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After injury and the break-up of his marriage severely hampered his 2012-13 campaign, the Argentina striker continues to improve in time to face his would-be employers

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By Sam Lee

Sergio Aguero heads into Sunday's match against Chelsea, the team who were so desperate to sign him, as one of English football's most dangerous players, finally threatening to realise his vast potential.

For ever since that most famous of sporting moments, when the final, most decisive kick of the 2011-12 Premier League season handed Manchester City their first title in 44 years, things have not taken off quite as Aguero might have hoped.

BACK ON TRACK: AGUERO'S CITY STATS
SEASON APPS GOALS ASSISTS
2013-14 10 9 4
2012-13 40 17 7
2011-12 48 30 12
For somebody so talented, Aguero has played second fiddle for the majority of his career in Europe. He emerged from the shadow of Fernando Torres, but not Real Madrid, during his time with Atletico. He is very seldom rated among the best strikers in the world (or even England, having not featured in either PFA Team of the Season since he arrived). Even at City he has been hampered by the presence of close friend Carlos Tevez, who felt he should be the focal point of the team's attacks. In Argentina, loved though he is, it is Lionel Messi who is expected to deliver the World Cup next summer.

The difficult second album of 2012-13 led to whispers that 23 goals and some stunning performances in his first Premier League campaign might have been a one-off. A knee injury sustained in the opening game against Southampton, the first at the Etihad Stadium since the Argentine scored that iconic goal to clinch the title, left him playing catch-up for the rest of what would turn into a disastrous season under Roberto Mancini.

Having been rushed back into the line-up before his knee had fully healed, Aguero was facing heartbreak off the field as his marriage to Diego Maradona's daughter, Giannina, broke down. He opened his heart at the beginning of this year, speaking of how difficult it was that his son, Ben, was growing up in Buenos Aires while he was living alone in Manchester, separated from the woman he had spent his young adult life with.

He would score five league goals between January 1 and the end of the season while team-mate and compatriot, Pablo Zabaleta, came out to insist that personal struggles would not force the striker out of Manchester.

But things are rapidly turning in his favour. An upturn in fortunes on the pitch - nine goals in 10 matches so far this season - has coincided with a new era at Eastlands and a far happier personal life.

Giannina has arranged for Aguero to see his son at her Madrid home when his schedule allows, and he has also been able to spend time with Ben and the rest of his family while on international duty in Argentina.

But he has certainly not taken his eye off the ball in Manchester. City fans were wowed at a pre-season event in which Aguero addressed the crowd in English. Nine months previously, at the BBC's Sport Personality of the Year awards, Aguero spoke in Spanish to host and former Barcelona striker Gary Lineker, not confident enough to attempt English after 18 months in the country.

MAN CITY LATEST
13/2 Sergio Aguero is 13/2 to score first against Chelsea with Bet365
New coach Manuel Pellegrini, a fellow South American, has insisted that English is the only language to be spoken in the dressing room, and has instructed City's foreign stars to brush up on the language. Indeed, Aguero has doubled the number of English lessons he does per week, and has made an effort to ingratiate himself with City's core of English players, like Joe Hart and Joleon Lescott.

The latter months of Mancini's reign have been well documented, but the City dressing room is a far more united camp than it ever was under the Italian, who helped foster several different factions by the time he was deposed in May.

Pellegrini came to Manchester with an open mind with regard to his striking options, but Aguero has battled to see off the challenge from Edin Dzeko and has now nailed down a starting berth alongside Alvaro Negredo. Far from the frustration he felt towards Tevez's head-down approach, it is a partnership he is relishing; he has told coaches at Carrington that he and the Spain striker can forge something special in the coming months.

They have scored eight goals between them when partnered in the league so far, and will likely start against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a match which will help shape the Premier League title race.

Despite Fernando Torres's cameo in midweek, there will no doubt be jealous glances from the Chelsea VIP box as the teams take to the pitch; Roman Abramovich had given the order to sign Aguero after he scored twice for Atletico Madrid in a 2-2 draw with the Blues in 2009. But the Spanish side changed the terms of his contract, kept him for another year and increased his buy-out clause.

City pounced, keen to make their mark among Europe's big hitters, and Chelsea lost out. Now, finally, he can show Abramovich and the rest of the world what they have been missing.

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