sagna has fallen out of favour at City: "The France international will be out of contract after three years at City and available on a Bosman signing. He is being kept out of the City side by Pablo Zabaleta and is not expected to be offered a new deal at the club he joined three years ago."
Sagna's inability to make the starting lineup on Guardiola's watch is somewhat strange, even though fellow right-back Pablo Zabaleta is a talented defender. Yet Sagna is also accomplished in defensive areas, as well as being comfortable on the ball.
More importantly, the 34-year-old Frenchman can also slide inside to play centre-back. Sagna is capable in this role, having excelled in the middle during the latter years of his spell at Arsenal.
Given City's problems at centre-back, it's surprising Guardiola can't find more use for a player of Sagna's versatility. The Spaniard's squad has a paucity of talent at centre-back, where John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi are both accident-prone, while Vincent Kompany can't shake the injury bug for long.
Considering Guardiola has moved left-back Aleksandar Kolarov into the middle more than once this season, he ought to be able to use Sagna in the same way. Wallace has noted how Guardiola wants to make City a younger squad, but Sagna's experience and flexibility are invaluable assets the manager shouldn't dismiss easily.
If Jesus and Sane continue to develop, Guardiola might be able to say goodbye to Aguero without too much worry. But he may soon regret ditching a player with as many uses as Sagna.