The MSR advent calendar: our favorite signings that never happened: Door 4 – Sergio Agüero
In 2006, FC Bayern could have signed two absolute world-class strikers in Ruud van Nistelrooy and Filippo Inzaghi – or maybe they could not. To be honest, the club was not attractive enough in the mid-2000s to lure world-class players to the Bavarian capital at the peak of their career. It is no coincidence that doors 2 and 3 remained pipe dream signings that were never executed.
In principle, door 4 follows exactly the same pattern. This was the year that Uli Hoeneß himself set off for South America, as he later recounted at a fan meeting. The then sporting director wanted to see Sergio Agüero, a 17-year-old striker from Argentina.
Agüero had scored nine goals in 18 games for Club Atlético Independiente in the 2005/06 season. Certainly not an outstanding figure, but his technical skills and his way of interpreting the striker’s position attracted several top clubs from Europe.
Agüero was and is not a typical center-forward. He is a forward who likes to actively get involved in the game with his dribble skills, agility and frequent runs in behind. The now 32-year-old is on the move a lot and is extremely dangerous in front of goal.
In April 2006, however, when Uli Hoeneß came all the way to Argentina to personally scout him, he could not have shown much of these skills. For the most part, Hoeneß sees Agüero holding on to a fence while warming up, later converting a penalty and otherwise having no highlights to speak of. Hoeneß was not impressed. Instead of the €16m euros asking price of the club, he offers €5m plus an appearance bonus – and is laughed off the club premises.
A little later, Hoeneß sent Magath to Argentina. But he, too, could not report much encouraging news. “Never waste my free time again,” the coach reportedly said to Hoeneß after his return. He also experienced Agüero more standing than running.
Nevertheless, Agüero could have been an absolute coup for Bayern. Playing alongside ice cold finisher and penalty box phantom Roy Makaay, he could have added speed, deep runs and dribbles to Bayern’s offensive toolbox. Perhaps with the Argentinian in their ranks, the attacking game could have been more powerful and versatile.
The fact that Bayern decided against Agüero after only two brief observations is both hard to believe and absolutely realistic. Hoeneß is a person driven by impulse, and the quality of the scouting at the time was on a different level from today. In addition, there are certain common stereotypes about South American players, which might have played a role as well.
Agüero was soon able to show that he is much more than a player who “just stands around”. By the way, with other strikers, the supposed “standing around” Is called “lurking” and considered a great quality. Nevertheless, the €16m transfer fee quoted by Hoeneß remained a big obstacle in signing a player who is only 17 years old. In retrospect it is easy to say that it would have been worth the risk. But if the first impression was so catastrophic, it is almost a surprise that the club made an offer at all.
Agüero eventually made a move to Atlético Madrid for €23m where he took off completely. In only his second season in Europe, he scored 27 goals and made 12 assists in 50 competitive matches. In 2011, a transfer to burgeoning Manchester City for €40m was the logical consequence.
Agüero has been undoubtedly one of the best strikers of the past decade, not only because he scores many goals, but also because he works hard for his team. He is without doubt a different type of striker than the Makaays or Tonis of this world. But that is precisely what would have been the allure of this transfer.
However, it must be said that FC Bayern were always well staffed in attack, even without Agüero. The problem areas of the squad usually lay elsewhere. And when I think of Felix Magath’s Agüero assessment, one of them perhaps was standing at the sidelines even.
A cue for door 5: If FC Bayern want to sign a player, they’ll get anyone. Exceptions confirm the rule. Or did they not want this player in the first place?