Steady, unselfish Sergio Aguero closing in on Man City scoring record
The run took him weaving past three, then four defenders and as the goalkeeper came rushing out, while being leaned on heavily from the side by an opponent, Sergio Aguero still had the force and balance to flip the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper and inside the far post. It was the third and best of his tally at Vicarage Road, Watford at the weekend, a hat-trick that brings the Argentinean to within two of Eric Brook's long-held scoring record at Manchester City (177).
Aguero, low to the ground and built on legs that could belong to a horse wrestler, is apparently almost impossible to knock off the ball. This power and low centre of gravity, allied to a close control of the ball that is second to none, reminds the casual observer of his countryman Diego Maradona. Who will ever forget the Mexico World Cup of 1986 and those trademark slalom runs over wild scything tackles?
Maradona carried Argentina to the world title that year through sheer force of character, willpower and edge-of-the-seat marriage of skill and bravery. This heady package could well apply to Aguero too, a modern day reincarnation of his countryman's physique and ability to hold possession amid the most horrendous buffeting from the sport's less well-built journeymen.
There is that speed off the mark, the first milliseconds of which take place inside the mind, that allows Aguero to leave his marker completely for dead. Once caught (if it is possible to do so), try to dispossess the whirling feet of the ball, by foul means or fair -- Watford quickly realised that their best chance of success was by the latter -- and see where it gets you. In Adrian Marriappa's case, flat on his backside. In Christian Kabasele's, facing totally the wrong direction. In Abdoule Doucoure's, gulping greedily on the thin air left behind.
An icy breeze tickled their cheeks. Then he was gone.
Aguero succeeds in marrying sublime artistry at breakneck speed with power and determination. At the same time, he makes it all look like a stroll in the park. And, when the deed is done and another defence's locks have been picked, there is none of the self-congratulation many players bask in; just that impish smile as he is smothered by his teammates' eager best wishes.
But this, as we know, is not nearly the whole story.
Watch any passage of loose play in midfield and look for the so-called superstar striker, digging in, chasing back and involving himself in the blur of one touch passes that carve out a new passage of possession for his team. No primadonna goal hanging for the league's top scorer. No ghosting into special positions to pick up the crumbs for this man. Sergio Aguero plays a full and energetic part in shaping the chances that often culminate on his own toe end.
And to witness a player, so close to breaking the club's all-time scoring record, square a pass for Gabriel Jesus to finish off a week ago against Liverpool, was to see a supreme goalscorer who is still prepared to share the spoils. Football is a team game, after all, and Aguero appears to acknowledge even this. For a man with a real poacher's instinct, this apparent unselfishness is a fascinating facet of his game, and one that perhaps in part explains his absence from the individual awards bestowed upon the game's best players at the end of each season.
Incredibly, despite his obvious status as perhaps the Premier League's greatest striker ever (alongside Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy), Aguero has never been rewarded in this way at the end of any of his six sumptuous seasons at the Etihad.
The scoring record he is set to break at City has stood the test of time. Eric Brook got to his total in 1939, when footballers wore baggy shorts, boasted slicked-down hair and faced defenders with rolled-up sleeves and murderous intent in their eyes. That Aguero will shortly surpass this grand total in comfortably less than half the games (491 to 220) speaks volumes for his prowess as a goal-scoring legend of the Premier League. He would surely have got there sooner but for his unselfishness.
Since his bejewelled City debut on August 15th 2011 -- a 4-0 thrashing of Swansea City that, naturally, involved two goals to get the ball rolling -- Aguero has featured in every major success the club has achieved.
Within a team there can and always will be a vast array of different dynamics at work. Some players rise above this to elevate themselves to another level. Yet others, and there are very few of these, manage to stand out while remaining an integral part of the whole. For this, Sergio Aguero has long been a truly outstanding footballer in an outstanding team.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.