LONDON • For Pep Guardiola, Sergio Aguero is the gift that keeps on giving.
Along with the mercurial Spanish playmaker David Silva, the Argentina striker is considered to be one of Manchester City's greatest signings since the 2008 takeover by their Abu Dhabi owners.
After plundering his 12th Premier League hat-trick and 177th goal since his 2011 transfer from Atletico Madrid, Guardiola asserted his belief his striker will "die scoring goals".
City routed Aston Villa 6-1 away on Sunday night to move up to second, 14 points behind leaders Liverpool. Riyad Mahrez nabbed a double, with Gabriel Jesus adding one, but it was all about Aguero.
He not only broke Alan Shearer's record for the most trebles, but also passed Arsenal great Thierry Henry as the highest non-English scorer in the Premier League era. Guardiola was honoured to witness the 31-year-old make history at Villa Park.
The City boss said: "I just want to congratulate him. To achieve this record from incredible legends shows that it is not just for a short period (that he has been scoring), not just one or two seasons.
"It was an honour to be here on the day he achieved that. To be the foreign player with the most goals and hat-tricks speaks for itself.
"There are players through the incredible history of English football and he is one of them, he helps to make the Premier League and English football better."
Asked where Aguero ranks in the list of forwards he has worked with, Guardiola claimed only one could definitely be classed above him.
"The best is (Lionel) Messi," said the Spaniard, before batting away a follow-up question on whether Aguero is the best out-and-out striker.
"Messi is (the best) No. 9, No. 10, No. 11, No. 12, No. 6, No. 5, No. 4, whatever," he said of the Barcelona star. "But of the rest, (he) is absolutely one of the best."
Aguero has frequently said he wants to return home to finish his career after his contract at City expires after next season, but Guardiola insisted the club was keen to retain him if he changes his mind.
In the meantime, the City manager feels he is as deadly as ever in front of goal as the "gift when the ball's at his feet" is not something that goes away.
While Guardiola admitted the title race was finished, City still have other competitions to fight for this season and Aguero will be key to their chances of silverware.
"Chasing down Liverpool? Forget about it," Guardiola said. "We would have liked to fight against them, but we could not.
"We go to sleep, finally after a long time, second in the table and we are close to qualifying for the Champions League next season."
Aguero is also eager to continue making telling contributions to City's pursuit of trophies, tweeting it was "truly moving to reach new milestones".
He can surpass Frank Lampard and claim sole ownership of fourth on the all-time Premier League scoring charts when City host Crystal Palace on Saturday.
However, Aguero joked that despite his prolific scoring rate, Shearer was "too far (ahead)".
The Newcastle great is the top flight's leading scorer with 260 goals, while former Manchester United duo Wayne Rooney (208) and Andy Cole (187) are second and third.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN