Aguero vs Kane: Two very different journeys to the top.
It was the season’s standout striking performance. Harry Kane had a wonderful vantage point, too. He was sat in the padded seats at the Etihad Stadium, in the sunshine near the halfway line, when Sergio Aguerobecame the only player in the 2014-15 Premier League campaign to score four goals in a game. Aguero 4Tottenham 1.
Kane is Tottenham’s top scorer now. In October he was the midweek man, the Europa League expert, the Saturday and Sunday substitute. Forget Aguero, he ranked below Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor then. Or he did for Mauricio Pochettino, anyway.
Not now. Now, Kane and Aguero are going head-to-head. Not just on Sunday either. They are rivals for the Golden Boot, with the City man edging ahead courtesy of the goal Brad Guzan gift-wrapped for him on Saturday.
But if the World Cup finalist has the edge there, the former Leyton Orient loanee has already chalked up one triumph.
Kane has kept Aguero out of the side. Not an actual team, admittedly, but one constructed by their peers. When the PFA Team of the Year was named, Kane was in it. As usual, Aguero, who has never got the seal of approval from his fellow professionals, wasn’t. While the PFA do not disclose how others fared in the polls, the chances are that the City striker would have been on the imaginary bench.
Chalk it up to English football’s newest phenomena – Kanemania – or the power of momentum if you like, but the likeable local came from obscurity to out-perform a striking superstar in recent months.
It is worth remembering how improbable that was. When Aguero scored the most famous goal in City’s history to deliver the Premier League title in May 2012, Kane was just concluding a loan spell at Millwall. The Argentine was touted for greatness at such an early age that Atletico Madrid had paid €23 million for him before he turned 18. Kane’s only senior football at the same stage of his career had come for Leyton Orient.
Now hurricane Harry Kane has blown into discussions about the game’s great marksmen. Some of the suggestions he will follow Luka Modric and Gareth Bale on the increasingly well-trodden path from White Hart Lane to Real Madrid are light-hearted reflections on his seemingly inexorable, unstoppable rise. Yet the truth is that Tottenham have proved a selling club, albeit only when Daniel Levy can command the biggest of prices.
It is only natural that Kane’s achievements have attracted attention. He has become the first player to score 30 goals in a season for Tottenham since Gary Lineker. Bale, Adebayor, Jermain Defoe, Robbie Keane, Teddy Sheringham, even Jurgen Klinsmann: none of them managed such a feat.
Kane has already provided himself with a challenge: to ensure the extraordinary becomes ordinary, to prove a wonderful season is not a one-off, or, to put it another way, to show he is the equal of Aguero, a player whose class is evident every season.
Though not for the whole of every season. Aguero had barely joined City when a spate of stories from Spain suggested the former Atletico man could become Real’s next Galactico. There have been suggestions, too, that Barcelona wanted him.
And perhaps, were his calves, hamstrings and knees not so fragile, he might have joined the talent drain to Spain. Instead, since he scored 30 goals in 48 games in his debut campaign in England, his years have been interrupted. He has never had a Luis Suarez season: one that catapulted him to the Golden Boot, the Player of the Year award and the multi-million pound move to the Champions League favourites.
Instead, Aguero is the specialist at superb scoring spurts: 25 goals in 23 games last season were followed by injury and another 16 in 14 outings – including the quartet against Tottenham – have again been punctuated by a spell on the sidelines. He has only really regained his sharpness in a recent burst of four goals in three games, ending a 564-minute drought.
Aguero had scored nine league goals this season before Kane was given the chance to get his first. Now they are neck and neck, the player with pedigree and the one with potential.
Aguero is the sleeker and the speedier, the man whose laser-guided finishes arrow into the corners of the nets. Kane is the great enthusiast, the willing runner who seemingly can barely believe his own success. He is five years Aguero’s junior. His prospects have changed dramatically in the last six months.
But the Argentine has touched heights that appear out of reach even for a specialist at defying expectations such as Kane. He has scored the goal that won the Premier League, a hat-trick against Bayern Munich and he has performed well with remarkable regularity in the Manchester derby.
Aguero has been a smiling assassin on a major stage. He represents a role model to Kane, even as the spectator turned scorer looks to claim a famous scalp in the battle for the Golden Boot.