As Vincent Kompany hoisted the Premier League trophy above his head in 2019, it was an historic moment as Manchester City had completed an unprecedented domestic treble. It also marked the end of an era.
After thumping in a vital winner against Leicester to help his team pip Liverpool to the title by a point, the iconic skipper called time on his eleven-year spell at the Etihad to return to boyhood club Anderlecht in his native Belgium.
Kompany was a leader, a huge presence in the dressing room with impeccable standards. He was always going to be difficult to replace but City simply didn’t sign even a centre-back replacement and paid a massive price for it.
With John Stones suffering from a lack of form, Aymeric Laporte managing just 15 league appearances due to a knee injury and Nicolas Otamendi not being entirely reliable for a side hunting the top, City struggled at the back. Decimated, it would have been even more disastrous but for the versatility of midfielder Fernandinho, who deputised as a makeshift centre-back.
Two years on, City need to have learned from that harsh lesson.
Sergio Aguero, the club’s all-time top goalscorer, is out of contract in the summer and could well leave for pastures new.
"What I believe is all the players that we have deserve to stay here for many, many years," manager Pep Guardiola said in February. "The quality they have is exceptional, there's no doubts. But year by year the situation is different because there are players who accept some roles and some that don't.
"It's not about the quality, it's about accepting that sometimes you don't play and in that moment the player has to leave.
"There are players, for age, personality or many reasons, that accept all the roles. Other ones don't accept it, when they play it is perfect but it is a problem when they don't play with the team.”
Aguero has been stuck on the bench this month since returning from a lengthy spell on the sidelines and his coach’s comments suggest this could be the end of the line for one the team's greatest ever players. Speaking to The Sportsman, City_Report said of their superstar Argentine, "Sergio Aguero will most likely go down as City’s greatest ever player and he has been a joy to witness over his ten years or so here in East Manchester, and will no doubt be immortalised in the form of a statue outside the Etihad Stadium."
If Aguero and City do go their separate ways, the club must react now and avoid a repeat of the failures they made following Kompany’s exit. Though if reports are to be believed, they have.
Already, City have been linked with a mammoth deal to prise Lionel Messi away from Barcelona and have looked at Erling Haaland, banging in the goals for Borussia Dortmund. It will take astronomical amounts of cash to land the pair but not signing a replacement for Aguero would prove far more costly.
Gabriel Jesus has 79 goals in 181 appearances for City and is a vitally important player, boasting the quality to fill in for Aguero who has been stuck on the bench since his spell on the sidelines. However, there are question marks as to whether he has the consistency and accuracy to be the main striker for Pep Guardiola’s side.
Harry Kane, too, has also been mooted as a possible signing and City will be looking for the very best when it comes to filling the void left by Aguero. When Yaya Toure left the club, they had already planned ahead. A talismanic figure who helped spearhead the City revolution in Manchester and beyond, the Ivorian drove the team forward to unbelievable heights. It took a player of Kevin De Bruyne’s calibre and ability to replace him, but replace him he did. KDB arrived at City in 2015 and was able to share the creative load with David Silva when Toure called time.
It feels like the end of another cycle, with talk of a move for Jack Grealish proving it’s not just the attack City hope to bolster. Upfront though, reinforcement is a must. The 2019-20 campaign will have taught City not to make the same recruitment mistake again. Their future and continued success depends on it. Aguero may go but this time, someone will need to come in so City don’t come up short again.