Barcelona have signed Sergio Aguero on a free transfer in a deal they believe will help tempt his friend Lionel Messi to perform a U-turn and extend his contract.
With manager Ronald Koeman’s future in doubt, Barcelona are trying to address the frustrations that prompted Messi to seek a transfer last summer and so far refuse a new deal.
Aguero will be joining up with Messi, his Argentina team-mate, this week for the Copa America and flew directly from Porto to complete his Barcelona medical following Manchester City’s Champions League defeat against Chelsea.
It was Aguero’s last match at Manchester City following 260 goals and five Premier League titles in 10 years at the club. Aguero has signed a two year contract at Barcelona, which includes a buyout clause of 100 million euros (£86 million).
City defender Eric Garcia is also expected to imminently join Barcelona on a free transfer. Garcia, 20, was an unused substitute in the Champions League final and had informed City at the start of the season of his intention to leave. “I think it’s a brave decision – I am very convinced of the step I have taken,” said Garcia. Barcelona are also hoping to add Liverpool midfielder Giorgio Wijnaldum and Real Betis right back Emerson in the coming days.
Although Barcelona are facing serious financial pressures, and were among those clubs signed up to a breakaway Super League, there is a belief that Messi can be swayed by the sight of new signings and the prospect of on-field success. Luis Suarez was sold last summer for just £5.2 million and his goals were critical in Atletico Madrid’s La Liga triumph ahead of both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
“There will be a new contract for Messi but it is not done yet,” said Barcelona president Joan Laporta. “Leo could make more elsewhere, but his desire is to make Barça great. I am sure that he appreciates the effort we are making, and I think that he is excited and motivated by the project we are building.
“For Leo, it is not about money, it is about the team and its chances of winning. Leo, above all, wants to feel comfortable, to feel appreciated. And then to win.”
Barca will clearly be hoping that Aguero’s form in his first season back in La Liga since he left Atletico Madrid for the Etihad 10 years ago will justify such a valuation.
Indeed, given Barcelona’s well-publicised and on-going financial problems, the cynical view might be that a brilliant season from Aguero would guarantee his sale should suitors be willing to pay such a gaudy figure for a player who turns 33 on Wednesday.
It offers the intriguing prospect of potential goals, in abundance, for a Barca team that finished third in the league and exited the Champions League in the last 16 this season.
With Messi and Antoine Griezmann, Aguero looks poised to form a potent front three – Messi having scored 38 goals and the Frenchman 20 for Barca last season. French international Ousmane Dembele also figures in the rotation, assuming he is not sold this summer in a bid to raise funds.
Aguero’s final 15 months in Manchester were undermined by a bad knee injury, which required surgery, and battles against Covid-19, factors which led to City manager Pep Guardiola deciding not to offer him another contract despite the player apparently wanting to stay at the Etihad.
The striker’s position as the club’s all-time leading scorer, with 260 in all competitions, and the player with the most goals for one club in Premier League history, with 184, speak for themselves.
But, arguably, the most impressive statistic from Aguero’s decade in the Premier League was his minutes to goals ratio, with the City man scoring one goal for every 108 minutes he played – way ahead of Thierry Henry and Harry Kane who occupy second place on that list with 122 minutes per goal.
Even in a largely unproductive final season with City, Aguero only needed 558 minutes of league football to score four times – a highly-respectable goal every 140 minutes, or, a little under two goals in every three games – including two goals in a 25-minute substitute appearance against Everton in his farewell outing.
Barca are clearly banking on being able to help Aguero reach full fitness, and match sharpness, before the start of next season and rediscover that sort of lethal form.
If Messi and Griezmann, who has been linked with interest from PSG in his homeland, are salivating at the prospect of having a traditional number nine alongside them in Barca’s front three next season, the fact may not be lost on City supporters that it was Guardiola’s preference for playing without such a player that contributed to their downfall in the Champions League Final.