There was always the sense among Manchester City fans they were witnessing the start of something special when Sergio Aguero scored his first goal for the club, eight minutes after joining the action in the 4-0 win over Swansea in 2011. Nevertheless, few could have imagined the six-year journey they were about to go on with the striker.
Then 23, Aguero was far from his prime. It seems uncouth to call him a raw talent at that time, since finishing from pretty much every position in City’s attacking third was no problem for him, and he slotted straight into the team, linking up with playmakers David Silva and Samir Nasri. That said, as good as he was, he was still to develop — and that progression is what supporters have enjoyed in the years that followed.
A snip by anybody’s standards at just £38 million, he had fans giddy within minutes of his debut, when he thumped the fourth and his second goal of that game past Michel Vorm in second half stoppage time.
In a half-hour cameo for Roberto Mancini’s team, Aguero had showcased close to everything he was going to do for City. He’d poached a goal from two yards out, provided a spectacular assist for Silva and scored a peach from 30 yards. In retrospect, it’s hardly surprising the fans were excited.
The third goal in City’s 4-2 victory at Napoli on Wednesday evening, 263 Aguero appearances later, saw the Argentinian become the club’s leading scorer of all time. Eric Brook, the previous record holder, scored 177 times in 499 appearances — Aguero’s hit 178 in almost half that time.
What a goal it was to take the honour, too. If scoring from the penalty spot in the 3-0 win over Burnley to level the record felt underwhelming, netting the goal that put Pep Guardiola’s side back in control at the Stadio San Paolo was anything but. Aguero finished a stellar breakaway with an expertly placed shot guided beautifully into the bottom corner from just inside the box.
He had an option to pass — Raheem Sterling, in fine scoring form this season, was clear to his right and clean through — but a flashback to the old, more selfish Aguero was always going to happen. Under Guardiola, he’s become the ultimate team player, willing to pass to teammates in a better position when he’d have previously had a pop.
But with that record in sight, nobody was going to stop him placing his effort just outside the reach of Pepe Reina on Wednesday. It was one of those that looks so pleasing to the eye as it lands perfectly where the back of the net meets the ground. It was a goal befitting of breaking a record and up there with some of the best Aguero has scored in the last six-and-a-bit seasons.
It’s remarkable he’s achieved it so quickly. With the striker’s injury record — he rarely completes a season without being sidelined for several weeks, sometimes months, with a fitness problem — he should have taken far longer. It’s a mark of the level he works at, setting him aside from any other centre-forward in world football at the moment.
His range of finishing is unlike any other player City fans have seen. He’s just as comfortable taking on a shot with his left or his right foot, his heading rarely lets him down and he can find pockets of space to be the perfect poacher in the box or he can lash an effort in from range.
He can read the game to be in the right place at the right time to finish off a move and he can pick up the ball with no support and surrounded by opponents, only to weave his way through the lot to stick it in the net.
He’s been called a “stat-padder” by his detractors, who accuse him of failing to show up in the big games. That couldn’t be further from the truth — he’s been on the scoresheet against 30 of the 31 sides he’s faced in the Premier League, only failing against Bolton before their relegation. Every other team has conceded to an Aguero strike.
His status as a City legend was already secure before he broke the club’s goals record. He had already been written into the history books as the man who won the title in stoppage time in 2012. That was 148 goals ago, as he struck in the 93rd minute of a 3-2 win over QPR to steal the Premier League crown from Manchester United on the final day of the season.
City fans should feel blessed they’ve been able to witness the best years of Aguero’s career. He’s undoubtedly of the quality to have played for any elite team and it’s at the Etihad where he became part of something special.
There’s never been a better Manchester City striker. Perhaps it’ll be generations before that record is broken again.
David Mooney is ESPN FC’s Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney