Overseas players are now as much a part of English football as Balti pies, both having replaced more traditional fare. The influx of South American footballers, particularly at the top level of our domestic game has seen many of them hit the ground running. None more so than the three strikers who currently top the Premier League scoring charts; Sergio Agüero, Alexis Sánchez and Diego Costa.
The Argentine, the Chilean and the Spaniard – formerly a Brazilian – have brought a freshness to the Premier League that lights up at least three top flight games a week, unless their respective teams meet.
All three, until recent injuries, were playing at the top of their game. Indeed Agüero and Sánchez have been virtually one-man teams for their respective employers, but as well as the obvious similarities there are some significant differences between these goal plunderers.
Coincidentally all three South Americans were born in the same year, 1988, with Agüero being the oldest, and Sánchez the youngest. All three began their careers in their home countries. Agüero became the youngest player in the history of Argentinian top-flight football when he made his 2003 debut in the Argentine Primera Division aged just 15, breaking the record of the man who became his father in the law, the legendary Diego Maradona.
Diego Costa, four months younger than Agüero, started out in his native Brazil but was restricted to street football until he was 16 when he moved to Portugal to play for Braga. Alexis Sánchez started with Cobreloa in his native Chile but after his professional debut aged just 16 he was snapped up by Udinese for £1.7 million, who immediately loaned him back to Colo Cola in Chile.
The path of all three to the Premier League has been well documented as has their impact on domestic top-flight football. What ties them together in many ways is the way they have quickly adapted to the frenetic tempo of our football and taken very little time to settle in.
There are subtle differences between the styles of play of each of these star strikers. Agüero and Sánchez are more team players than Costa while the Chelsea man is more a scrapper, a street fighter, which owes much to his teen years back in Brazil. As I wrote previously re Agüero, strikers are judged on numbers; how many goals they score and how many minutes on the field it takes for each goal.
On that basis Agüero is the better striker because his career goal average is close to a goal every two games whereas the other two are closer to one every four games. Agüero and Sánchez are also more likely to set up a teammate for a goal than the single-minded, some might say selfish, Costa.
This top trio can be summed up quite nicely, and symmetrically, as being Triple A rated; Attitude, Application and Ability and it is the first two qualities that give Agüero and Sánchez the edge over Costa. Attitude and application enables ability to come to the fore. Of the three Agüero is the least likely to allow disappointment to affect his game, maintaining focus and concentration in his play. Sánchez does occasionally let his temper get the better of himself and Costa always looks more like a cage fighter when he feels aggrieved.
Obviously supporters of Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea will say their man is top dog when it comes to scoring goals but, collectively, there is one major reason why all three have been such a hit in the Premier League.
All three players are not only technically astute but physically strong and, as such, are able to withstand the buffeting strikers normally endure without much detriment to their overall performance.
It’s a decent bet that all three will figure prominently when the various player of the year awards are handed out. My money is on Agüero cleaning up.