Since joining Manchester City from Atletico
Madrid in 2011, Sergio Aguero has collected silverware on nine occasions, including winning
the Premier League four times. He is City’s all-time leading scorer with a remarkable
244 goals, 15 of which have come in just 19 appearances against Chelsea. There is no doubt Aguero has been a major
thorn in the west London club’s side, but the fortunes of both clubs might have worked
out differently had Chelsea gone through with plans to sign him from Atletico first. A decade ago, Aguero looked bound for Stamford
Bridge. Aged just 21, he was already making a big impression in Spain and Chelsea were
looking to make a marquee signing to freshen up their attack. Nicolas Anelka finished the 2008-09 campaign
as the Premier League’s leading scorer, Didier Drogba was still in his pomp and Salomon
Kalou provided reasonable back-up. Still, the search for long-term replacements was
under way. Aguero was the one they really wanted. At
the time Chelsea made their first enquiry, in the 2009 summer window, he had already
found the net 55 times for Atletico. The club were initially put off by the cost.
Not only were the La Liga club demanding a fee in excess of £40 million, which would
have been a Premier League record, but the forward’s representatives were asking that
he become the club’s highest earner, too. Things were put on hold, and then the two
clubs were drawn together in the group stages of the 2009-10 Champions League.
Aguero made little impression as Chelsea swept Atletico aside 4-0 at home and perhaps some
in the boardroom wondered what all the fuss was about.
In the rematch at the Vicente Calderon a fortnight later, they had their answer. Aguero came on in the second half to put the
hosts in front with a superb volley. A fine brace from Drogba appeared to have secured
Chelsea all three points, only for Atletico’s talisman to curl a 25-yard free kick beyond
Petr Cech in the 90th minute. “I like him,” Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti
said afterwards with a knowing grin. “I think Aguero can play with Drogba, for sure.” Within a few weeks, negotiations had resumed
and Chelsea were getting encouraging signals from those close to the player that he would
be willing to make the move. It seemed only a matter of time before a deal was completed. Yet the January window came and went with
no agreement. Chelsea made an offer of £30 million, but that was significantly below
Atletico’s asking price. There was also a great reluctance to pay the
£5 million fee his agent Bruno Satin requested for his role in the process. Despite his vast
wealth, Abramovich has grown increasingly frustrated with the amount of money being
spent on players’ representatives over the years. This was also a period when players in the
Chelsea dressing room had a lot of influence. The Athletic understands that John Terry wasn’t
a huge fan of Aguero’s abilities and passed that opinion on to the powerbrokers at the
club. Indeed, after playing against him on both occasions in the Champions League, Terry
wasn’t overly impressed by Aguero’s movement. It is believed the ex-England centre-half
was a greater admirer of David Villa, who was making a big impression at Valencia and
also seemed for sale at the right price. Villa was one of the names Terry said he hoped
Chelsea would target when speaking after winning the FA Cup Final against Everton in May 2009. He said: “I think we’ll see Chelsea back
and competing for the top players who are out there at the moment. The likes of Franck
Ribery, David Villa. These are the kind of players we want to attract. “There needs to be a couple of changes,
a few players brought in and a few who haven’t played in the last couple of years moved on..
Hopefully Roman will listen and things will get done.” Despite Terry’s reservations over his qualities
and Chelsea’s about the price, the possibility of Aguero’s transfer remained. He was still a hot prospect and helped Atletico
win the Europa League in 2010. He hadn’t given up on a switch either: “Chelsea
are a great club”, he said in April of that year. “They have become one of the most
feared in Europe over recent years.” “London would be a really amazing city to
live in as well,” he added. “Myself and my wife could be really happy there.” By now though, Chelsea had their eyes on another
potential world-class star. In the summer of 2010, they opened talks with Santos over
acquiring an 18-year-old taking Brazilian football by storm. Neymar.
There was a buy-out clause of £28.7 million but, just as with Aguero, Chelsea didn’t
want to pay the asking price. Bids of £17 million and £22 million were rejected.
There were reports that personal terms had already been agreed at a meeting between the
player, his agent and Chelsea representatives in New York. Neymar’s father, Neymar da
Silva, made it pretty clear what was wanted. “For us to go to England would be wonderful,”
he said. But Santos president Luis Alvaro de Oliveira
Riberio was not happy with how things were being conducted. He said: “Chelsea sent us a transfer proposal
which was rejected immediately, but the harassment continues. Considering the ethics which clubs
are supposed to adhere to, this is completely intolerable and Santos will go to defend its
interests at FIFA. “On Wednesday there was a telephone enquiry.
Chelsea got in contact with my secretary and asked for our fax number. This does not mean
they have opened negotiations. Santos are not interested in selling Neymar for any amount
of money.” In the end, the pursuit of Neymar came to
nothing. As for Aguero, the last link to him came in
January 2011 when the BBC reported Chelsea had lodged a £52 million joint offer for
him and defender Diego Godin. Chelsea did make an expensive double purchase
a few days later that sent shockwaves around the Premier League, but neither Atletico player
was involved. Fernando Torres arrived from Liverpool for £50 million, while they paid
Benfica £25 million for David Luiz. It was a signal of intent that Abramovich,
despite his misgivings about an over-inflated market, was still willing to spend big. It
didn’t pay off as far as Torres was concerned. In contrast, Aguero has been a huge success
at City. Figures published by Football Leaks in 2016 suggested he ended up costing only
an initial £28.5 million in the summer 0f 2011. Even taking into account the bonus sums
triggered since, the agents’ fees and the vast wages earned over the past eight years,
it has proven to be outstanding business.