Pep Guardiola has hailed the enduring class of Sergio Aguero as the striker nears another Manchester City goalscoring milestone.
The Argentinian, with 157 league goals, is one short of equalling the club record held jointly by Tommy Johnson and Eric Brook.
Aguero, 30, is already the club’s overall record scorer, having powered on to 219 since surpassing Brook’s previous best mark of 177 last season.
City manager Guardiola said: “The big players need to appear in the key games, the big moments, and he did it. Hopefully he can continue doing it. In the big games we need important players.
“(It is) not (Maurizio) Sarri, Pep, Jurgen (Klopp) or any manager. This game belongs to the players and important games belong to special players. That’s what he’s about.
“Sometimes the best tennis players, when they need a point to save a break, they make ace. The big moments, always the big athletes come.
“Sometimes players hide in those moments but others step forward and say, ‘I’m the boss and I’m going to win this game’. The big clubs need these kind of players. It’s simple.”
Aguero’s next such big game could be Sunday’s home Premier League clash with Chelsea, when City will be hoping to put more pressure on Liverpool in the title race. He has scored 12 goals in 16 appearances against the Londoners.
Coincidentally, Chelsea are now managed by Sarri, who was Napoli boss when Aguero struck his record-breaking 178th City goal in a Champions League group match.
City actually beat Napoli home and away in the competition but Guardiola was impressed by Sarri and he continues to be, despite recent criticism of the Italian following recent Chelsea results.
Sarri’s side, who are 12 points behind City, lost two in succession before last week’s 5-0 thrashing of Huddersfield.
Guardiola said: “I met him last season when we played against Napoli and I was so curious because I enjoyed, a lot, watching his Napoli.
“Winning in Italy is not easy with Juventus but they made 90 points and played incredible football.
“I think the season from Chelsea is exceptional. They are in the final of the Carabao Cup, in the Europa League they went through easy, and in the Premier League they are there.
“Even if people don’t believe it, they have a chance to be champions. Nine points, 12 points – there are a lot of games to play. In the FA cup they are still there as well.”