ATLETICO MADRID (SPA); ARGENTINA
When Sergio Aguero joined Atletico Madrid from Independiente
in the summer of 2006, the rojiblancos proudly boasted how
they had beaten off the challenge from Liverpool, Bayern
Munich and a host of other European clubs to get him. But
£17million still seemed a lot of money to pay for a kid who
had just turned 18, even if he had been the youngest player to
appear in the Argentinian League and even if he had been
declared yet another new Maradona.
A year later, the outlay looked even more excessive. Yes,
there had been the odd glimpse of Aguero?s talent, but the
youngster had not lived up to his billing.
There were persistent rumours that he was enjoying the
high life, while coach Javier Aguirre seemed unconvinced by
him. Although Aguero played in every single league game, he
started over a third of them on the bench, and when he did
play there was class but not enough to suggest he was going
to be the star of the side. Just six goals, compared to 18 for
Independiente the season before, told their own story.
But this season Aguero is different. Fresh from the Under-20
World Cup, when he was named player of the tournament and
was top scorer as Argentina won the trophy, he appears more
mature, more focused, more settled and no longer in the
shadow of club icon Fernando Torres, now with Liverpool.
Aguero, played alongside new signing Diego Forlan and
given the freedom of a central role rather than being shackled to
the wings as last season, has been one of La Liga?s outstanding
performers in the early weeks. He hit five goals in the first six
games and has been the creative fulcrum of a side that could
at long last claim a Champions League place. The talent was
always there, but now there is the temperament, too.