Gabriel Jesus lords it, but Aguero will not be sacrificed

Pep Guardiola insists Sergio Aguero remains central to his plans at Manchester City and could play him alongside Gabriel Jesus.
Gabriel Jesus lords it, but Aguero will not be sacrificed

Aguero, who has scored 154 goals for City since joining the club in 2011, was surprisingly among the subs for Wednesday’s win at West Ham. Instead, Jesus led the line and the 19-year-old — a £27m signing last month from Palmeiras — impressed hugely on what was his first Premier League start, getting on the scoresheet and setting up another goal in the 4-0 win.

Aguero’s long-term future under Guardiola has been the subject of speculation this season but the City manager is happy with the prolific 28-year-old.

Guardiola said: “I understand the debate, but there is no doubt about the quality of Sergio. I can say how happy I am with what he did — except the seven games when he was banned.

“The big clubs in Europe always have a lot of strikers and there have been at this club too — [Mario[ Balotelli, [Carlos] Tevez, Sergio, [Edin] Dzeko — all together. Big clubs need a lot of strikers.

“Sergio remains the most, or one of the most, important players in our squad. Without him, it will not be possible.”

Another debate at City has been over the goalkeeping position.

Claudio Bravo has had limited success since being controversially brought in as Joe Hart’s replacement earlier this season and has been left out for Willy Caballero in the last two games.

Guardiola said: “Still I didn’t decide. I am happy because in the big clubs they always have good goalkeepers and I have that.”

Meanwhile, Paul Clement has history with Guardiola from his time working as the number two at Chelsea and Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti.

He has fond memories of Real’s 5-0 Champions League semi-final aggregate victory over Guardiola’s Bayern in 2014, which included a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired 4-0 thrashing at the Allianz Arena.

However, Clement admits Andres Iniesta’s last-gasp goal, which sent Guardiola’s Barcelona through to the 2009 Champions League final at Chelsea’s expense, was one of the lowest points of his career.

“I was working as assistant to Guus Hiddink then and it was Pep’s first year as Barcelona manager,” Clement said.

“We’d drawn 0-0 in Barcelona and we went ahead in the home leg before Iniesta scored to take them to the final.

“That was very hard to take and they went on to beat Man United in the final.”

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