The lovable Manchester City sharp-shooter chats with FourFourTwo's Andrew Murray. On the agenda; scoring goals, hanging with Liam Gallagher, and running a digital farm...
People say that you’re something of a magician on the pitch…
[Interrupting] Yeah, right. I wish! [FFT: Well that’s what some say, what’s your favourite trick?] Ah, come on, I don’t really have a trick, do I? My characteristics are always to look for one-on-ones with a defender, to defy them and to see what happens next. I’m someone who likes to dribble, and I guess those instincts have worked out pretty well for me. It’s got nothing to do with me, really, more that my coaches have always asked me to express myself.
Do you know any magic tricks?
Nah, not really. I’ve seen a few on television or at shows, but I’ve got no bloody idea how to do a magic track. Although, I have done a couple on my son to make him think I’ve got magical powers, but to ‘big people’ [mimes a massive guy with huge shoulders], no chance! If I can be a magician to my son, I’ll take that!
A lot of people have compared you to Luis Suarez...
First and foremost, he’s a goalscorer, who I think is a different type of player on the pitch to me. I see him more as a No.9, even if he didn’t always play as a centre-forward at Ajax and has developed into that role now. He always seems to score. I’ve played more off another striker in my career up until this season, where I’ve tried to play further forward and get more goals. And that seems to be working. Of course, he likes to dribble too, so there is that similarity between us, but our starting positions is where the distinction lies.
Some people even described you as the Messi and Ronaldo of the Premier League...
[Incandescent] What me?! [FFT: Well, you and he, the two leading lights…] I’d…. say…. Instead of Messi or Ronaldo…. two Messis! We’re both Messi. I mean, I have to be him because I’m Argentine, but he’s also South American and loves a dribble so why can’t we both be? Does that answer your question? Probably not!
Yaya Toure is a monster of a man. What’s the biggest thing you’ve ever seen him eat?
[Laughs] Well, he’s certainly a big lad, but I’ve only ever seen him eat a slightly bigger than normal plate of food. I mean, he does attack that plate, but it’s only to give his body the fuel it needs! He’s a great player with an incredible physique. Usually when a player’s that tall, they’re also pretty skinny, but he’s so strong, too - he dominates the play like few other midfielders. Put it this way, I’m glad I only have to train against him!
You seem to be having fun in this interview, just like in the photoshoot. Are you always smiling?
Yeah, I’d say so. That’s just always been me. When I was at school, my teachers used to say: ‘Okay, okay, Sergio. That’s enough now, let’s be serious for a minute,’ but I’d keep on laughing and enjoying myself just the same. I don’t know, I just like f***ing around a bit and being a joker. On the pitch, I’m not smiling in every minute, but I like enjoying myself because that brings out the best in me.
Maybe a little laugh after a cheeky nutmeg…?
Yeah, why not!? I do stuff in any game to have a laugh. I remember in one game last season against Newcastle I was stood next to Jonas Gutierrez. I didn’t even tell this story to the author of my book, so you’re going to love this! I’d only just come back from a small knee injury and came on for the last 20 minutes or so. We won a corner and Jonas was marking me. Silva was walking over to take the corner and went like this [motions international football sign language for ‘come short’] to me. I turned around to Jonas, a team-mate for years with Argentina, and said: ‘Hey, mate. How’s it going?’ He goes: ‘Oh, yeah, Kun, you know me. The same as ever. How’s the injury?’ ‘Yeah, not bad, thanks. Oh, someone’s calling you over there.’ As he turned to look, I sped over to David to take the short corner! Nothing came of it and we won another corner, so I went back into the box. ‘You f***ing son of a bitch!’ he screamed at me. ‘I’ll bloody kill you if you try that again.’ We had a good laugh about it at the end of the game. I think that’s the most important thing. Have fun, always. Watch out, defenders, with Aguero anything can happen.
You shoot and you score. Do you see yourself as a gunslinger, a marksman on the pitch?
Oh, come on, mate, you saw me earlier [during the photoshoot]. I’m a gunslinger alright! This season has definitely been my best in front of goal. Why? It’s difficult to say. I think I’ve shot earlier than I used to and my confidence is up. This is my best season, in pure goalscoring terms, but also in my general play. I’d also say that the number of goals I’m getting is massively down to my team-mates, too. With [David] Silva, [Samir] Nasri, [Jesus] Navas and Yaya we’ve got a great midfield going forward.
It’s said the only way to stop you is with a revolver…
[Laughs] Who said that? I’ll find them! Look, people kick me, defenders are often up for a fight, but you get used to it and focus on not losing the ball to them to make them more angry. Here in the Premier League, defenders are pretty strong and physical, it’s not easy, but when you’re confident everything falls into place.
So are you looking for space?
Yes, it’s important to find space, especially in the box when you’re trying to shoot. To be honest, I find it most useful to look for space in the first 10 minutes of games because that’s how you work out how the opposition feels most comfortable to defend. If you don’t get a goal in those opening exchanges, it’s no problem, you already then understand how a team prefers to defend and you can adapt your game to find the space you need. If things get congested in the middle of the pitch, I’ll look to go out towards the wings or drop deeper and get on the ball a bit more. It all depends on the game. Some teams are very open and they let you play a lot more. Against them, things are much easier. Ultimately, you have to be clever about what you’re doing.
Is Manchester now 'Blue'?
From the time that I’ve been here, I’d say the city is now more Sky Blue than before! Obviously, there’s still a game to go this season to turn the whole sky our colours! For us, the three points are fundamental for the title race. For the fans, these games are about a little bit more. A lot of people, I’d say 80-90 per cent, would be ok with us finishing fourth if we beat United. As players, we want to win the league, and won’t stop fighting until that’s done, but for some fans the first thing they think about it are the games against United. Derbies are always fantastic occasions for all involved.
The last time we spoke, Pellegrini had only been at City for a few weeks. How has he improved the team?
Manuel obviously likes us to enjoy lots of possession and to dominate. We’re just trying to do that. He’s a very demanding coach who never lets us relax for a second. For us, as players, that’s very important because I think [in 2012/13] we weren’t at the level of the previous year when we won the league. We were allowed to relax. Pellegrini is constantly on it, every single day. That’s great for us.
He told us he wanted to show a level of calm, but you’re saying he’s more intense…
They’re both different, like any coach. They all have their own ways of playing, their own tactics and training. You have to respect each scheme they bring. Manuel came in and to begin with, maybe we struggled to adapt to what he wanted us to do, but as time goes on you adapt and the road becomes easier. The squad now knows each other very well and we’re in a very good place.
There’s been a lot of talk of mind games this year. How do you feel when Mourinho comes out in the press against your manager?
Nada, what we try to do is not to listen to what he says. I think Manuel’s the same. For me, personally, I don’t care what [Mourinho] says, I prefer to concentrate on the next game. I care if we win or lose, not what someone is talking about. I don’t give much importance to what he says.
Is it the same with Arsene Wenger, who says City are guilty of financial doping?
Financial doping? I’ve got no idea how much is spent on players or whatever, that’s something for the club. Look, day-by-day everyone has their opinions and criticisms of certain things. You’ve got to respect what they say, but for me, nah, I’m no financial expert. Football’s played on the pitch, nowhere else. As a club you look to improve the team, that makes the fans happy and hopefully you win title along the way. That’s it.
Describe your childhood in los Eucaliptos...
[Joking, with the slight lisp that softens every ‘c’ making his tone less accusatory] What do you want me to describe? Describe how I used run around the estate when shots were being fired everywhere? Look, there’s no doubting it’s a complicated neighbourhood with a lot of history, which is something that you get across Argentina, but the people that live there are very humble. They work hard. The only thoughts I had when I was a kid was going outside to kick a ball around with my mates. Literally right outside my house was a little, dusty football pitch. I remember there was a little hut on one side that was in line with one of the goals and I used to practise curling the ball from there and into the goal. It was a beautiful time for me, playing football all the time with my friends and los Eucaliptos is a fundamental part of what’s inside me and has brought me to this point. [FFT: You’re stronger.] Exactly, I’ve learned how to fight. Essentially, our family had nothing, but thanks to God, I’ve been able to use football to improve things for my loved ones.
So, who did you imagine yourself as in those games?
[Pauses, thinking] Well, the truth is that these days people talk about me as if I’m some kind of Hulk figure, but I don’t really see myself like that. I always just liked watching good football, I don’t know if I had a specific hero who I thought: ‘wow, he’s incredible.’ Maybe I’d say, not a hero, but someone I loved watching was Enzo Francescoli, who was played for River Plate at the time. He struck me as a guy from the barrio, who knew what football meant to people.
It’s interesting you say that, because Suarez said the same thing…
Oh really? Well, look at that. Maybe that’s why I said the two Messis! I remember once running down a passageway by my house and one of my neighbours was listening to the radio commentary of a River game. They’d just won a free-kick and Francescoli was about to take it. I stopped dead, because that meant it was already half a goal. He took it: goal. I went straight to the pitch and recreated that free-kick from my imagination with my mates. They must have thought I was crazy!
You made your debut for Independiente at just 15. What do you remember from that game?
Not much! I was very young, but I remember sitting on the bench hoping I’d get to come on. It was crazy because I wasn’t prepared for proper football, the only thing I was thinking about at the time was playing for my age group. Independiente is the team where everything started for me and where it will all finish, too. I definitely see myself retiring there. I was only in the first team for a little while, after coming up through the youth teams, and it's somewhere I want to return to win trophies for the fans.
Is it true you offered to buy five new players for the club?
Not exactly. I think a few journalists got some crossed wires there. All I said at the time was that I was there to help the club if they ever needed it. The club were talking about bringing in reinforcements and then all of a sudden I was said to be calling players saying 'do you want to play for Independiente?' Even my dad was asking me about the players I was bringing in!
What’s Manchester like, as a city?
I really like it. There are some that say they don’t, but I do. It’s very calm, the sort of city where you can do things that in other places you wouldn’t be able to do. You can go out for a meal, have a stroll around the city centre or a round of golf without any problem at all - the people are very respectful. Personally, like a lot of ‘famous’ people, I want to live in tranquil setting and live a normal life. People talk about the weather, but I’ve never been the sort of guy who likes to live in ridiculous heat: 28ºC is about as much as I can deal with. That sort of sun is unbearable! I’ve preferred the cold, and the rain helps me sleep. When I’m in bed and can hear the rain pounding on the roof or window, the noise helps me drift off to sleep. I love the Manchester rain!
So, how’s the golf?
It’s been ages since I last played, but it was going really well. I need to get back into playing it, but I’m not going to lose my technique, I’m too good for that! It was tough to learn the basics in the beginning, but the more I’ve played, the better I’ve become. I really enjoy it. I love playing pretty much any sport. I’ve played a bit of tennis, too, but it’s been nine months since I last picked up a racket. When I’ve got a day off after a game, which isn’t always possible with so much football, I love trying out new things.
Do you know the music of the city?
Yeah Oasis, the Stone Roses, the Beatles. I know they’re from Liverpool, but I don’t discriminate. I listen to music from the whole of England. I’ve met Liam [Gallagher] a couple times, actually. He’s the singer, right? I mean, they’re brothers so it’s a bit difficult to tell them apart.
How do you see Kompany as a captain? He strikes us as someone who could go into politics in the future…
He has got the look of a politician about him, hasn’t he?! He’s a great leader, he talks a lot which is very important. As a defender, I don’t see anyone better in the world. I mean, there are a lot of good players out there, but here at City I would swap him for anyone. We want to keep growing on the world stage and Kompany is a strong player, who is very difficult to go past because he’s also so quick. He’s a reference for the team. Well, maybe not like me, but… Ah I’m joking [dissolves into fits of laughter]
As we can see, you’re a guy who likes his clothes…
[Interrupting…] What me? Well, I like my threads, yeah! That’s all thanks to Puma. Am I the best-dressed? Well, look at me! As for the worst dressed… Oof, that’s hard. Ah, Pantilimon! He wears bloody pyjama bottoms to training! They’re so big and baggy they’re blowing around in the wind. It’s crazy. [Howls of laughter]
What are the three personal items you’re never without?
[His agent, immediately: ‘Hair gel, you’ve never seen anyone spend so much time in front of the mirror’] Ah, but come on, I can’t go onto the pitch looking awful, can I! Something would be missing, and then my team-mates would suffer! What else? Oh, my iPad, I love that thing, and maybe a bit of music, but not so much anymore.
What’s your favourite app?
Got to be Hay Day. [Not down with the kids, FFT has no idea what that is] What? Seriously? Get that downloaded, man, it’s amazing! It’s a farming game, you reap you crops. Wheat, tomatoes, pumpkin. You buy machines to get milk out of your cows and can then make cheese, butter and things like that. It’s a game for the countryside. It’s great fun.
You’ve said before that Messi is your partner when playing FIFA with the national team. Is that true?
It’s been ages since we last played together, but yes. Before we used to play against each other. Who’s the better player? Who do you think? He is of course, like everything else! As I say, it’s been ages since we played against each other and I’ve been practising, so now I’d kill him! Before, he always used to beat me, so that’s why we went together as a pair. That was on Pro Evo 5, or something, so times are different now!
You’ve spent a long time playing with Messi. What’s it like?
He’s spectacular and just makes football so much easier. To play along the best player in the world is a privilege. He resolves problems on the pitch like few others can even think about, so he can big a big part of winning the World Cup. When they see Leo and me run out of the tunnel, and I’m all beautiful and perfectly made up, they’ll fear us because they’ll all still be ugly! Seriously, though, Argentina are a team that any team will respect because of the history we have as a top nation, but I think this year even more so because of sheer quantity of players playing at the top world level. We’re top, top. I don’t any team would like to face us.
Finally, describe yourself in three words.
Three words? Oof. Fun. Happy. [FFT: Come on, they’re pretty much the same thing!] [Aguero smiles, as if caught out being naughty] Yeah, but I’ve got to make sure you’re concentrating! Okay… Fun, calm and a happy father of spectacular son.
[Shake hands] It’s been a pleasure. Hey you’ve got a bit of a Beatles haircut, now I think about it!
This interview was originally published in the May 2014 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe.