Guardiola: Man City cannot afford to bring in a replacement for Aguero

AFP

Pep Guardiola says Manchester City may not be able to afford a replacement for striker Sergio Aguero.

City confirmed on Monday their all-time leading goalscorer will bring down the curtain on a trophy-laden decade-long spell at the Etihad Stadium when his contract expires in June.

Aguero has won four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and five EFL Cups, a tally he can add to before departing as City are on course for a quadruple this season, including a first Champions League triumph.

City have been tipped to spend big on a new striker at the end of the season, with Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane rumoured to be on their radar.

However, Guardiola insists the Premier League leaders are not in a position to complete such a signing due to the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

"With these prices we are not going to buy any striker. It is impossible, we cannot afford it," the Catalan coach said during a news conference on Friday. 

"All clubs struggle financially, we are not an exception. We have Gabriel [Jesus], Ferran [Torres], young academy players, false nines. I don't know what will happen. 

"Today there is more of a big chance we won't sign a new striker for next season."

Aguero has scored 257 goals in 384 appearances for City since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2011, seeing him surpass Eric Brook as the club's all-time record goalscorer.

Guardiola accepts the Argentina international will be a huge loss but is confident he already has the personnel to help fill the void.

"We know how important he is in the present and past. These decisions are never easy," Guardiola said.

"I want to be clear: Maybe we'll find a new player to replace Sergio. In terms of numbers he might be replaced, but in terms of what he means to the club it is impossible.

"We have enough players in the first team, interesting players in the academy. But with the economy the way it is we're not going to sign a new striker this summer."

Aguero is in contention to start Saturday's clash with third-placed Leicester City, who have in-form ex-Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho leading their line.

Iheanacho spent one season playing under Guardiola before joining Leicester in August 2017 and has scored 15 goals in 87 Premier League appearances for the Foxes.

That does not tell the whole story, however, as the Nigeria international has scored five goals in his last three league games, making this his best goalscoring season since his maiden campaign with Manchester City.

Guardiola has been impressed by Iheanacho's recent form, which also includes two goals against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals two weeks ago, and expects a tough match against Brendan Rodgers' high-flying side.

"He's been incredible. The quality was always there as a young player," Guardiola said. "We had Gabriel and Sergio so there we not much space in the squad. 

"He's a fantastic person. We had a good relationship together. I'm delighted he's playing well. He links well with others, he is fast and is also very clear in front of goal."

He added: "I have to admit, since Brendan took over they've been incredible. I remember he took over and after a week, 10 days, wow, he changed them completely from the previous manager. 

"They had an incredible chance to qualifying for the Champions League last season, didn't do it, but they are there again this season. The last 5-10 years they have worked really well on scouting and are a contender every season. 

"They have a top manager, top players. It is a big challenge for us tomorrow."

Guardiola is still unsure on the availability of up to eight of his international players for Saturday's match due to coronavirus restrictions delaying their return to training.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has heavily rotated his side between games of late and intends to continue doing so, with a Champions League quarter-final tie against Borussia Dortmund to come on Tuesday.

"We rotate well because we work well when we do that," he said. "When I rotate and we lose you tell me it's disastrous - why rotate? In the modern day, no player can sustain mentally or physically playing every three days. 

"Tomorrow I'll select a team to win that game. I'm sure Man United and Leicester can win a lot of games. Everything in football can happen. 

"We need four victories to be champions and tomorrow is our first chance to win another game. Then when on the coach after the game I'll think about Dortmund."

The leaders have alternated between defeat (two) and victory (two) in their last four Premier League away games against Leicester, winning this fixture 1-0 last season.

Guardiola's side were beaten 5-2 in September's reverse match and Leicester are looking to complete their first league double over Manchester City since the 1986-87 season.


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