Lionel Messi will leave big shoes to fill.

The three Premier League stars Aguero has named as Argentina’s leaders when Messi retires

Manchester City legend Sergio Aguero has identified three stars that will serve as Argentina’s leaders once current captain Lionel Messi retires – and all of them play in the Premier League.

Messi has just turned 37 and is yet to decide whether the Copa America, in which Argentina have made it to the semi-finals, will be his last major international tournament.

The iconic eight-time Ballon d’Or winner is Argentina’s all-time top goalscorer and appearance-maker and will leave a massive void, having played an influential role in Argentina winning the last World Cup and Copa America.

Talking with Stake, Aguero namechecked Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez but went for three outfield players

“Some say Dibu Martinez, but the goalkeeper’s roles are different, they have a different type of leadership,” Aguero explained.

Here are the three players he picked out.

Enzo Fernandez

“Enzo has shown time and time again, both in his first club River Plate and in the Argentina national team and Benfica, that he does not feel pressure and assumes his responsibility on the pitch naturally,” Aguero said of the Premier League’s all-time record signing when he joined Chelsea from Benfica in January 2023.

“And he no longer has to do with how much was paid for him. We saw it in his Chelsea debut. He made the team play and almost reached the goal – and it was his first game. In the second he put in a masterful assist for Joao Felix’s goal. He will surely have a very important progression in the Premier League.”

Fernandez arrived in west London fresh from a starring role in Argentina’s World Cup triumph, having been named the Young Player of the Tournament in Qatar.

Things haven’t quite gone to plan for the 23-year-old since that bright start at Stamford Bridge. He’s been on the winning side in just 30% of his Premier League appearances, with more defeats than victories and question marks over how he fits alongside fellow big-money signing Moises Caicedo.

Still, despite his club struggles he remains a dependable midfield presence for the Albiceleste, continuing to start and produce solid displays as they chase down a second successive Copa America.

Alexis Mac Allister

“He’s a very intelligent player. He positions himself, waits his moment,” Aguero said of Mac Allister during the 2022 World Cup, when the midfielder was still at Brighton.

Unlike Fernandez, he stuck around at his club until the end of 2022-23 season, but you always felt as though a move to a bigger club was inevitable – and so it proved when he signed for Liverpool last summer.

So far he’s slotted in seamlessly at Liverpool, helping make their wholesale midfield rebuild go a lot smoother than it might have. He remains an undisputed starter for the national team and will surely be among their key players when they look to retain their world champions crown in the North America in two years time.

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Julian Alvarez

“It’s not easy to arrive from South America and adapt quickly to the demands of a team as monumental as City,” Aguero said of Alvarez back in March 2023, when his compatriot was closing in on a historic treble in his debut season at The Etihad.

“He’s made good progress so far because he found a way to integrate to the club’s well-structured playing style. Julian never lets up – he’s running, pressuring, jumping into action wherever the team needs him to be.

“And he’s ruthless in front of the opposition’s goal. He’s committed, dedicated to training, and he’s able to translate that to great performances on the pitch.”

It ought to be no surprise that Aguero has picked fellow City goalscorer Alvarez ahead of Manchester United’s rising star Alejandro Garnacho.

Alvarez has previously spoken of celebrating his compatriot’s iconic title-winning goal against QPR back in Argentina, and how experienced internationals like Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi were influential in his decision to join City.

It will be interesting to see how the 24-year-old goes from here, though. After effectively completing football by winning every major trophy going at a young age, Alvarez didn’t quite kick on as hoped last season and has recently lost his Copa America starting spot to Lautaro Martinez.