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Page last updated at 07:23 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 08:23 UK

The rise of Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero made his senior debut at an age when many kids are busy sitting at the back of their school class misbehaving.

And, when the striker first entered the cauldron of Argentine football for Buenos Aires club Independiente at the age of only 15 years and 35 days in 2003, he broke a much-vaunted record previously held by one of the greatest players ever to kick a ball.

Diego Armando Maradona.

Since then El Kun - a nickname given to Aguero because of his likeness to a Japanese cartoon character - has become one of the hottest properties in world football, earning a lucrative move to Spanish giants Atletico Madrid and making his international debut for two-time World Cup winners Argentina.

By way of introduction to the man behind the player, Aguero - now 19 - tells BBC Sport what makes him tick.


After Atletico beat Barcelona 4-2 in March you got rave reviews, even being compared with players like Hugo Sanchez and Fernando Torres. How do you feel when you read that?

It is always a great feeling to get recognition based on your performance, especially when it's against a team like Barcelona.

At first, the amount of media attention and the reaction of the fans here in Spain was a little surprising. You would think they would start to recognise you if you did well in your first five games.

But here it was the opposite. Before I even played in my first game, just when I had landed at the airport, there were fans, press and media everywhere. I would never have imagined such attention beforehand.

It took 15 minutes just to get into the car. I couldn't walk through all the press and the police. It was the same situation in the presentation and the training session. But without the fans I wouldn't be here today.


What has it been like adjusting to life in Spain after your move to Atletico both on and off the pitch?

I have felt a great amount of kindness. The club has allowed me to gain a lot of experience and I've had the opportunity to compete amongst the world's best teams and players.

It was a bit difficult to adapt at first but, little by little, I have learned to adjust to the type of football here in Spain, the city, the players and the club.

I think that overall Madrid is a calm city. Many people recognise you on the street or when you are eating in a restaurant but they respect your space and privacy.

606: DEBATE

It was also difficult to be away from my family at first but I think that moving to Spain and playing for a world-renowned football team really sped up my maturity level. I had to grow up a lot more quickly than most kids my age.

At first, I found it difficult to adapt to the style of play because the weather is different in Argentina - as is the pace of the game. I had to get a feel for the momentum here.

Here, football is very quick. When they water the pitch the ball moves fast and you slide across the field. In Argentina you touch the ball and then hold it for a bit, which allows you to have more time to look for the pass.

Also, generally in Europe it is man on man, where in Argentina one player marks you and another waits for you. The defenders here are also a lot stronger and bigger.

But overall it wasn't a very difficult transition for me. You soon get used to the rhythm of Spanish football. After competing in more and more games and training daily, everything came pretty naturally.


How old were you when you started to kick a ball? Was there a coach that really inspired you?

Football surrounds you in Argentina and so I began playing at a very young age. The truth is that I had always lived with the ball at my feet.

As soon as class ended in Quilmes in Buenos Aires, my friends and I would start up a game. In Villa Itali, the neighbourhood where I was raised, there was also a pitch where we used to gather with the local kids and organise games.

Sergio Aguero
Aguero pines to play Champions League football

At any moment of the day we could have been playing, when the sun shined or when dark fell. I would spend hours and hours out there, sometimes even coming home late. Time was never a factor.

Honestly, I think my debut at such a young age came as a big surprise to both myself and Oscar Ruggeri, the former coach of Independiente. But I just went to the training sessions and made sure I listened to both the veteran players and the coaches for guidance.

Ruggeri took such a big risk on me at such a young age. He had a great deal of confidence in me when I was just a little boy.


What was it like making your debut at 15, breaking Maradona's record?

There were some difficult times at first. I was a lot younger and smaller than most of the players, so I had to learn how to avoid and dodge aggressive tackles.

At times, especially in the beginning, I think I became a target for malicious tackles and so referees were forced to look after or protect me, or at least pay closer attention to intentional rough hits.

But eventually I learned to avoid these rough tackles and improved so that I was able to anticipate and dodge injuries.


Why did you choose Atletico? Did any English clubs talk to you?

Signing with Atletico was one of the best decisions in my life.

It has helped me become stronger, both mentally and physically on and off the pitch. It is an honour to wear the red and white badge and I am proud to represent such a grand team that carries such a distinguished history of success and achievement.

What's more is that Atletico is a well-known club within Argentina and so there are many people who have defended the red and white colours throughout history.

The truth is that I feel at home here

Sergio Aguero

Miguel Angel Gil [club managing director] visited me in Argentina and really showed great interest in my talent. He convinced my family and agents that it would be a great opportunity for both me and the club.

He made me feel comfortable and really pressed home the idea of working together to accomplish something grand, primarily to play in the Champions League. Another positive factor was that there wouldn't be a huge language barrier.

The press has published stories about Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan, Villarreal, Bayern, Palermo, Liverpool and Hamburg.

The important thing is that I am devoted here and I wouldn't even consider switching clubs. We have great players and I want to be here to help the club achieve something big, hopefully leading them to a European title.

As far as the contract with Atletico is concerned, I am delighted with my new agreement. The truth is that I feel at home here.


Tell us more about your nickname?

Kun actually represents a Japanese cartoon character from my favourite series that I used to watch as a child.

I coined the nickname Kun because of my resemblance to the character, who was actually named Kum Kum.

My grandparents were the first ones who gave me the name. I think my nickname is different in comparison to most athletes and so I have grown to appreciate it because it's unique. It's not everyday an athlete is nicknamed after a cartoon character!


It has been said that there was too much pressure on Fernando Torres at Atletico. Do you think the same is true for you?

Fernando was a very important player for both myself and the club and I learned a great deal from him during my first year here. His guidance gave me the confidence I needed in order to play well.

He is a great player and even a better person but I think it's important to remember that Fernando had gone through a lot with Atletico and he was always a point of reference, not only for me but for all Atletico supporters worldwide.

He had grown up being an Atletico fan and eventually worked his way up to the first team but I don't think I have that same sort of pressure, especially because I transferred here from Argentina.

Sergio Aguero and Fernando Torres
Aguero and Torres linked up effectively for a season

His departure to Liverpool was unfortunate but it is important to remember that last summer the club invested a great deal on quality and skill and so I feel as though everyone on the team today demonstrates a vast amount of ability and talent.

My current teammates, especially Diego Forlan and Maxi Rodriguez, have helped me a great deal with my transition to the Spanish league. It's nice to have talented players competing next to you.

I think that we are very close to challenging the likes of Real, especially next season.

As for this season, the team understands its mission is to secure a place in the Champions League, so we need to press for the top positions. My dream would be to have a chance to win the European title but we must be humble and take things step by step.


Do you worry about injuries having started playing so young and that you, as a forward, are more likely to be fouled?

This is a risk and a fear that most professional athletes try to avoid but I try not to think about it too much.

Of course, a striker is more vulnerable to getting hurt but I like to think that the defenders never attack with bad intention. I never try to think of injuries during a game because that would hold me back from attacking.

I just try to think about the best way to score goals for the team. I try to anticipate challenges in order to dodge players or at least manage to get fouled in a way that isn't dangerous to my physical condition.


Do you think you've changed as a player since you came to Spain? What is the best advice you've been given?

I have gained a lot of experience in football since my arrival here competed with and against some of the world's best on the pitch.

I had to learn to let go of any other pressure that surrounded me during a game and to focus only on what needed to be done

Sergio Aguero

Coach Javier Aguirre would always remind me that when I don't have possession of the ball, I should return to the halfway line because it's important to defend more since teams are tougher here in Spain.

I think that the best advice that Aguirre gave me was to strengthen my work and team ethic, which took some time for me to develop.

I had to learn to let go of any other pressure that surrounded me during a game and to focus only on what needed to be done.


Would ever consider playing in England? Do you follow an English team?

The Premier League is of course an attraction but so is the Spanish League, both because of their renowned footballers and level of play. But right now I'm enjoying my time here in Spain, so I'm not even thinking about change.

I watch Premier League games on television but I'm more fixed on the players than on the teams, especially because in England the footballers are of a larger size.

I do root for certain teams when watching Champions League for instance, like Liverpool since Fernando plays for them, but I am very content here.




see also
Sergio Aguero - Readers Q&A
07 May 08 |  Europe
Atletico Madrid 0-0 Bolton
21 Feb 08 |  Europe
Atletico Madrid 2-0 Aberdeen
29 Nov 07 |  Europe
Tim Vickery column
01 Aug 06 |  World Football


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