Sergio Aguero: Better than Tevez... and without the baggage
Aguero translates as "omen" in Spanish and as if the debut cameo by Manchester City's new Argentinian striker on Monday evening was not enough, there was an ominous declaration of intent from the player when the dust settled on his performance yesterday.
"This is a chance for me to change the league," he said. "I know it is a competitive league but we are here to win it in the end."
It doesn't take long for the weight of expectation on new City players to quell any impulse to talk about titles, but Sergio Aguero has never seemed overly burdened. The comparisons with Carlos Tevez will inevitably come thick and fast in the weeks ahead – the two bull-like strikers grew up less than 20 miles apart in the Vila Itati neighbourhood of Buenos Aires – but while Tevez has been unable to lay his hat anywhere for long in England, Aguero has lived the life of a free spirit ever since he left his country as an 18-year-old.
The tattoo of his nickname, "Kun", which he wears on the inside of his right arm, is inscribed in tengwar, a script created by J R R Tolkien and used by the elves in his books. The Aguero humour is elfish too. The soft Argentinian accent is almost imperceptible but there was a glint in his eye last year when he was asked what he would be if not a footballer. "A footballer's wife," he replied.
City dedicate long hours to try to understand the psyche of their transfer targets – their 50-page dossier on David Silva even included details on his Valencia home, so they could find him something similar in Manchester – and the club's Spanish scout Rob Newman could tell his bosses with certainty that Aguero would not arrive with the same baggage as Tevez.
The reasons are not complex. The science of scouting attaches great significance to the parental forces in the lives of new recruits. While there is no evidence anywhere in the Tevez story of an encouraging paternal presence, the latest City striker's escape from Vila Itati owes much to Leonel, the father who drove taxis in the neighbourhood to make ends meet while trying to break into the game and then coached one of his son's first youth teams.
It was not an entirely straightforward progression to Europe when Aguero's extraordinary success for Independiente brought him a move to Atletico Madrid at the age of only 18, five years ago. In his first year in Spain, there was too much meat and fizzy drinks and not enough sleep. His game suffered. But it was the extended Aguero family entourage – seven siblings and the parents, who would decamp to Madrid for three months at a time – which made the crucial difference. The same will happen in Manchester.
Another significant part of the story has been Giannina Maradona, his redoubtable wife, who is the daughter of Diego Maradona and a stabilising presence from the moment she and Aguero first braved the fans and paparazzi at the Vicente Calderon. It took them 15 minutes to walk the 100 metres from stadium to car. "His wife, Giannina, has helped him a lot," said the Real Zaragoza manager, Javier Aguierre, who was Aguero's first coach in Europe. "If she is with him in Manchester – as I believe she will be – then he will have no problems adapting. He is from a lovely family and his brothers and sisters are charming, too."
The relief is already palpable around City at the arrival of a player with a stable background and a smile on his face. We can expect a circus in the weeks to come, with father-in-law likely to be in attendance. "He talks a lot and for sure he will have seen my second goal," Aguero admitted yesterday. "I think he will call me in a couple of minutes to congratulate me and I think he will come to watch me when he has some time [and has completed] his [current] work in Dubai." But City will take Maradona over the familiar, doleful tale of Tevez and Vanesa Mansilla – the mother of his two daughters, whose love of a simple, latinate life is said to be behind her reasons for staying in Buenos Aires with them.
The differences extend further. Aguero, who can lead the line or operate behind the striker in the trequartista role which has fascinated the City manager, Roberto Mancini, ever since he wrote a research paper on the subject during his first job at Fiorentina, is generally brighter than Tevez – sharper and more adaptable. He has scored marginally more league goals than him in the past four years – 70, including Monday night's pair – and it is his pace which has led three European coaches before Mancini to compare him to Romario. Aguero told El Pais in 2009 that he was born to gambetear (dribble). "It's dribbling that gives me my life."
The younger man also brings the greater experience in Europe – 16 goals in 34 appearances in European competition against Tevez's six in 33 – though it is in the work-rate department that the 23-year-old cannot hold a candle to his compatriot, four years his senior. Tevez directly contributed to 43 per cent of Manchester City's 60 goals last season, while Aguero scored or assisted in 35 per cent of Atletico's 62 goals in La Liga, and statistics don't tell the half of it. Aguero's biggest weakness is a head that can drop – not a characteristic that Mancini would welcome, especially if the Argentine is playing behind Mario Balotelli.
The prospect of Mancini having these two Argentines to call on is an unexpected one if Tevez, as seems increasingly likely, fails to find an escape route from Manchester. The pair will have plenty to chew over on away trips in Europe. Both are passionate about Argentina's cumbia music genre, for instance. Aguero was the lead singer for Los Leales in their recording of a song in his name while Tevez has performed with the Pialo Vago group. But Aguero was signed in the expectation that Tevez would be leaving and their similar games suggest that they will rarely feature in the same starting XI.
Aguero has already articulated his views on the Premier League in a way that Tevez has not. "Players in England are bigger," he said in an interview last year. "In Argentina, you dribbled and you got away; in Europe, the defenders are beasts. You beat one and there's another on top of you. If I get hit, what am I going to say? If they hit you, you take it. If I score goals in the air it's because I've got a hard head and I don't mind getting in there."
He has been as good as his word, adding yesterday that "if Roberto wants me to play with [Edin] Dzeko I will do it. If it is another player or with Carlos I will do it. I will just do my best." All of which suggests Tevez might even find himself with a serious challenger for his starting position. Mildly ominous for him, but seriously so for the rest of the Premier League.
Start of something special: How other foreign stars performed on their debuts
Eric Cantona Arguably the most important foreign import in the history of English football had a low-key debut. On 8 February 1992 Cantona came on for Steve Hodge as Leeds United lost 2-0 at Oldham.
Jürgen Klinsmann The German international headed in a Darren Anderton cross at Hillsborough on 20 August 1994. Tottenham beat Sheffield Wednesday 4-3, and Klinsmann celebrated his goal with what became his trademark dive.
Dennis Bergkamp A quiet start to his Arsenal career: he failed to score in the 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough on 20 August 1995, and had to wait seven games before scoring twice, excellently, against Southampton.
Fabrizio Ravanelli Perhaps the most exciting debut by an import, Ravanelli marked his arrival from Juventus with a hat-trick in Middlesbrough's 3-3 home draw with Liverpool in August 1996.
Thierry Henry Arsenal's all-time top scorer started slowly, coming on at half-time for Freddie Ljungberg on 7 August 1999, in a match in which Arsenal needed a last-minute Frank Sinclair own-goal to overcome Leicester City 2-1.
Mido Debuts can be deceptive, however. Mido, on loan from Roma, scored twice in Tottenham's 3-1 defeat of Portsmouth on 5 February 2005. The rest of his time in England was not quite so good.
Nickname is child's play
Sergio Aguero is one of the few Premier League footballers allowed to wear a nickname on his shirt. He has "Kun Aguero", "Kun" being a childhood nickname due to his resemblance to Kum Kum, the lead character in 'The Adventures of Kum Kum', a cartoon series from the late 1970s, made by Japanese studio Sunrise, Inc.