Sergio Aguero replacement: Who will Manchester City choose to succeed all-time top goalscorer?

Erling Haaland and Danny Ings on Manchester City's list of replacements to replace Sergio Aguero; could England captain Harry Kane or Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku be their new centre-forward at the start of 2021/22?

HARRY KANE ERLING HAALAND GRAPHIC
Image: Could Harry Kane or Erling Haaland take Manchester City's coveted number 10 shirt next season?

Sergio Aguero is leaving Manchester City so who will replace the club's all-time top goalscorer at the Etihad?

City have known Aguero's time was coming to an end for some while. The 32-year-old has scored only one Premier League goal this season, and has made only 11 starts in the league since the beginning of 2020.

The club's forward planning, led by director of football Txiki Begiristain and chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, has seen the City win four Premier League titles in the last eight years, with a fifth looking likely ahead of Aguero's departure.

But arguably, no player City have had to replace so far has had the influence of Aguero - who has scored almost a quarter of their Premier League goals over the last decade.

So who is in the frame to step up and become the next leading man at the Etihad?

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Manchester City TV presenter Kyle Walker says the club's fans are 'heartbroken' after it was announced Sergio Aguero will leave at the end of the season

Erling Haaland

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Former Manchester City midfielder Michael Brown believes Erling Haaland is the most realistic option to replace Sergio Aguero

A man with Haaland's quality is never going to be far from the top of the list for a team like City, but unlike many other potential successors, the club already has a personal draw for the Norway international.

Haaland's father, Alf-Inge, played for City in the early 2000s and Erling has been pictured in a sky blue shirt from around that time. Things have moved on a lot since then, but having scored 33 goals in 31 games in the Bundesliga this season, and still at the tender age of 20, there are fewer hotter prospects in world football - if City want a star striker to lead the line for the next decade, this could be their man.

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"The ability he has, he believes so much in himself," three-time Premier League Golden Boot winner Thierry Henry told Sky Sports of Haaland's talent. "There is a bit of cockiness about him, if you can call it that. You have to look at people and say, I'm going to score.

"He doesn't care about anything other than the goal. Other players will go wide but he wants to stay in front of the net, between the posts, he knows he's lethal there.

"He doesn't want to go anywhere else than to score goals. That's on his mind. It's not middle, wide, it's middle, middle. He wants to score goals."

Haaland's talent has not been restricted for the Bundesliga. He is already the youngest player in history to score 20 Champions League goals.

Amid a stormy season for Borussia Dortmund, does his furious reaction to their 2-2 draw at relegation-battlers Cologne before the international break signal all is not well in Germany?

But even for a club with Manchester City's riches, Sky Sports News' Dharmesh Sheth told the Pitch to Post podcast Haaland's price tag this summer will be a sticking point - and will Pep Guardiola's public spat with Mino Raiola, the striker's agent, put a spanner in the works?

He said: "We understand that Haaland's release clause is around €75m, so around £66m, which kicks in in the summer of 2022. What that means is that Dortmund can ask for whatever they want this summer.

"With that in mind, you wonder whether a club who can afford Haaland will be thinking to themselves: can we blow everyone out of the water to make sure we get him, this summer? His agent Mino Raiola has said that four Premier League clubs would be interested in doing a deal: Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool.

"Man City would be an interesting move. The reports earlier this month were that the frosty relationship between Raiola and Pep Guardiola would not prevent a deal going through. The relationship was soured back in 2010 when Raiola took issue to the way Guardiola was dealing with one of his clients, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while at Barcelona.

"Raiola described Guardiola as a 'coward', 'a dog' and a 'zero person' but those hostilities apparently won't stop a deal being done.

"But we talk about Manchester City and Raiola, but we must remember Manchester United have Paul Pogba in their squad, another Raiola client. Raiola has already spoken out about Pogba in the past wanting to leave, as we know. I don't think what he previously said would have gone down too well with Manchester United."

Danny Ings

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Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl reveals the club are in talks with striker Danny Ings over a new contract

When on the fringes of the Liverpool first team and battling recurring injuries only a few years ago, you would not have thought Danny Ings would be a potential Aguero successor - but a spell on the south coast with Southampton could barely have gone any better for the now-England striker.

Certainly, it has proven enough for City to take an interest in the 28-year-old, who is right in his prime and has scored 30 goals in 52 Premier League starts since the beginning of 2019/20.

In January the Daily Telegraph claimed Ings has targeted a return to a Champions League club this year, which has stopped him from signing a new deal at St Mary's, while Sky Sports understands the ex-Burnley man is viewed by the City hierarchy as a more affordable alternative to Haaland, who is expected to cost in excess of £100m.

Harry Kane

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England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane is unlikely to be affordable for clubs across Europe, says Sky Sports News reporter Kaveh Solhekol

Is this the time? Harry Kane's future is rarely far from the back pages, but after the England captain said he would decide his fate after the European Championships this summer, and with Roy Keane insisting he must leave Tottenham, speculation over his next move has never been louder.

A move to Manchester United has been mooted for years but if silverware is his main aim, as he eluded to in more pointed comments during last year's lockdown, recent form suggests neighbours Manchester City would be his best bet.

"It's a hard question to answer right now," said Kane - who insisted he was focused on the rest of the season with Spurs and then the Euros - when asked about his future.

That prompted Keane to tell ITV: "If you are a top player you want to win the big trophies. There's a big few months coming up for Tottenham - the League Cup final and can they get into the top four? That's a huge question mark, will it influence him?

"He's under contract and Tottenham will have a lot to say about it. But if you are in his shoes this summer, l think he has to move to win the big prizes. He's not going to do it at Tottenham."

But is he an attainable target? Sky Sports News' Kaveh Solhekol thinks not. He said: "The facts of the situation are that Kane has never said he wants to leave Tottenham. He has more than three years left on his contract, and because of the pandemic, I think it would be virtually impossible for anyone to afford him this summer.

"Spurs are in the League Cup final, so he could win a trophy against Manchester City in April, and only three points off a Champions League spot."

Romelu Lukaku

Another striker to cross the city divide? Former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku is admired by Guardiola, according to renowned Italian outlet Calciomercato, and has found form again under Antonio Conte at Inter Milan, who look likely to win Serie A this season.

Lukaku could follow in the footsteps of Andy Cole and Carlos Tevez in enjoying successful spells on both sides of Manchester, although the Daily Mail claims he is not likely to leave the San Siro while Conte, for whom he has scored 42 league goals in 56 starts, is in charge.

Lautaro Martinez

Is the best way to replace a top-class Argentine hot-shot with another top-class Argentine hot-shot?

Lautaro Martinez is another forward who has blossomed under Conte at Inter, scoring 14 goals in 21 starts in Serie A this season.

Still aged 23, he has time on his side to improve and inevitable comparisons have already been drawn with Aguero. Notably, legendary Argentine forward Hernan Crespo, a man who knows plenty about strikers, is one of those who sees the similarities, and said last year: "Lautaro could well be the new Sergio Aguero."

Putting the two side by side the likeness is obvious; a small frame hiding a burst of pace and a striker's instinct in front of goal.

Aguero's final season at the Etihad has been ravaged by injury, but in 2019/20, both averaged almost five shots a game and had an almost identical shooting accuracy. Bursting past defenders is a penchant of both players' games, managing around 1.5 take-ons per game too.

A report in Spanish outlet Todofichajes in December claimed City were readying a €75m (£64m) bid for the forward in anticipation of Aguero's departure, but more recently, other reports have suggested Martinez is ready to sign a new contract at the San Siro, potentially with the prospect first Serie A winners medal this season in mind.

Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne?

Is the man to follow Aguero already at Eastlands?

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Kevin De Bruyne has deputised in a false-nine position at times this season, and given City's lung-busting run to the top of the table in that time, they have not missed out on a traditional out-and-out striker in that time.

Perhaps it is time for Gabriel Jesus to step up to the plate.

The 23-year-old has never fully lived up to the stunning 13 goals in 19 games which started his City career in 2016/17, but 28 goals in 44 starts from the two-and-a-half seasons since is not bad going. Jesus has often found Aguero a difficult object to move - and now, as the only other number nine currently on City's books, he has never had a better opportunity to stake his own claim.

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