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After a year of disappointment and below-par performances for Sergio Aguero, is this summer going to be the one that sees him leave Atletico Madrid?

What a difference a year makes. Back in the summer of 2008, Sergio Aguero could do no wrong, not in the eyes of the loyal Atletico Madrid fans anyway. Dazzling displays against Schalke and Recreativo Huelva early in the season earned him standing ovations from the Vicente Calderon faithful, and even when he was not at the top of his game, his name still rang out on the banks of the River Manzanares. Even at that early stage of the season, moves to the likes of Inter Milan and Barcelona were been developed by the tireless rumour mill in the Spanish press, and according to some publications, Lionel Messi’s crown as best Argentinean player was about to be stolen by the man simply known as 'Kun'.

Less than a year later, and how foolish those assertions look. Not only has Atletico’s Argentine failed to live up to expectations, ironically appropriate considering the history of the club, but Barcelona’s bambino has been consistently brilliant, leading the Catalans to the cusp of greatness. Whilst Aguero was worshiped by the red-and-white half of Madrid last year, this weekend it was another Argentine, Ever Banega, whose name was being sung in the Calderon, and yet again rumours of Kun’s departure are gathering steam. However, unlike last summer, when the thought alone of losing Aguero hurt as much as the loss of Fernando Torres, times have changed. All is not rosy in the garden of Kun nor Atletico right now and, with the end of the season approaching, the question has to be asked whether it is time for the Argentine to leave Madrid.

Bad Attitude

Certainly, the mood surrounding Aguero has changed at Atletico Madrid in the last few months, and most significantly, his mood concerning the club seems to have transformed too. The fact that he has only scored five league goals in 2009 is difficult in itself to overlook but, more worrying, is the attitude that he has presented, both on and off the pitch. Whilst very few members of the squad could be praised for their passion and commitment in a truly barren spell this year, Kun has drawn more than his fair share of attention due to the sudden downturn in his efforts.

Whilst many of his below-par performances could be put down to the birth of his son, which has understandably had an impact on him, that excuse can only hold water for so long. Two months on from the arrival of Benjamin, and still Kun appears to be lacking not only the talent at his disposal, but also the commitment that is expected from Atletico fans. Against Barcelona he might have roared with the Calderon when he grabbed the winning goal but against the likes of Osasuna and Real Mallorca he, along with most of his team-mates, shunned the challenge and disappeared.

Coaching Troubles

It is no secret that part of the problem has been the arrival of Abel Resino, the coach bought in by Enrique Cerezo and the board to replace the longstanding Javier Aguirre. His first game in charge might have seen a goal from Kun and a victory for Atletico but events in the weeks that followed could only be described as loco. As if drawing with Getafe, losing to Sevilla and crashing out of the Champions League wasn’t enough, Resino drew public criticism for not starting Diego Forlan in the away game with Porto, from none other than Aguero. Rarely do coaches criticise players in the press and for the situation to be turned the other way round is almost never witnessed. Kun however chose the media as a way of venting his frustrations at not just the team selection but also the fact that Resino was appointed in the first place, saying that if it were up to him he would not have chosen him as coach.

His comments sparked plenty of criticism from commentators in the press and also obliged Gil Marin, the maximum shareholder at Atletico, to meet with both Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez at a training session a few days later and discuss the situation. Ironically, the weekend before the Porto game, Kun had very much been the villain of the piece at the Bernabeu as he spurned chance after chance against Real Madrid as Atletico dominated. Whilst that alone did not anger Atletico fans, public criticism of the coach and a perceived lack of commitment did not sit well with the majority of the supporters.

Stay Or Go?

Naturally, despite the frustration, few would believe that selling a player of Aguero’s quality would be good for the club, and it is hard to argue that they would be better off without him. However, whilst the Argentine is undoubtedly talented, he is not loved at Atleti as he was a year ago, and many fans cannot help but compare the passion that Forlan shows each match to the perceived lack of it from Aguero. Perhaps a new coach in the summer, which almost certainly seems to be on the cards, would iron out the problems and elevate Kun to his best, a level that he showed glimpses of last year, but at the same time, with the club not financially flush, and top European sides known to be interested, maybe now would be the time to sell.

On a personal level, Aguero has always expressed his desire to remain with the club, as long as they want to keep him; something that has always presumed to be a given. Even now, after a below-par year, few fans would actually want to sell him and, even though some say he is not playing with passion and commitment, there is no doubt that on his day he is the best player Atletico possess. Whether that is enough to keep him at the club this summer will remain to be seen, but what is clear is that Aguero is not bigger than Atletico, and whilst a year ago he was untouchable, times are changing.

James Walker-Roberts,