MANCHESTER, United Kingdom: In just five magical minutes, Sergio Aguero displayed the cunning and class that has left many baffled as to why Manchester City have decided to dispense with his services - and why Barcelona are poised to land an absolute bargain.
A tearful Pep Guardiola said the striker was irreplaceable as he paid tribute following his two goals in the 5-0 win over Everton.
“He has this gift that his mum and dad gave him, or God, and he will always have it,” said the City manager.
Based on Aguero’s devastating display against the Toffees on Sunday, it was still hard to fathom how he will be allowed to leave for nothing when his contract ends next month.
Players of his caliber, with his natural goalscoring instincts, are priceless.
While injuries have disrupted this campaign, the Argentine turns 33 next month - the same age as Lionel Messi, a year shy of Luis Suarez and three years younger than Cristiano Ronaldo - and, like them, is far from a spent force.
Barcelona is set to sign him on a two-year deal to team up with compatriot and close friend Messi as Guardiola said: “Maybe I reveal a secret, maybe he is close to agreeing a deal for the club of my heart, Barcelona, and going to play alongside the best player of all time, Lionel Messi,” said Guardiola.
“And I am pretty sure he is going to enjoy it and make my club Barcelona stronger and stronger.”
For City to strengthen one of their European rivals could well prove an error of judgment unless the club moves as expected for a replacement of similar stature, such as Tottenham’s Harry Kane or Erling Haaland at Borussia Dortmund.
Guardiola described Aguero as “the legend”, while team-mate John Stones added: “It’s an absolute honor to play with Sergio. You don’t realize what kind of player and what he brings to the team and the club when he’s playing.
“For me, the best striker in the Premier League, maybe ever, to what he’s brought to the team, the trophies and as a person, just an absolute pleasure.”
Having joined from Atletico Madrid for £38 million, Aguero departs after a decade at the Etihad as the club’s record scorer with 260 goals and 184 in the Premier League - surpassing Wayne Rooney’s mark for the most by a player at a single club.
The 10,000 fans finally allowed in to watch a home game rejoiced as Aguero enjoyed what Guardiola said was the “perfect end, a fairytale moment”.
“Sergio helped us to bring this club to the level we have now,” he added. “He’s a special person.”
Aguero bade farewell to English football in the same fashion he announced his entrance in August, 2011.
Coming off the bench, on the hour, against Swansea City, Aguero marked his City debut with two goals.
Unleashed as a substitute in the 65th minute of this final home game against Everton, he bowed out with another brace that exuded brilliance.
Already 3-0 down with Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden on target for City, Carlo Ancelotti’s side could not deal with a man on a mission as the former AC Milan and Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain manager suffered the biggest defeat of his coaching career.
As Fernandinho dispossessed Tom Davies, the ball broke to Aguero in the 71st minute.
He twisted and turned Mason Holgate and then, with the outside of his right foot, caressed a sumptuous finish into the corner.
A second followed in the 76th minute as he soared to meet a Fernandinho cross and plant a firm header past Jordan Pickford.
Only the agility of the England keeper twice denied Aguero a hat-trick moment, which would have been beyond fantasy.
“Before the game I felt so strange, the sensation is not good,” he said afterwards. “I prefer to think about the good moments.”
“When I came here, the first title for me was the most important, for the club and for me, then Man City started to win more titles so I’m so happy because it’s not easy to be 10 years at one club, for me it's an honor. To be here is like my home.”
And he was feted on a day of celebration as City claimed a fifth Premier League title - and third in four years - by a 12-point margin.
Aguero’s iconic injury-time winner against QPR helped land the first of those championships in 2012 and he is the last remaining player from that side.
His achievements and legacy will soon be consigned to the record books, showreels and in the form of a statue.
The Champions League final - and a chance to win the only trophy to elude Aguero - follows on Saturday.
It would be the perfect send-off for him if City beat Chelsea and, as one era ends, a new one will begin for the Abu Dhabi-owned club.