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Pep Guardiola pays the price for keeping Sergio Agüero from the reunion | Sid Lowe

The Manchester City manager dropped his star striker, whose old friend Lionel Messi ran riot for Barcelona in Spain while the visitors missed chances

There was no sign of Lionel Messi’s mate. The first time he met Sergio Agüero, they were teenagers, brought together in the Netherlands more than a decade ago. Sitting at a table in a dining room, Agüero looked at the kid opposite him, no idea who he was. “What’s your name?” he asked. The reply was delivered quietly: “Lionel.” Lionel would become his room-mate and soon best friend; unknown he might have been but he would also become the best player in the world. Theirs was another of the many relationships renewed here: Claudio Bravo and Marc-André ter Stegen, Nolito and Luis Enrique, Pep Guardiola and all of them. Sergio Agüero and Lionel Messi.

Yet when Messi strolled out, he saw only one member of that Argentina Under-20 team: Pablo Zabaleta. Agüero had been left out. His absence defined the way the game would be played; Messi’s presence decided it. Tactically this was fascinating, contrasting styles within broadly shared philosophies, but talent transcended all – talent and mistakes: a slip, a red card, a ball given away. After this 4-0 defeat Guardiola’s decisions will be debated fiercely.

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