‘A very difficult moment’: tearful Sergio Agüero confirms retirement

  • Barcelona striker forced to stop because of heart condition
  • ‘I leave with my head held high – happy,’ Agüero says

There was a moment towards the end of Sergio Agüero’s announcement that he is retiring because of a heart problem when a slightly shy smile flickered across his face. He hadn’t been speaking long, and a lot of the time had found it hard enough to speak at all, but he had been asked to name the moments he took with him from 20 seasons as a footballer. At first he sighed, which he did often, then he gave a short list. Independiente vs Racing, the Europa League with Atlético, that goal against QPR, and winning the Copa América. “And then,” he added, “the last goal, against Madrid.”

He shrugged as he said it, which was something else he did a lot, but after 15 tearful, forced minutes that had been difficult to watch, there was a comfortingly familiar hint of mischief in the smile, a glimpse of himself. There was also more than a hint of sadness, and then just a little bit of a laugh. From the Camp Nou seats where Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain were among those joining the Barcelona squad, Agüero’s former Atlético captain Antonio López and a delegation from the Argentinian consulate, came a chuckle. “Well,” Agüero said, “it’s not bad for a last goal, right?”

Not bad at all but how they wished it wasn’t the last, the only one he scored for Barcelona, forced to walk away after suffering chest pains against Alavés in late October, taking the definitive decision “a week or 10 days ago” after doctors told him to stop. “I did all I could in case there was any hope, but there wasn’t much,” he said. So it came to an end, at 33. That, at least, was “positive”, Agüero said, “because I’m here to tell [you]; I could have not been had it happened again”. Because he had had a career to be “proud of” too. “It’s a good job it happened now, not before,” he said.

Sergio Agüero talks to Manchester City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, as the club’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, reaches out on Wednesday.
Sergio Agüero talks to Manchester City’s manager, Pep Guardiola, as the club’s director of football, Txiki Begiristain, reaches out on Wednesday. Photograph: Albert Gea/Reuters

Before, there had been brilliance. Asked how he hoped people remembered him, Agüero said that wasn’t for him to say. “It would be bad if I said I was a crack,” he smiled, a touch of loss to go with the cheek. “But you are,” he was told. “Yeah, but it’s wrong for me to say that,” he shot back. That solitary Barcelona goal was the 427th of his career. “We have been left with the hope of what might have been but we think you made the right decision,” Barcelona’s president, Joan Laporta, told him. “We would have liked you to come sooner: when you were at Atlético, we were jealous.”

At the Calderón, he had been astonishing, La Liga’s best player in 2007-08 aged 19. Manchester City fans soon found out how good he was. Barcelona fans would not, not first hand. Injured in August, he played only 339 minutes, none with Lionel Messi, the friend alongside whom he won the Under-20 World Cup 16 years ago and hoped to play out his final games.

When Agüero appeared on the stage, the microphone picked up the sighs and the sniffs. “Oooof,” he said as he took his seat, tissue in hand. For a while, that was all he could say. He bowed his head, taking deep breaths, gazing at the floor. He looked broken and tired, eyes heavy. There was applause. He shook his head. “I’m going to … well … pfff,” he said. “I am here to communicate that I have decided to stop playing football,” he continued, and then his voice broke.

Sergio Agüero celebrates after scoring against Real Madrid – his only goal for Barcelona and the last of his career.
Sergio Agüero celebrates after scoring against Real Madrid – his only goal for Barcelona and the last of his career. Photograph: David Ramos/Getty Images

He shook his head, and tried again. When he spoke the words were slow, almost whispered, the pauses long. He said thank you many times. “I know there are lots of people who love me,” he said. The word nada was repeated a lot: a filler, it means nothing. It had been difficult even to get started. “I’ve decided to stop playing professional football: it’s a very difficult moment but, well, the most important thing is my health,” he had eventually said. “You know why I take this decision.”

There was no need for more detail: the cardiac arrhythmia was known, the club saying that there would be three months of testing but within six weeks a definitive, dreadful conclusion had been reached.

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“When I did the first tests the doctors called to say there was a very big chance that I shouldn’t continue [playing] and I started to mentalise myself but it wasn’t easy,” he said. “I was processing it all when they called and said it was definitive. I took a few extra days to process it. I got it into my head, thought properly and decided.

“I’m OK now,” he said, not entirely convincingly, “but the first few weeks were hard. I’m proud of my career, very happy. I always dreamed of playing football, ever since I first kicked a ball aged five. I leave with my head held high.”

Contributor

Sid Lowe

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