LONDON • Sergio Aguero's next goal will be his 200th for Manchester City, but it is the striker's willingness to do much more than just score that has won the confidence of his manager Pep Guardiola.
The Spaniard embraced Aguero in a bear hug as he left the pitch having ran himself into the ground against Chelsea in Sunday's 1-0 win, which edged City to within four wins of the Premier League title.
It was the first time in eight home games the Argentinian had failed to find the net, but that mattered little to Guardiola, who is now seeing the all-round game from Aguero he demands of his strikers.
"Not just scoring goals, he doesn't lose one ball," said Guardiola, preparing his team for today's visit of Basel in the Champions League last 16. "He makes a movement for runs in behind, he is the first to make a high press, to help that second line be more comfortable with the ball."
Those words contrast sharply with a reportedly frosty relationship between the manager and his star striker during Guardiola's trophyless first season with City.
Aguero, 29, still scored 33 goals in all competitions, more than he ever had for City in a single season, but often found himself on the sidelines in the second half of the season as Guardiola instead opted for Gabriel Jesus.
IDEAL TEAM PLAYER
Not just scoring goals, he doesn't lose one ball, he makes a movement for runs in behind, he is the first to make a high press, to help that second line be more comfortable with the ball.
PEP GUARDIOLA, Man City manager, on Sergio Aguero's assets to the team.
PEP'S THE BEST
I've had a lot of coaches and they all had different thoughts and obviously differing tactics. The truth is yes (he's the best).
AGUERO, returning the compliment.
"In the first year at times we didn't adapt," Aguero admitted to Spanish radio station Cadena SER.
"But this year, with all we have learnt from last year, I think we have learnt what he wants - how to play out from the back, the movements, so it makes it much easier on the pitch."
The striker's game time has also been aided by injury to Jesus. The Brazilian suffered medial ligament damage to his left knee on Jan 31 and returned with three short cameos off the bench only in the past week.
During Jesus' two-month layoff, Aguero doubled his tally for the season to move onto 30 goals and re-establish himself as City's No. 1 striker. He has since backed Guardiola as the best coach he has had.
"I've had a lot of coaches and they all had different thoughts and obviously differing tactics. The truth is yes (he's the best)," said Aguero.
Yet, for all his goals and all he has achieved since arriving in Manchester in 2011, Aguero is still to taste Champions League glory.
City, with the League Cup in the bag and the Premier League virtually sewn up, have certainly never been as well-equipped to do so in Aguero's time at the club.
Guardiola's team look assured of progressing to the quarter-finals at the Etihad, with the luxury of a 4-0 advantage over their Swiss opponents in the first leg.
"If we keep going like this, we have a very good chance," added Aguero. "The club has invested a lot of money to win the Champions League, so hopefully it is our year."
MAN CITY V BASEL
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