MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Feb 20 – Pep Guardiola insists his relationship with Sergio Aguero remains strong despite mounting speculation over the Manchester City striker’s future since the arrival of Gabriel Jesus.
Teenage sensation Jesus took Aguero’s place in Guardiola’s starting line-up before breaking a bone in his foot, an injury that may rule the Brazilian out for the remainder of the season.
That forced Guardiola to recall Aguero for an FA Cup fifth round draw at second tier Huddersfield on Sunday.
But it was an uninspired performance by Aguero in the goalless draw and the rapport between forward and manager looked strained.
With just two goals to his name since the end of November, recent events have fuelled the speculation that Aguero, 28, could end his six-year stay with City once the current campaign is over.
But, as Guardiola prepared for the first game of a two-legged tie with Monaco in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, the City boss insisted he is handling Aguero no differently to at any time in the past.
“Sergio has enough experience. He knows, everyone knows,” Guardiola told reporters on Monday.
“We are going to talk with him like with all of his team-mates. In this level it is so demanding in the Champions League.
“It is one of the most beautiful competitions to play, maybe not the most important, but the most beautiful and we have to do our best.
“All of Europe will watch us, to analyse us, to kill us if we don’t win or say how good we are if we do win. That is the huge experience. It is beautiful to me.”
And Guardiola has faith in Aguero to rediscover his goalscoring touch.
“The guys who score goals, it is talent, instinct. How they have to move, create spaces. He does not need to be controlled like a TV remote control. He is going to do it himself.”
– Slump –
Guardiola confirmed City captain Vincent Kompany’s injury problems continue after he missed the Huddersfield game — he will sit out the first leg against Monaco.
The City manager, however, hopes Kompany’s leg injury will have recovered in time for the FA Cup replay against Huddersfield next week.
Meanwhile, forward Kevin De Bruyne insists he is happy with his form despite a dramatic drop off in his goalscoring output this season.
Having scored 16 times last season, De Bruyne has netted just five this term, and hit the net twice in the last 18 games dating back to the start of November.
“No, not at all. I never look at my stats,” said De Bruyne when asked if he was worried by his slump.
“I know it is very important for other people. Because I play deeper and not everyone sees that, I am comparing that.
“I can see very good how well I am playing for the team, even without me scoring. If we can win a title I will be very happy.
“I am playing very consistently. I played a little more defensively than at the start of the season but we changed a lot of positions for me personally.
“I know people are looking at a lot of statistics, for me I am playing better than last year but maybe statistically a bit worse.”