Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is playing a ‘dangerous’ game in his handling of top marksman Sergio Aguero, according to Garth Crooks.
The Argentina international has made plenty of headlines this season, but not all of those have been generated by his performances on the field.
A surprising drop to the bench earlier in the season for important domestic and European fixtures sparked speculation regarding the South American’s long-term future at the Etihad Stadium.
Such talk appears to have been calmed for now but with the January transfer window approaching, it could easily be brought back to the fore.
Crooks fears Guardiola risks unsettling the striker with some of his decisions, with there a ‘distinct air of disapproval from Aguero’ after his recent substitution against Crystal Palace.
City have previous when it comes to forwards rebelling against their bosses, with Carlos Tevez heading into self-imposed exile back in 2011 after suffering a falling out with then manager Roberto Mancini.
“If ever there was a man born to score goals, it was Sergio Aguero. He has scored 33 goals in the last 34 league matches, which tells its own story,” former Tottenham striker Crooks wrote in a column for the BBC.
“Against Burnley, he was his usual predatory self. And yet I detected a moment last week - when City boss Pep Guardiola tactically substituted the Argentine for a defender in order to close the game against Crystal Palace - when there was a distinct air of disapproval from Aguero.
“For Guardiola, the move might have been justified but, if you don't mind me saying so, it was a dangerous one nevertheless.
“When managers go about using world-class strikers as fodder, it runs the risk of hacking them off. They are not there to adorn your every circumstance, but to be treated with the utmost care and attention - a point former City striker Carlos Tevez was keen to make to former City manager Roberto Mancini.
“Lose them and it could cost you a title, a cup, a tournament, your job. Your choice.”
Aguero bagged a match-winning brace against Burnley on Saturday to take his tally for the season to 16 in just 18 appearances.
Ten of those have come in the Premier League, and the 28-year-old now sits alongside Chelsea’s Diego Costa in the battle to land the top-flight Golden Boot.