Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says Sergio Aguero is a “legend” who will “decide his own future” after seeing the Argentina striker help his side thrash Bournemouth.
Aguero scored two goals and brilliantly made another as the Premier League leaders racked up their 17th successive win in the competition.
There has been speculation that the 29-year-old – who is Manchester City’s all-time leading scorer – feels marginalised by his manager, and could leave in the summer.
He was left on the bench for City’s win over Manchester United earlier this month and showed his frustration by throwing his gloves to the floor when he was taken off against Tottenham last weekend.
The Cherries had frustrated City until Asmir Begovic’s poor clearance led to Fernandinho finding Aguero to nod the home side in front.
Raheem Sterling made it 2-0 at the start of the second half when Aguero deftly flicked the ball over the visitors’ defence for him to gallop in and slot home.
Aguero added a third with another header, this time from a Silva cross, for City’s 100th league goal of 2017.
Danilo completed the rout with five minutes to go when he ran on to Sterling’s pass to score his first goal for the club.
Manchester City’s victory extended their lead at the top of the table to 14 points, reduced to 13 after Manchester United’s draw at Leicester later on Saturday. Even so, the 13-point margin at Christmas between first and second is an English top-flight record.
Bournemouth, who are now without a win in their past seven league games, slip into the bottom three.
Eddie Howe’s side were the opposition when City began their winning run back in August – on a sunny day on the south coast, when it took a 97th-minute Sterling goal to defeat them.
Now, 119 days on and with Santa hats in the stands at Etihad Stadium, there is still no stopping Guardiola’s side.
They have reached the halfway stage of the season and have dropped only two points, while the teams below them continue to falter.
With more speculation over his future at the club in the morning papers, this was a timely return to form by Aguero, who produced a brilliant centre-forward’s display.
If it is true the Argentina striker feels he is under-appreciated by his manager and under-used in his side’s biggest games, then this match was a reminder of his talents and also of how much he is admired by City fans.
They sang his name throughout, even before he had given his side the lead with his 100th goal at Etihad Stadium and his 183rd for the club he joined in 2011.
His best moment came with the goal he made, however, which was courtesy of a delicate dink over a static Cherries defence, that made it easy for Sterling to score.
Aguero’s second of the game was another predatory finish, and he could have had another before the end when he ran into the area.
For once, he made the wrong decision in front of goal – turning inside, and into a tackle, rather than going for his hat-trick – but otherwise he hardly put a foot wrong.