We all remember it. We’ve all been back to watch it numerous times. We all recall when Mario Balotelli rolled the ball into the path of Sergio Aguero and the Argentine fired beyond Paddy Kenny in the final minutes of the season and secured Manchester City’s first Premier League title.
Since that halloween stench is still lingering, let’s horrify the locals and take that magical moment away when we play another game of ‘What If…?’
Oh, but this is sinister. ‘Cos I’m not just taking away that moment. I’m taking the entirity of Sergio Aguero away from the Premier League.
The fourth highest goalscorer in the history of the league is gone and now we have two ways of looking at it.
We can despair over lost moments and look at Manchester City without replacing Aguero’s impact as they surely would have, but more on that later.
That first season he arrived was the magical year of The Citizen’s first title, and Aguero scored 23 times along the way. Taking that away, they drop to having scored just 70 goals (third overall, instead of first) with a goal difference of only +41 (second overall, instead of first), but it’s where Aguero scored that the most impact is. We know the title is taken away because there are no final day heroics, so that’s two points lost there, but with no Aguero goals, City would have dropped a further… Five points. So seven in total. I really thought that would have been worse. I mean, they still don’t win the title, but they’re comfortably in second place. I mean, I didn’t take his assists off so I guess that’d be another couple of points, but it’s just his first season.
What about their other title-winning seasons?
They won in 2013/14 under Pellegrini with Aguero bagging 17 goals as they did so. Take these away and… Another seven points gone. This would actually drop them to third, keeping them ahead of Arsenal on goal difference but handing Liverpool their new first Premier League title, now under Brendan Rodgers.
He would’ve cost them another seven as they still strolled to the trophy in 2017/18, though they wouldn’t have reached the century, and as you can imagine, in 18/19, when things were tighter than a duck’s arse, if he’d have cost them one point, Liverpool would have snatched it from them again. He was responsible for… nine points this time. Clutch. The first game his goals alone cost ’em points was against Liverpool as well.
So one trophy instead of four during his major stint, as well as a whole host of hat-tricks, hot stuff, and happiness missed out on.
But in the Summer of 2011, Manchester City wanted a striker. Maybe Aguero was off the table, but that wasn’t gonna stop them from hunting around, having a sniff, and maybe digging up a truffle…
Going off the rest of their big spending, they’d have wanted a high-scoring star from a major European league. So they’d have searched through the top divisions in Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, France, and England.
England’s top flight would have been interesting, but largely negated. Rivals would have been unlikely to sell to a direct competitor, and when looking at the scoring charts from the season prior, Carlos Tevez was already at City, Dimitar Berbatov was somewhere they were never gonna get him, Darren Bent had just moved to Villa, and Robin van Persie seemed to be holding out for the red half of Manchester. That left the fifth and sixth highest scorers; Peter Odemwingie and DJ Campbell. Now I would have loved to see it, but I don’t think it was their M.O. at the time.
France was a different story. There was a lot of talent waiting to be picked. And also, y’know enjoying their football there. If we look at strikers who scored 20+, there were two in Ligue 1, the 22-goal Kevin Gameiro of Lorient, and the 25-goal Moussa Sow of champions Lille.
Gameiro could’ve been a sweet fit, but since negotiations could only start on the 9th June and he was off to PSG on the 10th, they might have just missed their window. But Sow’s certainly an option…
The Bundesliga that season also had two 20+ goalscorers. One was the 28-goal Mario Gomez, who was in the middle of the finest scoring run in his career with Bayern, so he wasn’t popping off anywhere, and the other was the 22-goal Freiburg striker Papiss Cisse. Now he was clearly set on a move to England as he would join Newcastle about six months later, but Man City did not have his form for The Toon to go on… Would they have still picked him up?
Serie A had some cracker names up top, four of them achieving 20+ goals. The top scorer with 28 was Antonio Di Natale, an astounding feat, but a man clearly in love with Udinese, and then aged 34, wouldn’t have appealed I’m sure. Next up, with 26, was Edinson Cavani. Woulda been cracker, but he was on-loan at Napoli and they had an option to buy, so out of the question, I’m afraid. Samuel Eto’o scored 21 times, and was having an absolute banger for his 30th birthday, but the money and project of Anzhi was calling that Summer, though he wouldn’t leave until late August, giving City time to swoop… Potential potential… The last name on the list scored 20 times and that was Alessandro Matri, but he’d moved from Cagliari to Juventus that past January and so wouldn’t be up for another move.
Aguero came from La Liga, so maybe his replacement (of sorts) should! Four people scored 20+ goals — two of them were Ronaldo and Messi (40 and 31, respectively), one was Aguero (20), and the other was Alvaro Negredo (20), whom City would sign the Summer after next, so I feel like they would wait for that. Don’t know why, but they’re my rules.
Finally, there was the dark horse of the Eredivisie. The bridge over has always been a tough one to crack, with those who cross it either doing so with flying colours or somehow falling off. Three names scored more than 20 and they were all playing for clubs outside of the top four. Mads Junker scored 20 for Roda, but he was 30 and wasn’t Eto’o, so, y’know. Dmitri Bulykin scored 21 times for Den Haag, but he was also the wrong side of 30 and looked set on a move to Ajax.
I’ll say now that there is nothing wrong with being over thirty, but Manchester City were looking for a long-term frontman, so they were going sub-30, okay?
The final man in The Netherlands was top-scorer Bjorn Vleminckx, who managed 23. While it would have been fun to see him running about the Prem, and he was a good age at 25, Club Brugge were too ready to snap him up, doing so before City had a chance.
So three African names come from their European search.
Samuel Eto’o representing Cameroon, then Papiss Cisse and Moussa Sow representing Senegal.
Now, to be fair, even though his is Samuel Eto’o, The Citizens would have wanted a long-term man up top, so the Serie A rep is out, leaving a fella from Freiburg and a lad from Lille, both of whom hailed from Senegal.
Both of whom in real life would leave those clubs in the next January transfer window, within six days of one another.
Since it has the most knock-on effect, I believe Manchester City, on the 28th July, 2011, would have signed Papiss Cisse from Freiburg for a fee in the region of £22.65m.
So could Papiss Cisse have done what Sergio Aguero did?
Even as he joined halfway through the 11/12 season in real-life, he still made it onto the scoring charts, with 13 for Newcastle. It is not beyond belief that he could have doubled that in a full season for Manchester City. He might still have denied us the famous final day winner but just because his goals had already secured the title.
Could he have won them the league three times over like Aguero did?
By 13/14, Cisse’s form for Newcastle had dipped as he managed just two league goals all season. That wouldn’t have impacted much, maybe saving a point. The next time they would win a title (17/18), he’d be playing in China.
On the flipside, could Newcastle have survived without him?
They finished 5th in the 11/12 season, so would have been fine, but would have dropped eleven points had no-one else put them home. This would have seen them drop the seventh and out of European contention. When they struggled in 12/13, mind, Cisse’s lack of eight goals would have cost his side eight points, seeing them drop into the relegation zone, with FA Cup victors Wigan surviving.
But, of course, this isn’t taking into account so much. Goals don’t just disappear, someone else would have been in those positions, someone else would have taken penalties, and maybe someone else would have had their name screamd by Martin Tyler…
It seems insane to say now, that a modern legend of the Premier League wouldn’t be there anymore, but I like the idea that someone would have the chance to step in and take that mantle. As someone does everytime they step into the league. But this one seemed destined for it. A club with fresh dollar was ready to throw everything behind this new striker signing in what might have been one of the only clear-cut chances at Premier League stardom to ever exist.
But it doesn’t exist. Sergio Aguero got to where he was because he’s Sergio Aguero. I’m not saying Papiss Cisse couldn’t have done it, but Sergio Aguero did.
Let’s just see it one more time…
What if Sergio Aguero never graced England’s top flight?
Keep it streets ahead,