Sergio Aguero could have several more years at the top level but rediscovering his best could take time, a leading medical professional has said.
It is now a year since Manchester City’s record goalscorer last found the net against an English opponent, in an FA Cup fifth-round tie at Sheffield Wednesday.
The last 12 months have been a frustrating tale of lockdown, injury, rehabilitation and isolation.
After three months inactivity due to the coronavirus-enforced shutdown of 2020, the 32-year-old made just two appearances before suffering a knee injury which required surgery in June.
That meniscus operation then kept him out of action until October, since when he has started just four games due to a combination of further knee pain, a hamstring injury and a bout of Covid-19.
He is now on the comeback trail and returned to the starting line-up for the first time in four months as the Premier League leaders beat West Ham last weekend.
Yet, having been an unused substitute in four of the last six games, it is slow progress. After previous setbacks, City are clearly trying to manage the workload of the Argentinian, who has scored 256 goals for the club, very carefully.
Johnny Wilson, clinical director at 108 Harley Street, told the PA news agency: “Allow the guy time to recover – as you get older you are more likely to get these joint-based injuries.
“Aguero has got to get back to running at high speed, covering distances between 10-12 km with high acceleration, high deceleration, huge kicking forces. There is a lot he has got to be able to do.
“He is an explosive player and he is going to be putting a lot of load through that knee. He’s got to be careful with that because his knee is not going to be able to tolerate the forces and the demands on it in comparison to before he injured it.
“His risk-taking behaviour will have to change, habits have to change. He has got to make a lot of adjustments but that’s part of life, part of the injury, part of dealing with what’s going on.”
Aguero played 61 largely ineffective minutes against the Hammers and was not involved against Wolves on Tuesday. He has previously scored nine goals against rivals Manchester United but he is uncertain to feature in this weekend’s derby.
“There will be plenty of guys out there now saying it is over and he’s finished,” said Wilson. “But really he’s just had a bit of a recurrence, a flare-up, and he’s had a hamstring injury following a lengthy time off.
“He’s not the first player for any of this to happen to but it is sensationalised by the fact it is Sergio Aguero.
“He’s working with some of the best guys in the world. He has got every opportunity to find the solution.
“He’s only 32. In many ways he is just a kid. He could have five, six, seven, eight, nine more years.”
Overall goals: 256
Overall appearances: 381
Manchester derby goals: 9
2021-22 appearances: 11
2021-22 goals: 2
Whether Aguero’s career plays out further at the Etihad Stadium remains to be seen given that he is out of contract at the end of the season.
He may opt to move on after a decade’s outstanding service to the club but, looking City’s point of view, Wilson does not think fitness issues would impact on whether they offer a new deal or not.
“If Man City value him they won’t let him go just for that,” he said. “I wouldn’t even be discussing it.”
At some stage, however, City will have to take a risk.
Wilson said: “Emotionally he will want to get back onto the pitch but Pep Guardiola can’t pick a team on sentiments and the sports medicine team have a duty of care.
“I think they’ve managed him really well but at some stage you are going to have to have some trust in him.”