Pep Guardiola has refused to rule out the possibility that Sergio Aguero could leave Manchester City at the end of the season, but says he wants to keep the striker.
Aguero, who has a contract until 2020, has been restricted to brief substitute appearances in each of City’s last two matches, largely because of the excellent form of new signing Gabriel Jesus.
While Guardiola says he admires Aguero, he is not sure if he can give the Argentina international enough games to stop him leaving at the end of the season.
“At the end of the season, I don’t know,” the City manager said. “I know how difficult it is to find top goalscorers. The guy in the centre of the goal is one of them.
“I would like him to stay, but I don’t know what is going to happen. Even in my career (as a player and manager), I didn’t know what would happen (to me) at the end of the season.”
Jesus, signed from Palmeiras for £27 million ($33.7 million, 31.7 million euros) in January, has scored three times in his first two league starts, including both goals in a 2-1 win over Swansea City.
The 19-year-old Brazil forward also appears to be better suited than Aguero to the high-pressing style of play that Guardiola demands.
It leaves Aguero facing the prospect of being on the bench again when City travel to Bournemouth in the Premier League on Monday.
The striker, 28, has endured a mixed campaign, despite being City’s top scorer with 18 goals in all competitions.
He missed no fewer than four penalties in the first two months of the season, was forced to sit out seven games through suspension and has also lost his place in Argentina’s starting line-up.
Guardiola has preferred to go with a front three of Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, who clicked when City won 3-0 at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup last month –- a game Aguero missed because of injury.
However, the manager is satisfied that Aguero is doing his best to fit in with his style.
“I was clear every time we spoke with Sergio from the beginning. I know his strengths. I know he’s trying,” Guardiola said.
“I know how much he fought against Tottenham and how many chances he had. But at Palace I saw three guys in front with a high intensity and said: ‘Wow, I like what they do.’
“In the last game it gave them continuity. My advice to the guys is: ‘Keep going. Show me again how good you are.'”
Aguero, signed from Atletico Madrid for £38 million in 2011, is third in City’s all-time scoring list.
He is already assured of a place in the club’s history thanks to the last-gasp stoppage-time goal against Queens Park Rangers in 2012 that clinched their first league title for 44 years.
But the striker said after last weekend’s win over Swansea that he was not sure if City wanted him to stay beyond the end of the season.
City moved quickly to make clear that they wanted to keep Aguero and Guardiola has supported that stance.
“Sergio knows the intention of his manager and the club,” he said.
“I don’t want to sell him. I want him to stay here for a long time, until he decides (to leave).”