Argentina are playing Nigeria in the final of the World Youth Championship and the score is 1-1, the Nigerians having equalised after Lionel Messi had opened the scoring with a penalty he had won himself.
On 57 minutes a 17-year-old Sergio Agüero comes off the bench and, with 15 minutes left, he drops a shoulder and gulls the Nigerian left-back Taye Taiwo into a sliding tackle inside the area.
Messi converts the ensuing penalty and Agüero hoists his team-mate in celebration. They are world champions.
That triumph in Holland raised great expectations for the future of Argentine football — yet to be realised by the national team — but it also forged close bonds between a generation of players who would go on to play for the best clubs in Europe.
Captain of that team was Pablo Zabaleta, a leader at 20 and the scorer of a stoppage-time winner against Brazil in the semi-finals, and theManchester City defender has remained close to Agüero since.
Zabaleta’s presence is going to be crucial to Agüero’s integration to life and football in England. Zabaleta has thrown himself into life in the city since arriving three years ago. He has immersed himself in the club, his commitment admired by the supporters. He even attends reserve team games at Hyde to support some of City’s young players.
“I went to a few last year,” he said. “It is great to see the young players sometimes – they are the future for this club. My Spanish friend, Joan Roman was playing [in the most recent game] and his family was here and I really enjoyed it. I know all of them, we train together and it is great to see what they are capable of.”
The main barrier to Aguero’s adaptation is language. He has Zabaleta and David Silva to translate into Spanish for him and can get by with Roberto Mancini in Italian as his wife Giannina [Diego Maradona’s daughter] speaks the language.
“Sergio prefers it if you speak to him in Italian but we are in England and I think you should learn English and it will be better for him when he does,” he said. “It is very important to learn English, especially when you first arrive in this country.
“The first year I came here I didn’t speak anything but I got some English lessons. You have to speak to the people in the club, not just the manager and your team-mates but the physios and people like that.
“You also want to speak to players who have come from another country and you want to chat with them and you can only do it in English. Sergio and David are improving their English and I can see in both of them a really good attitude to learn.”
One area in which he certainly does not need lessons is on the pitch.
Zabaleta was delighted to see how “comfortable” his compatriot looked on his debut, scoring twice and making another against Swansea.
After the game Mancini said the Silva and Agüero spoke the same footballing language. It might take him a while to master Mancunian but on the pitch he speaks with fluency.
Taken from The Telegraph: 20.08.11