Pep Guardiola would have no qualms over Sergio Aguero joining another Premier League club when he leaves Manchester City at the end of this season.

It was announced last week that Aguero will conclude a decade-long association with City when his contract expires in June.

The 32-year-old is his club's all-time leading goalscorer with 257, having surpassed Eric Brook's previous best mark of 177 in November 2017.

Aguero is also the highest scoring overseas player in Premier League history and Chelsea, Tottenham, Arsenal, West Ham and City's weekend opponents Leeds United have been among the clubs rumoured to hold an interest in the Argentina striker.

After his years of service to City, Guardiola insisted he was not in a position to pick and choose where he might want Aguero – who has also been mentioned in dispatches with Barcelona, Inter, Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica – to fulfil his wish to "continue competing at the highest level".

"The best for him, we wish, all of us. Find the best for Sergio for the last years in his career, for sure," the City manager told reporters.

"We'll be delighted with the decision he takes, the best for him and his family and his career.

"My preference is his preference. His preference is my preference. The best for him is the best for us."

Asked whether he expects to see one final burst of peak Aguero in City colours as the club chase honours on four fronts, Guardiola offered no guarantees.

Indeed, he revealed the forward "felt something in his leg" before being substituted after an hour of last weekend's 2-0 win at Leicester City.

Aguero was an unused substitute for Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League quarter-final first leg win over Borussia Dortmund, with a hamstring injury and a bout of coronavirus having compromised his return to full fitness following meniscus surgery last June.

"Everything can happen. I'm sorry, I'm not a person who can see far away more than one week. In football I learned from my period as a player and a manager that everything can change quickly in a positive way or not positive way," Guardiola said.

"Everyone must be ready and hopefully Sergio can be ready quick.

"Sergio is a lovely person with specific qualities and skills. I understand him, I know him, and I understand he needs time to get in best condition.

"In the Leicester game, which was so difficult because they defend so deep and so tight, he moved well and helped us. He felt something in his leg he was substituted. He is doing better."

Argentine veteran Sergio Aguero has been list with plenty of clubs after Manchester City confirmed he would be leaving this off-season.

Among those are European heavyweights Chelsea and Barcelona.

But Leeds United have reportedly entered the race for the 32-year-old forward.

 

TOP STORY - LEEDS JOIN AGUERO PURSUIT

Leeds United want to bring Sergio Aguero to Elland Road on a free transfer this off-season.

Manchester City confirmed last month that Aguero would be departing the club after a decade of service.

90Min reports that Leeds hope Aguero's countryman Marcelo Bielsa can help woo him to the newly promoted club.

 

ROUND-UP

- The speculation around Kylian Mbappe's future continues, with The Telegraph reporting that he is stalling on signing a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain with his current contract to expire in 2022. Cuatro claims Mbappe will not sign a new deal as he wants to join Real Madrid.

- ESPN reports Edinson Cavani is "closer than ever" to finalizing a deal to join Argentine club Boca Juniors from Manchester United for this off-season.

- Manchester United may look into signing West Ham United's England international midfielder Declan Rice, as part of a permanent switch for Jesse Lingard, claims the Athletic.

- Metro claims Lyon's Joachim Andersen will cost £25m amid reported interest from Manchester United and Tottenham.

- Yangel Herrera, who is on loan at Granada from Manchester City, has ignited interest from West Ham United according to Todofichajes.

- Inter may explore signing Napoli's Nikola Maksimovic if Andrea Ranocchia leaves, reports Calciomercato.

Lionel Messi's future is a popular topic.

Messi wanted to leave Barcelona at the start of the season but opted to remain at Camp Nou.

With his contract expiring at the end of 2020-21, the Barca superstar is continuing to make headlines.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WAITING ON BARCA

Barcelona have yet to make a move to re-sign superstar captain Lionel Messi, according to the front page of Wednesday's Marca.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and his future is far from certain, having been tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Led by new president Joan Laporta, Barca are determined to retain the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo reports Ousmane Dembele wants to continue with Barca, but speculation is mounting that Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar could return to Camp Nou. Neymar – who left Barca for PSG in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 – has been negotiating a new contract in the French capital. Dembele has previously been linked with Manchester United.

Manchester City are eyeing a new striker but they are unwilling to spend "crazy" money, claims Fabrizio Romano. With Sergio Aguero – linked with Chelsea, Inter, PSG and Barcelona – leaving on a free transfer, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland has emerged as City's prime target, while Tottenham star Harry Kane is another option.

- Goal says Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli and Juventus' Federico Bernardeschi could swap clubs. Both players have struggled this season and they could reportedly be involved in an exchange deal. Romagnoli has attracted interest from Barca and Chelsea.

- Eurosport reports United and Liverpool could go head-to-head in a battle to sign RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. The 21-year-old has been heavily linked with Liverpool, but United are also interested. Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane, Villarreal's Pau Torres and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly are also reportedly being monitored at Old Trafford.

- Romano claims there are "huge chances" for Hector Bellerin to leave Arsenal. The Spaniard was previously linked with PSG and Barca.

The first time Pep Guardiola was drawn to face a Bundesliga team in the Champions League as Manchester City manager, the match was postponed after a torrential pre-match downpour soaked the Etihad Stadium.

Twenty-four hours later, Borussia Monchengladbach were swatted aside 4-0 but there were some other, more incongruous storm clouds hovering.

Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick, already his second of the campaign to move on to nine goals in his first five outings under Guardiola.  A brace that weekend at Swansea City took him to 11 in six, but his manager was not completely satisfied with the bigger picture.

"Sergio just has a talent to score goals that is natural, I cannot teach him that," Guardiola said.

"What I can tell him is there is a team behind him that is going to help him. I want to convince him to help them and, if it happens in that way, he's going to score a lot of goals."

Those fraught moments in Guardiola and Aguero's early relationship at City, one that looked to be hurtling towards an early end when Gabriel Jesus arrived in January 2017 and displaced the Argentina striker from the starting line-up, were long forgotten in the glowing tributes paid last week.

Aguero will leave City when his contract expires in June as the club's all-time record goalscorer and the top scoring overseas player in Premier League history.

Bundesliga opponents are back on the agenda this week, with Borussia Dortmund in town for the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final. Erling Haaland, presumed by many to be Aguero's most suitable heir, will be the focus of much pre-match attention.

Should City emerge from the pack of European heavyweights to claim Haaland's signature, the experience of Guardiola's previous centre forwards – from those who eventually thrived like Aguero, to those who fell by the wayside – suggest there would be plenty of hard work ahead for the Norwegian youngster.

False nines and harsh truths

Guardiola's most celebrated innovation during his trophy-laden stint in charge of Barcelona was Lionel Messi's deployment as a false nine, helping Aguero's compatriot to flourish into he world's finest player.

However, more traditional centre-forwards experienced collateral damage. Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry flanked Messi in the 2009 Champions League final triumph over Manchester United. A year later they had both left Camp Nou, as had Zlatan Ibrahimovic after a year under Guardiola most notable for his string of subsequent withering comments about the Catalan tactician.

If the assumption was these supreme strikers were simply victims of playing second fiddle to Guardiola's star pupil, his stint at Bayern Munich suggested something more baked in to his football philosophy that meant centre forwards would adapt to the coach and not the other way around.

After a season under Guardiola in 2013-14, Mario Mandzukic stomped off to Atletico Madrid and accused the coach of a lack of respect. Robert Lewandowski took his place but the returns that now make the Poland superstar the most feared number nine in Europe were not immediately forthcoming.

A haul of 17 Bundesliga goals in 2014-15 was way below the levels he would go on to set. The breakout moment of his Bayern career came in September 2015, when he ravenously rattled home five goals in a mind-boggling nine minutes against Wolfsburg. An often-forgotten plot point of those Lewandowski heroics is they came as a substitute. Guardiola had started Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller and Douglas Costa in the sort of fluid forward line that did for the likes of Ibrahimovic and Mandzukic.

Since August 2011 – the month of Aguero's City debut and the first season Lewandowski was a regular starter at Dortmund - only Messi (483) and Cristiano Ronaldo (460) have scored more goals across all competitions among players from the top five European leagues than Bayern's star striker.

Lewandowski (380) is the only other player above 300, with Aguero seventh overall (257) behind Luis Suarez (295), Edinson Cavani (278) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (264).

If Haaland were to link up with Guardiola, history suggests these are the sort of levels he will have to hit. The signs of the past 18 months point promisingly in that direction.

The boy wonder

There were echoes of Lewandowski's Wolfsburg heroics – and, for that matter, Aguero's "anything you can do…" efforts of five goals in 20 minutes against Newcastle United a month later – in Haaland's sensational Bundesliga debut last January 18.

The 20-year-old came on as a second-half substitute and fired a 23-minute hat-trick to inspire Dortmund's 5-3 win over Augsburg.

In the spell from that game onwards, Haaland has 49 goals in all competitions, a haul only bettered across the top five leagues by Lewandowski (67) and Ronaldo (52). Despite being in contention for four major honours this term, City's leading scorers during the same period are Raheem Sterling and Jesus, with 24 and 22 respectively.

It seems Haaland would offer an obvious uplift, thanks in large part to his remarkable efficiency in front of goal. At Dortmund, he boasts a shot conversion rate of 33.6 per cent – better than any other player with 20 or more goals during this time.

For context, Lewandowski is back on 27.8 per cent and Romelu Lukaku and Andre Silva – each speculated alternatives should City be unable to land Haaland – convert just under a quarter of their attempts with 23.7 and 24.5 per cent respectively. Jesus (17.5) and Sterling (16.9) are about half as reliable as the man they will face this week.

A look at Haaland's expected goals (xG) figures for this season suggests judicious shot selection is a key part of his lethal makeup.

In the Bundesliga and Champions League combined, he has 29 non-penalty goals from 93 shots that have a cumulative xG value of 21.2.

By way of comparison, in 2018-19 – the campaign that will stand as his last truly great one in City colour – Aguero scored 24 times from open play in the Premier League and Champions League, outperforming an xG of 20.6 accumulated from 144 attempts.

Haaland's efficiency is again illustrated but a higher xG figure from 51 fewer efforts shows he is coldly selective when it comes to taking on shots, usually only pulling the trigger when a clear opportunity presents itself and to great success.

The speculative strike is not something he has a need to call upon too often, which holds an obvious appeal for a coach like Guardiola, who places such an emphasis on his team controlling every aspect of matches.

Attackers going rogue and firing off shots from all over the place is not high on the list of things he enjoys to see, placing a big tick next to Haaland.

Running and pressing until the end

Kevin De Bruyne's midfield masterclass to inspire a 2-0 weekend win at Leicester City was something of an archetype for what is required from City's big hitters.

Along with moments of high artistry such as his immaculate throughball to make Jesus' game-sealing goal possible, the Belgium international regained possession 14 times and contested 20 duels.

"This is one of our identities. When the most talented players in the world are able to do this kind of job," Guardiola said.

"There is no negotiation on this. You can play really badly but in terms of running and pressing for your team-mates until the end, we have to do it. Do it for your mates, because in the next action your mates are going to do it for you.

"We cannot deny that in the five years we were together the players we had run and fight every single game. That is one of the things I am proud of the most."

So, how would Haaland shape up to this non-negotiable part of the job description?

In 2020-21, the Dortmund centre-forward has won possession in the final third 31 times, made 65 recoveries overall, nine interceptions and contested 195 duels.

Even taking into account a BVB playing style that can be more chaotic than Guardiola's finely grooved City, these efforts stack up well compared to peak Aguero.

Only once under Guardiola has he won back the ball deep in opposition territory more frequently – 33 times in 2018-19, when he made his sole foray into double figures for interceptions (13) during the Catalan's tenure.

Aguero made 122 recoveries and contested 481 duels during Guardiola's first season at the helm in 2016-17, when City were some distance from their present model of efficient dominance. His recoveries/duels returns of 86 and 310 and 89 and 325 during the subsequent back-to-back Premier League triumphs are more in line with where Haaland might be at the end of the current campaign.

This begins to demonstrate that Guardiola's running and pressing until the end is not quite as advertised. Much as with Haaland's shot selection, there is an emphasis on picking your moments to lay down maximum effort. His is not the Heavy Metal Football under which the Dortmund of a previous era thrived, more Post-Rock Football laced with frequent and precise tempo changes.

In his final two seasons under Manuel Pellegrini, when City's sole major honour was the 2015-16 EFL Cup, Aguero won back possession in the final third 35 and 40 times – returns never bettered in the Guardiola era despite an improvement in his work off the ball being rightly lauded. A total of 126 recoveries in 2015-16 is one he has not topped, while 24 interceptions back in 2011-12 showed Roberto Mancini benefitting from the youthful enthusiasm of his record signing.

The idea that Guardiola strikers have to run themselves into the ground for scant reward is a horror story Mino Raiola might try to spin for his new favourite client. But Aguero's experience shows it is more of a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" relationship.

In 2018-19, he averaged 8.15 touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes. This figure increased to 9.08 last season, one only bettered by 9.99 in 2013-14 during his City career. During Pellegrini's final year in charge, Aguero's touches in the area were down to 6.67 per game.

Taking some time to adapt to Guardiola's methods is neither unusual nor limited to strikers, with Joao Cancelo and Rodri's second-season improvements this time around standing as the latest examples.

If Haaland became a blockbuster signing, there is no reason to think his rewards would be anything other than plentiful after a period of assimilation. For the next week or so, however, Guardiola's only concern will be keeping his precocious talents under wraps.

Romelu Lukaku has starred for Inter since arriving from Manchester United in 2019.

Lukaku is spearheading Inter's quest for a Serie A title, with Antonio Conte's side clear atop the table.

His exploits, however, have not gone unnoticed in Europe.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU HAPPY AT INTER

Inter star Romelu Lukaku is flattered by Barcelona's interest but is not looking to leave the Nerazzurri, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Lukaku has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid and former club Chelsea following his exploits for Inter, who are closing in on the Scudetto.

But Lukaku is happy at Inter, with the Belgium international only possibly leaving San Siro should the Italian powerhouse seek to raise funds.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport reports Cristiano Ronaldo wants to see out his Juventus contract, which runs until June 2022. Ronaldo has been tipped to leave Turin, where Juve are struggling under Andrea Pirlo this season. Former clubs Madrid and United have emerged as possible destinations, as well as Paris Saint-Germain. However, Ronaldo is keen to continue at the club, should they qualify for the Champions League.

- PSG star Kylian Mbappe remains a priority signing for Madrid, claims Diario AS. Mbappe has been a long-term target in the Spanish capital, though the economic fallout following the coronavirus pandemic appears to have derailed Madrid's pursuit. But Los Blancos – also linked with in-demand Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland – are still determined to prise Mbappe from Paris.

- Record reports United are ready to make a move for Sporting CP star Nuno Mendes, who has also been linked with Manchester City and Liverpool. United could reportedly use Alex Telles in a deal to sign the Portuguese full-back.

- Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli is eyeing a new deal amid interest from Barca and Chelsea, according to Calciomercato. Romagnoli is contracted to the Rossoneri until 2022. Barca's reported pursuit comes as they eye the likes of Bayern Munich star David Alaba, City duo Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero, Lyon forward Memphis Depay and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they have seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah.

 

 Positive signs for Windies batting

West Indies batting has been a matter of concern, especially in the Test format for some time.

As recently, as of July 2020 when West Indies faced England in three Tests, the Jamaica Observer newspaper blared the headline “West Indies bowlers undermined by batting woes” a sentiment shared by many newspapers in cricket-loving nations around the world.

After winning the first Test against England, the West Indies only survived 70.1 overs in the second innings of the second Test. It was even worse in the second innings of the third Test when they lasted a mere 37.1 overs as England completed a 269-run win in Manchester.

However, against Bangladesh and in the just concluded test series against Sri Lanka, the Windies have shown signs of improvement.

Generally speaking, West Indies batsmen do not face enough balls and hence give their wickets away cheaply. Against Sri Lanka, there was a refreshing change in attitude and application.

In the final Test, Captain Kraigg Brathwaite made 126 in the first innings- his ninth Test century, his first as captain and 85 in the second. In all, the skipper batted 813 minutes, the most in a Test for the Windies. In that time, he faced 507 balls, the joint-most by a West Indian in a Test match since Brian Lara's 400* off 582 balls against England in 2004.

Similarly, Kyle Mayers and Jason Holder each spent time at the crease while setting a 377-run target for Sri Lanka. Mayers faced 76 balls for his 55 while Holder scored 71 not out off 88 balls.

In the first Test, Nkrumah Bonner’s maiden century of 113* was an exercise in patience and determination. Batting at number three, the 32-year-old Jamaican faced 274 balls in more than seven hours at the crease.

 There is still a lot of work to be done but the early evidence suggests that the West Indies batsman might finally be on the right path.

 

 Sergio Aguero still has value

 It has been confirmed by Premier League club Manchester City that Sergio Aguero will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.

However, this does not mean that his career has come to an end.

This season has been a challenging one for the striker, who has had to endure injury, Covid-19, and lack of game time. In his 14 appearances, he has started nine games and scored three goals.

Despite his struggles, he is arguably the best non-English striker to grace the Premier League and the numbers speak for themselves. Aguero is the fourth highest goal scorer in the Premier League history with 181 goals. He also leads the statistics in the rate of scoring in English top-flight football since 1992.

Aguero’s famous goal in injury time against QPR in 2012 when he clinched the club’s first English title in 44 years, is one for the books. Overall, he has helped The Citizens to four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and five League Cups.

Though slowed by age and injury, in Saturday’s game against Leicester City, he worked hard off the ball and contributed to his side’s win, something he has done constantly during his incredible career at Manchester City.

His boots will not be easily filled as was made clear by Pep Guardiola.

“I want to be clear. Maybe we'll find a new player to replace Sergio. In terms of numbers, he might be replaced, but in terms of what he means to the club, it is impossible.” 

 

Why are super teams an issue for some in the NBA?

The news of LaMarcus Aldridge joining the Brooklyn Nets did not sit well with many Los Angeles Lakers fans with many saying the Nets are so desperate for a championship they are buying one. Lakers superstar Le Bron James’ son Bronny also weighed in tweeting, “All this to stop a 36-year-old man in Year 18.”

LA Lakers CEO and owner Jeanie Buss, who sees the move as making the NBA a more compelling product said, “So, bring it on.”   

Personally, I see nothing wrong with the Nets creating a super team because LeBron has done the same many times in the past.

In fact, LeBron created his own super team with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami Heat in 2010-2011. He also helped assemble Kevin Love Kyrie Irving for the championship-winning Cleveland Cavaliers.

 And while the Nets signed the talented LeMarcus Aldridge it is important to note that the Lakers also recently signed two-time all-star centre Andre Drummond, who is averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds this season despite having not played since February 12.

 

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has ruled out a move for Sergio Aguero due to the soon-to-be free agent's long association with fierce rivals Manchester City.

City confirmed on Monday that Aguero is to bring an end to his decade-long spell at the Etihad Stadium when his contract expires at the end of the campaign.

He will bow out as City's all-time leading scorer, with a current tally of 257 goals in 385 games, the most recent of those appearances coming against Leicester City on Saturday.

The 32-year-old has won four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and five EFL Cups, a tally he can add to before leaving as City remain on course for a quadruple this term, including a first Champions League triumph.

But despite the Premier League's fourth-highest ever goalscorer being available on a free transfer, Solskjaer does not expect Aguero to join one of the Citizens' domestic rivals.

"When I played for Man Utd, if a rival club would try to sign me and I'd gone to a rival club, where's the loyalty?" Solskjaer said.

"Of course, loyalty is one of the values I rank highly. So I wouldn't expect any player who had played for a club for 10 years to want to go to a local rival.

"I know we're professional but when you play for Man Utd, you don't go to Man City."

Peter Schmeichel, Andrew Cole and Carlos Tevez are previous high-profile examples of players to have moved between neighbours United and City during the Premier League era.

In an apparent swipe at some of his former team-mates, Solskjaer criticised those who show a lack of loyalty to their clubs by crossing the divide.

"We've had examples of that and I didn't really agree to those moves, to put it that way. I don't want to name names, but you all know who I point my finger at. Enough said," Solskjaer added.

Cole is one of three players to have scored more goals than Aguero in Premier League history with 187, along with Wayne Rooney (208) and Alan Shearer (260).

Aguero, a £38million signing from Atletico Madrid in July 2011, has scored 181 goals in the English top flight in 272 appearances - a goal every 108.69 minutes.

Among forwards currently at United, Edinson Cavani boasts the best goals-per-game return in the competition with one every 153.5 minutes, albeit having played just 18 games.

Anthony Martial is next on the list, scoring 55 Premier League goals in 167 matches (209.44), followed by Marcus Rashford (221.62) and Mason Greenwood (247.45).

Can Borussia Dortmund keep a hold of Erling Haaland for another season?

Europe's elite are queuing up to sign the Norway sensation.

Dortmund's disappointing season could be about to force their hand.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND TRYING TO RETAIN HAALAND

Borussia Dortmund will try to keep Erling Haaland for another season but their hopes are fading amid the club's struggles to finish in the Bundesliga's top four, according to Fabrizio Romano.

As it stands, Dortmund are set to miss out on Champions League qualification, with the German side fifth and seven points adrift of fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt following Saturday's loss.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror reports United are set to part with star goalkeeper David de Gea. The Red Devils are reportedly prepared to pay a large chunk of De Gea's remaining contract, with Dean Henderson pushing to become the club's first choice.

Haaland is ahead of Lionel Messi on City's transfer list, claims The Mirror. Pep Guardiola's City have been heavily linked with Barcelona superstar Messi, who is out of contract at season's end. But City now appear determined to prise Haaland from Dortmund as Sergio Aguero prepares to leave. Aguero has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, InterBarca, PSG and Juventus on a free transfer.

Neymar has put contract talks with PSG on hold, according to Ara, which claims he is willing to return to Barca.

- It comes as Marca says PSG are eyeing Madrid forward Vinicius Junior amid Kylian Mbappe's links with the LaLiga champions.

Pep Guardiola lauded Kevin De Bruyne's masterful midfield display during Manchester City's 2-0 win over Leicester City.

The Premier League leaders took another step towards glory thanks to second-half goals from Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus that only told part of the story of their dominance at the King Power Stadium.

De Bruyne rattled the crossbar with a free-kick midway through the first half and was named man of the match after a majestic throughball scattered Leicester's defence for Jesus' game-sealing effort 16 minutes from time.

"Quite good, huh? It's not the first time he has done it," Guardiola said reacting to that contribution during his post-match news conference.

"Next game he has to score a goal. Next game he is going to do the passes and score a goal.

"Kevin, in this situation, is extraordinary."

De Bruyne also recovered possession 14 times, more than any other City player and won 10 of his 18 duels.

"This is one of our identities. When the most talented players in the world are able to do this kind of job," Guardiola said of the playmaker's selfless contribution.

"There is no negotiation on this. You can play really badly but in terms of running and pressing for your team-mates until the end, we have to do it.

"Do it for your mates, because in the next action your mates are going to do it for you.

"We cannot deny that in the five years we were together the players we had run and fight every single game. That is one of the things I am proud of the most."

This sense of togetherness was underlined by the celebrations that followed Mendy's opener – a strike that appeared to particularly popular throughout the City squad.

"Benjamin is especially beloved by all of us, especially by his team-mates," Guardiola added.

"He is a special person, the way he lives. He has an incredible heart. When a player is honest like he is, the people love him so much.

"He didn't play much lately, today he played and made an incredible goal. The manager must be so good for him to score a goal with his right foot – oh my God!"

Kevin De Bruyne felt Manchester City deserved even more than a 2-0 victory from their dominant display at Leicester City.

The 18-point gulf between Pep Guardiola's champions-elect and the third-placed Foxes was in evidence for large stretches of the game at the King Power Stadium, where De Bruyne was named man of the match.

The Belgium playmaker struck the crossbar with a first-half free-kick but Pep Guardiola's men had to wait until the 58th minute to find a breakthrough – left-back Benjamin Mendy the unlikely goalscorer.

Gabriel Jesus netted for the fifth time in six outings against Leicester to seal the points, the Brazil forward the beneficiary of Raheem Sterling's unselfishness and a majestic De Bruyne throughball.

"I thought it was really good. The first half we totally dominated," De Bruyne told Sky Sports.

"They had the one chance that was offside with [Jamie] Vardy, but basically there was one team playing.

"Second half, Leicester did a little bit better but, if you look at the 90 minutes, it was 2-0 and I think we deserved even more goals.

"After an international break, that's really well done from the team."

Ex-England striker Vardy rolling into the net when he was flagged offside during first-half stoppage time showed how some profligate finishing might have undermined the Premier League leaders' smooth control of proceedings, but De Bruyne insisted they remained calm.

"We created chances, we should have scored but that happens," he said.

"We knew the way they play against us was going to be really difficult. They play really defensive.

"We had to be patient and that what we did. I was very happy for Mendy then to break the deadlock."

Guardiola's side were thrashed 5-2 by Leicester back in September, with this sharply contrasting performance demonstrating the strides made since.

"That was a bad game from us and they deserved to win but that was such a long time ago," De Bruyne added, with Borussia Dortmund up next in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

"We've picked it up during the season and done well, so I'm really happy.

"In the end I'm here to provide for the team and if I can set my team-mates up and they finish it I'm happy.

"It's one win more and it's good to get in the rhythm because Tuesday is another game."

Benjamin Mendy was an unlikely goalscorer as Manchester City took another step towards the Premier League title with an authoritative 2-0 victory at Leicester City.

Pep Guardiola's side were dominant for long periods, Kevin De Bruyne hitting the crossbar, but had to wait until the 58th minute for left-back Mendy to find the breakthrough.

Both teams had seen goals ruled out for offside by that point, with Jamie Vardy frustrated in first-half stoppage time, although nothing approaching a repeat of Leicester's 5-2 early season triumph at the Etihad Stadium ever appeared to be on the cards.

A majestic De Bruyne throughball allowed substitute Raheem Sterling to tee up Gabriel Jesus for a game-sealing goal that put the leaders 17 points clear of Manchester United, albeit having played two games more than Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

Manchester City captain Fernandinho drilled a 25-yard drive into the bottom corner but his fifth-minute effort was ruled out because Sergio Aguero jumped over the shot in an offside position.

De Bruyne went closer for the visitors, rattling the bar with a 23rd-minute free-kick, before Kasper Schmeichel saved with his boot to thwart former team-mate Riyad Mahrez and Jesus thrashed over before half-time.

Leicester's first shot belatedly arrived in the 48th minute, when Youri Tielemans treated Ederson to a routine stop.

Ruben Dias slid in to make a telling block from the Belgium midfielder moments later after Kelechi Iheanacho picked Fernandinho's pocket.

Mahrez stung Schmeichel's palms before the hour and Leicester failed to clear the danger – possession falling to Mendy, who stepped inside Marc Albrighton and slotted home right footed.

Sterling and Jesus threatened to undo De Bruyne's imperious work 16 minutes from time but held their nerve to seal victory as blue shirts darted back towards the goalmouth in vain.

Mahrez trudged off having come agonisingly close to scoring against his former employers, clipping a shot just wide after Jesus mugged a flagging Jonny Evans.

Sergio Aguero will start Manchester City's Premier League match at Leicester City after announcing this week he will end a 10-year association with the club at the end of this season.

Aguero, who joined City from Atletico Madrid for £38million in July 2011, is out of contract in June and a campaign beset by fitness problems on the back of meniscus surgery has led to a parting of ways being confirmed.

Nevertheless, the club's all-time record goalscorer still has time to embellish a glorious decade in English football as Pep Guardiola's league leaders hold an interest in four competitions.

Perhaps casting an eye towards Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Borussia Dortmund, Guardiola has made six changes to the City XI that booked an FA Cup semi-final spot through a 2-0 win over Everton last time out, with Benjamin Mendy among the starters.

Club captain Fernandinho is partnered in defensive midfield by Rodri, lending a robust look to a line-up seeking to avenge a 5-2 defeat at the Etihad Stadium back in September.

Former City forward Kelechi Iheanacho starts for the Foxes after penning a three-year contract extension.

Iheanacho is on a hot streak of seven goals in four games and was named Premier League player of the month for March.

Vardy, by contrast, is seeking to end an eight-game goal drought but netted a hat-trick in the win over Guardiola's men earlier this season – a result that made City's current 14-point advantage at the top of the Premier League impossible to envisage.

Pep Guardiola says Manchester City may not be able to afford a replacement for striker Sergio Aguero.

City confirmed on Monday their all-time leading goalscorer will bring down the curtain on a trophy-laden decade-long spell at the Etihad Stadium when his contract expires in June.

Aguero has won four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and five EFL Cups, a tally he can add to before departing as City are on course for a quadruple this season, including a first Champions League triumph.

City have been tipped to spend big on a new striker at the end of the season, with Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane rumoured to be on their radar.

However, Guardiola insists the Premier League leaders are not in a position to complete such a signing due to the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

"With these prices we are not going to buy any striker. It is impossible, we cannot afford it," the Catalan coach said during a news conference on Friday. 

"All clubs struggle financially, we are not an exception. We have Gabriel [Jesus], Ferran [Torres], young academy players, false nines. I don't know what will happen. 

"Today there is more of a big chance we won't sign a new striker for next season."

Aguero has scored 257 goals in 384 appearances for City since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2011, seeing him surpass Eric Brook as the club's all-time record goalscorer.

Guardiola accepts the Argentina international will be a huge loss but is confident he already has the personnel to help fill the void.

"We know how important he is in the present and past. These decisions are never easy," Guardiola said.

"I want to be clear: Maybe we'll find a new player to replace Sergio. In terms of numbers he might be replaced, but in terms of what he means to the club it is impossible.

"We have enough players in the first team, interesting players in the academy. But with the economy the way it is we're not going to sign a new striker this summer."

Aguero is in contention to start Saturday's clash with third-placed Leicester City, who have in-form ex-Manchester City striker Kelechi Iheanacho leading their line.

Iheanacho spent one season playing under Guardiola before joining Leicester in August 2017 and has scored 15 goals in 87 Premier League appearances for the Foxes.

That does not tell the whole story, however, as the Nigeria international has scored five goals in his last three league games, making this his best goalscoring season since his maiden campaign with Manchester City.

Guardiola has been impressed by Iheanacho's recent form, which also includes two goals against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals two weeks ago, and expects a tough match against Brendan Rodgers' high-flying side.

"He's been incredible. The quality was always there as a young player," Guardiola said. "We had Gabriel and Sergio so there we not much space in the squad. 

"He's a fantastic person. We had a good relationship together. I'm delighted he's playing well. He links well with others, he is fast and is also very clear in front of goal."

He added: "I have to admit, since Brendan took over they've been incredible. I remember he took over and after a week, 10 days, wow, he changed them completely from the previous manager. 

"They had an incredible chance to qualifying for the Champions League last season, didn't do it, but they are there again this season. The last 5-10 years they have worked really well on scouting and are a contender every season. 

"They have a top manager, top players. It is a big challenge for us tomorrow."

Guardiola is still unsure on the availability of up to eight of his international players for Saturday's match due to coronavirus restrictions delaying their return to training.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has heavily rotated his side between games of late and intends to continue doing so, with a Champions League quarter-final tie against Borussia Dortmund to come on Tuesday.

"We rotate well because we work well when we do that," he said. "When I rotate and we lose you tell me it's disastrous - why rotate? In the modern day, no player can sustain mentally or physically playing every three days. 

"Tomorrow I'll select a team to win that game. I'm sure Man United and Leicester can win a lot of games. Everything in football can happen. 

"We need four victories to be champions and tomorrow is our first chance to win another game. Then when on the coach after the game I'll think about Dortmund."

The leaders have alternated between defeat (two) and victory (two) in their last four Premier League away games against Leicester, winning this fixture 1-0 last season.

Guardiola's side were beaten 5-2 in September's reverse match and Leicester are looking to complete their first league double over Manchester City since the 1986-87 season.

Thomas Tuchel accepted there is a "race" for Erling Haaland and talked up the "world-class" talents of Sergio Aguero but was reticent to talk about Chelsea's reported interest in the star duo.

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland is a man in demand in the close-season transfer window, with his father Alf Inge and representative Mino Raiola said to have met with both Barcelona and Real Madrid this week.

Talks are also said to be taking place with the Blues, Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United, with Haaland – who has 49 goals in as many games for Dortmund – seemingly set for a new venture.

Chelsea boss Tuchel was asked about their own pursuit at a pre-match conference for Chelsea's Premier League clash against West Brom this weekend.

"I will not answer that out of respect for the player and Borussia Dortmund," Tuchel said. 

"There is big news around him and his agent. It seems like they are creating a race for the player and I will fully accept he is a player for Borussia Dortmund, a promising player of course.

"But he isn't our player and is not in our squad. So, we will not comment on anything else regarding Haaland."

A new striker is thought to be high on Chelsea's list of priorities and City legend Aguero has also been linked with a switch to Stamford Bridge.

Aguero will depart the Etihad Stadium at the end of the campaign, after a decade of service during which time he has become the club's all-time leading scorer.

"You can ask but it's the same answer as Haaland. We have full respect for Manchester City and Sergio Aguero, who is a big player for them," Tuchel added.

"There is no words needed for me about the achievements of this guy, he is a world-class player.

"But we have three competitions in which we are in with Manchester City so I will not speak about their player."

Chelsea's links to strikers comes amid a poor run of goalscoring form from Timo Werner, a big-money recruit from RB Leipzig.

Werner has just five Premier League goals this term, while he has not scored since the 2-0 win over Newcastle United on February 15.

His woes were highlighted by a poor miss in Germany's shock 2-1 defeat to North Macedonia this week but Tuchel insists Werner is still contributing to the Blues' cause.

"It was a bad pass from Ilkay Gundogan is how I see it! I'm only joking. He missed that chance and everybody is passionate to talk about it, which is a bit annoying," Tuchel said.

"It's easy at the moment to point the finger at Timo, which I can't understand. I am happy he is back here.

"To look at it honestly, he is in a moment where he lacks confidence and things aren't too easy. The goals are not working out as usual but he works out for us.

"He still scores for us, still assists for us, still wins penalties. If this is the most critical point of his career you can say it's still pretty impressive so far.

"Timo has scored since he was five years old and he never stopped. So he can trust his brain and body, it will come back. That's easier said than done.

"Yesterday I sent him in from training because he wanted to do extra finishing with us. But I sent him in because it will come. The goals will come.

"Of course, he needs to do something and the best thing to do is to work hard. Work hard against the ball, make runs, don't hesitate, be fearless, don't overthink it.

"That's easy for me to say but it's the challenge right now. Timo will start tomorrow and there we go."

While Werner will be involved, influential midfielder N'Golo Kante is out after injuring his hamstring while away with France.

Tuchel also expects Kante to sit out Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first-leg tie against Porto, in which they are the designated away side for a match taking place in Seville.

"Yes, probably [he will miss Porto]," Tuchel said. "He is doing individual training. He can't be with the squad.

"Then we have just three days to prepare. We have a muscle injury, as we communicated with the national team. So my realistic approach is to think about Porto, maybe the second game against Porto."

Sergio Aguero's next destination is a hot topic of conversation after Manchester City confirmed he will leave at the end of the season.

The Argentina forward has been linked with a host of clubs, including Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

The 32-year-old has spent the past decade in England with City.

 

TOP STORY - BLUES IN BOX SEAT FOR AGUERO

Chelsea have moved into pole position to land Aguero, who wants to remain in England according to the Daily Mail.

The Blues, who wanted to sign Aguero in 2011 when he left Atletico Madrid for City, will be in the market for a forward with rumours about Timo Werner's future after an underwhelming debut season at Stamford Bridge.

Portuguese publication Record claims Benfica are also interested in Aguero, while The Sun has added Arsenal and his former club Independiente to the list.

 

ROUND-UP

- Lyon's Netherlands international Memphis Depay has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona, but Marca claims Liverpool could 'muscle in' for the soon-to-be free agent.

- Le Parisien reports that Paris Saint-Germain are in a hurry to get Kylian Mbappe to commit to a new contract amid speculation linking him with a move away, including to Real Madrid.

- L’Equipe claims that Arkadiusz Milik has a €12million buyout clause in his Marseille loan contract from Napoli and Juventus are preparing an offer to swoop for him.

Sheffield United midfielder Ismaila Coulibaly has attracted interest from AC Milan and Galatasaray but the Blades want to keep him, according to Yorkshire Live.

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