LONDON • Sergio Aguero, who will always be associated with a single gilded moment in Manchester City's history, is starting his long goodbye from the club with his position secured as one of the Premier League's all-time greats.
Fans in the blue half of Manchester are coming to terms with the impending departure of the 32-year-old striker after the runaway Premier League leaders on Monday announced his departure when his contract expires at the end of the season.
Aguero will leave after 10 trophy-laden years as the club's record scorer, with 257 goals in 384 games so far, including his unforgettable stoppage-time winner against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the 2011-12 season to give City their first English title in 44 years.
"When a cycle comes to an end, many sensations arise," the Argentinian tweeted.
"A huge sense of satisfaction and pride remains in me for having played with Manchester City for a whole 10 seasons - unusual for a professional player in this day and age."
City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak revealed a statue of Aguero has been commissioned to stand alongside those currently being made to honour his former teammates David Silva and Vincent Kompany at the Etihad.
"Sergio's contribution to Manchester City over the last 10 years cannot be overstated," said the Emirati. "His legend will be indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who loves the club and maybe even in those who simply love football."
Aguero has been a peripheral figure this campaign, making just 14 appearances and scoring three goals due to a combination of injuries and a positive Covid-19 test.
However, his swansong may turn out to be the most memorable, with the four-time Premier League winner looking certain to land his fifth title.
Not only are City 14 points clear of rivals and second-placed Manchester United (57) with eight games left but they are the only English club still challenging for an unprecedented quadruple.
His teammates, both past and present, believe Aguero is not past it and still has something to contribute.
181 Premier League goals Sergio Aguero has. He is the highest-scoring foreigner ever in England.
257 Goals for City. He is the club's all-time leading scorer.
4 League titles. He is poised to be City's most successful Premier League player if he wins his fifth this year.
Kevin de Bruyne hailed him as a "City legend forever" while Aymeric Laporte described him as a "class act" on and off the pitch.
When Silva left last summer on a free transfer, manager Pep Guardiola already had a ready-made replacement in Phil Foden, but that is not the case with Aguero with Brazil forward Gabriel Jesus yet to fully nail down a starting place.
Micah Richards feels his former club will now go all out and get a big-name player in the summer.
The former City defender said: "Unless you get (Kylian) Mbappe, (Erling) Haaland or (Harry) Kane, what striker are you going to get to replace him?"
Aguero's impending exit has triggered more rumours that the reigning League Cup winners intend to move for Borussia Dortmund hotshot Haaland, who is one of the most coveted players in world football and is 12 years younger.
According to German media, the Norway striker has a €75 million (S$118.6 million) release clause that will only come into effect next year but an inflated price tag is unlikely to deter City, football's first billion-dollar club.
Former City skipper Richard Dunne told Sky Sports Haaland has "the same mentality as Aguero" and "would fit in perfect".
As for Aguero, his career at the top is set to continue even as his England journey ends.
Barcelona are leading the chase - one of new president Joan Laporta's election promises was the capture of the former Atletico Madrid star - but Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Inter Milan have also been heavily linked.
Football Insider also said that captain Lionel Messi, who is out of contract in the summer, is ready to extend his deal should the pair, who are good friends, link up for the first time at club level.
City, for their part, hope to have thousands of fans back in their stadium as Covid-19 restrictions are eased - in time to say farewell to Aguero and give a fitting send-off to one of their greatest players.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS