On Sunday, Sergio Leonel Agüero del Castillo made Aston Villa’s defence look like training cones, treated Villa Park like his local park, and helped himself to a hat-trick as Manchester City recorded a 6-1 win to go second in the Premier League.
His second goal drew him level with Thierry Henry as the top-scoring foreigner in Premier League history, and 29 minutes later, he had moved clear of the mercurial Frenchman as the outright leader.
As expected, social media went crazy for the Argentinian’s efforts, and he was immediately hailed as one of the greatest players to ever grace the English top flight.
And who am I to disagree? The 31-year-old is clearly one of the very best to ever ply his trade on these shores, but for me, that’s as far as he goes – one of the very best.
Let me preface the rest of this article by saying this – I am a huge fan of the diminutive former Atletico Madrid striker. There aren’t many players I enjoy watching more than him, and the longevity of his goal scoring efforts are incredible, stretching all the way back to when he made his debut for Independiente at the age of 15 years and 35 days.
If you happened to be anywhere other than under a rock on Sunday night, you’d have seen the debate that was raging – who is the best Premier League striker of all-time; Wayne Rooney, Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, or Aguero?
It’s a debate that you could lose quite literally hours of your life to, and still not come to an amicable agreement at the end of.
But it’s Alan Shearer, and let me tell you why.
Reason One: More Premier League Goals Than Anyone Else
To be honest, this one could end most arguments right here, but let me go into slightly more detail.
Alan Shearer notched 260 Premier League goals during his career. Those goals started when Shearer was a fresh-faced graduate of Southampton’s academy, having been let go by his boyhood club, Newcastle United. Aged 17 years and 240 days, two weeks after his debut, he scored a hat-trick against Arsenal, becoming the youngest player to achieve the feat in over 30 years.
Those goals ended in April 2006, fittingly against arch-rivals Sunderland, taking his tally to 206 for Newcastle, 260 in total. It’s actually 283 if you count the goals he scored for Southampton in the ‘First Division’ before the Premier League era kicked in in 1992, which a lot of people choose to ignore.
How can you argue with goals? Shearer averaged 16 goals a season over his 16 Premier League seasons, however those stats include two injury-ravaged campaigns, which we’ll talk about later.
In the early 1990’s, Shearer also managed back-to-back-to-back 30+ goal seasons. For Jack Walker’s title-winning Blackburn Rovers side, the Geordie posted tallies of 31, 34 and 31. 96 goals in three years.
Reason Two: He Struggled With Injuries
As mentioned earlier, two of Shearer’s seasons were scuppered by serious injuries. He had ankle surgery twice to repair damaged ligaments, costing him more than six months on both occasions. The first was at the start of the 1997-98 season, when Shearer had smashed 25 league goals the season before, robbing him of what should have been his most prolific for his hometown club. The second was a similar problem during the 2000-01 campaign, restricting him to just 19 appearances.
Injuries also forced Shearer to reinvent himself as a striker. It’s hard to believe looking back now that in his earlier years, he was a pacy forward to who liked to drift into wide positions and deliver crosses, as well as be the one finishing off chances inside the area.
His partnership with Les Ferdinand at Newcastle in 1996 was one of the best ever seen in the Premier League, before ‘Sir Les’ moved back down to London for £6m when Tottenham Hotspur came calling.
If you assume he’d have scored 16 goals in those seasons, you’re looking at a total of just under 300 Premier League goals by the time retirement set in.
Reason Three: He Played For A Poor Team (Mostly)
This is the single biggest reason why Shearer edges any argument over great strikers for me.
Think about the other players on the list of top scorers in Premier League history, and you’ll notice that all of them played in incredible sides for the vast majority of their time in England.
Wayne Rooney arrived at Manchester United as a teenager, won five Premier League titles and a Champions League as United established themselves as the best side in English football.
Thierry Henry was part of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ side, still the only team to ever complete an unbeaten season, and regularly challenged United throughout the 2000’s, winning two Premier League titles along the way.
And then there’s Aguero, who plays for arguably the best Premier League side ever, having recorded 198 points in two seasons and won four titles in his nine seasons to date.
Compare those sides to the ones Shearer played in, and they’re not in the same ballpark. Other than a title challenge which they blew in 1996, Newcastle United haven’t been one of the top clubs in the country very often.
In fact, when you look at the history, Newcastle finished in the bottom half five times during Shearer’s prime years. They came 3rd, 4th and 5th under the guidance of Sir Bobby Robson in the early 2000’s, but were never close to the all-conquering Manchester United at that time.
And that’s what swings the argument Shearer’s way for me. Imagine if you’d put a finisher like him in the Manchester United side of the same era, how many goals would he have scored with an amazing team around him? It’s impossible to predict, but Alex Ferguson tried to find out on more than one occasion as he made bids for Shearer around 2002.
It’s quite conceivable that if you’d supplied Shearer with ammunition from the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, we’d have been looking at a striker who had well over 300 Premier League goals to his name by the time he hung up the boots.
Instead, he scored 260, with 206 coming from the supply lines of Laurent Robert, Rob Lee, Keith Gillespie and Kieron Dyer – handy players, don’t get me wrong, but not on the level of the aforementioned foursome.
Sergio Aguero will quite rightly go down in history as one of the most lethal strikers in English football history. People reading this article and getting their backs up by the sheer audacity of it may even point to the fact that had Aguero been in England for the same time as Shearer, he’d have surpassed the Geordie’s record.
But he hasn’t, and he won’t. And as mentioned, he’s got the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva (two of the best players in Premier League history for my money), and Raheem Sterling supplying him, and you get my point. Pair Aguero with Shola Ameobi up front and we’ll see truly how good he is.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.