Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola insisted on Friday the arrival of exciting young Brazilian Gabriel Jesus does not mean the end of Sergio Aguero’s glittering career with the club.
Jesus, 19, has made an assured start to life in England since his £27 million ($33.6 million, 31.3 million euros) move from Palmeiras, scoring on his full league debut in Wednesday’s 4-0 win at West Ham United.
Aguero has started both of City’s last two games on the bench, leading to speculation he could soon prove surplus to requirements, but Guardiola believes the pair can play together.
“I understand the debate. But there is no doubt about the quality of Sergio,” he said. “I can say how happy I am with what he did, except the games when he was banned.
“The big clubs in Europe always have a lot of strikers and there has been at this club too: (Mario) Balotelli, (Carlos) Tevez, Sergio, (Edin) Dzeko all together.
“In the big clubs, you see (it) at Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus. At Madrid (Alvaro) Morata doesn’t play. Big clubs need a lot of strikers and we do.”
He added: “Sergio remains the most — or one of the most — important players in our squad. Without him it will not be possible.
“He’s played all the games except one in Barcelona for a tactical decision and one when he’d come back from Argentina.
“The other games when he was not banned he always played, and played good. But now we knew from the beginning we have a new player.
“In Brazil, Gabriel played on the left side. He likes to play on the left, with the movement in the diagonals, like he was doing in the last games.
“Both can play together because Gabriel is good in the box, he is a fighter. His backwards play is really good. That is why he can help us a lot.
“I love the players who make backwards moves and help the team and show me that desire to keep the ball, to attack again. I love that.”
– Bravo ‘understood’ demotion –
But if, as seems likely, Jesus becomes a permanent fixture in Guardiola’s plans, one of City’s senior stars — Aguero, David Silva, Leroy Sane or Kevin de Bruyne — is going to be disappointed.
Although Guardiola is keen to downplay the huge hype surrounding the Brazil international, he has clearly been impressed.
“He’s 19 years old, but he’s settled quickly,” Guardiola told reporters at the City Football Academy training base in east Manchester.
“He speaks enough English words to understand us. He’s taking lessons every single day. That means a lot for us. We want him to settle in the right way as quickly as possible.
“In the three games he’s played he’s shown a lot in terms of desire, helped us with high-pressing intensity, his movements in the box.
“Even when he comes in the middle to play, he has the ability to share the ball with his team-mates so we are happy with him. But there’s a lot to improve.”
Guardiola dropped under-fire goalkeeper Claudio Bravo at West Ham, with Willy Caballero stepping in, and said he had not decided which of the pair will start at home to Swansea City on Sunday.
“I just felt Willy should play,” said Guardiola. “But I still haven’t decided.
“I am happy because in the big clubs they always have good goalkeepers and I have it and I am going to decide. It depends on what I see.
“Goalkeepers are like all players. I am not a guy who plays the same XI all the time for two months. I think you realise that.
“Claudio understood. He is a huge professional. He is not a young guy. He has a lot of experience. I explained my feelings and he understood.
“He is strong enough. One of the biggest qualities of Claudio is his strong personality.”