By Oliver Platt
The scene has been described many times before, and will be recalled long into the future. In one last shot, with a calm trust in technique that defied the chaos playing out around him, Sergio Aguero instantly repaid his £35 million transfer fee and secured his place in Manchester City folklore.
It could have been so different. "It was no real surprise to see him leave, but I thought it would have been to a different club," said Diego Forlan, his strike partner at Atletico Madrid, after Aguero joined City. "Chelsea's game and squad are more suited to his style." Forlan, admittedly, might have been a biased observer. "And of course I am a Manchester United fan, so his decision to move to City is also painful for me."
Chelsea fans might imagine what could have been when Aguero, named the most lethal striker in Premier League history this week, lines up at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. The Argentine has scored one goal every 111 minutes since he arrived in the north west, bettering the records of former top flight stars such as Thierry Henry and Alan Shearer and keeping himself ahead of super-sub Chicharito, who is currently in second place.
The Blues were in the race to sign Aguero but the striker was quoted as saying he would prefer to stay in Spain, even if that meant joining Atletico's arch-rivals Real Madrid. But City swooped and were rewarded with 30 goals in all competitions.
The situation in attack did not seem so urgent for Chelsea then, though. They slumped to sixth in the league table but that was largely a consequence of their trips to the finals of the FA Cup and Champions League. Didier Drogba led the way in both competitions. Fernando Torres continued to struggle but a goal at Camp Nou in the Champions League semi-final, which drew a reaction from the commentator's box as high in volume as Aguero's against QPR, gave cause for optimism. He scored a hat-trick in his next league match and then grabbed three for Spain at Euro 2012.
Now, though, Drogba is gone and Torres has one goal in nine matches. He has simply not shown himself to be capable of scoring the goals that get Chelsea out of trouble when they are not at their best. In January they will surely be looking for a man who can and their search will likely take them back to the Vicente Calderon.
Radamel Falcao will cost them more than Aguero set back City but at 26, in the form he is in and with the best years ahead of him, he is worth the outlay. The Colombian has scored 10 goals in 12 league games and plundered another hat-trick when Atletico demolished Chelsea in the Super Cup at the end of August.
Remarkably, Atletico are five points ahead of defending champions Real Madrid and only three behind leaders Barcelona. They are in the title race when it was not thought possible to break the dominance of La Liga's 'big two'. Yet Atletico have beaten teams by two goals on only four occasions so far; two of them because Falcao scored more than once.
Torres has now scored 11 league goals in 58 games for Chelsea. It is an appalling statistic for a man who managed 65 in 102 matches at Liverpool, in spite of the injuries that troubled him during the latter stages of his time at Anfield. The pace that made Torres such a devastating point of attack for the Reds appears to have deserted him.
Part of the reasoning for the appointment Rafael Benitez as Roberto Di Matteo's successor - at least for now - will be the goals he drew from Torres while the duo were on Merseyside. He should know how to get the best out of his compatriot tactically, but his presence could also provide a psychological boost for a striker who has often appeared low on confidence. But Benitez's long-term status as Chelsea boss will be in doubt from day one, with the spectre of Pep Guardiola looming on the horizon. And haven't we waited long enough on Torres already?
Injuries disrupted Aguero's start to the season but he will enter this weekend's top-of-the-table clash with five goals in his last four games. With their star man in attack back in form, City have risen to first place in the Premier League. Chelsea are currently headed in the other direction and in January, they must surely correct the Atletico Madrid mistake they made 18 months ago.
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