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Manchester City latest: Negredo slams Pellegrini, Aguero issued challenge, Richards much improved

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After Southampton manager Ronald Koeman moved to compare Sergio Aguero to former Barcelona teammate Romario today, Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has called on his main man to prove he is on the same level as superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Argentine striker has scored an impressive 17 goals in 18 total appearances this season following a stunning hat-trick in Tuesday's 3-2 Champions League comeback win over Bayern Munich, and Pellegrini has demanded more of the same as the club bid to close the gap to table-toppers Chelsea.

"Sergio is not just starting, but he's just 26 years old," he said at his press conference ahead of Saturday's game against the Saints. "He has many years more to play here.

"I am always asking and demanding that he tries to be the best player because he has all the conditions to do that. That is why I am very glad for him that he is always improving every day.

"I am sure he is in the top five [players in the world]. I don’t think he is better than Cristiano or Messi, but he must be very near because he has all the conditions to do it."

Meanwhile, another City striker has been criticising Pellegrini in the press, with loanee Alvaro Negredo declaring that the Chilean made him play through "unbearable" plain and never showed confidence in him.

Negredo, 29, returned to Spain to join Valencia in September on a season-long loan after just one season in England, with a view to a permanent £24 million move following the 2014-15 campaign.

Having made a £16.4 million switch from Sevilla to Manchester last summer, the Spanish striker netted an impressive 23 goals in 48 games during his time at the Etihad Stadium, but failed to score in his last 16 appearances after returning from an injured shoulder.

Now the front man, who made his first appearance for his new club last weekend after recovering from a broken metatarsal, has revealed that not all was right between him and the Blues manager in an interview with Spanish publication AS.

"I'm thankful for the confidence they have in me here from the first day, despite it being a new place and me being injured," he said.

"The experience [in England] was very good. I love City as a club. I suffered a shoulder injury and even went to clinics rugby players go to.

"They put a special bandage on it because Kun had been injured in the previous match against Tottenham, and [Pellegrini] asked me to push it.

"It didn't feel comfortable, the pain was unbearable, but I did it... then he started playing Dzeko and, when I recovered completely, I never felt I had the confidence of the manager."

Another loanee appears to be in better spirits, however, with Micah Richards, who joined Serie A's Fiorentina at the transfer deadline, declaring that he is ten times the defender he was when he first burst onto the scene in 2006 at the age of 19 to earn his England debut.

Sometimes England just always look to bring in the new young player," he told BBC Football Focus.

"I believe I was brought through too young. I was brought through at 18. I'd had a couple of good seasons at Man City but positionally I wasn't good enough.

"Technically I was OK but I wasn't at an international standard. I was using my pace and power to get me out of trouble.

"Obviously these are things you don't say then because you are getting your chance.

"I think sometimes when English players do well as young players they get thrown in straight away and then they get spat back out three or four years later saying they're not good enough.

"If you put me in an England shirt now I'll be ten times better than I was at 19, but that's for a manager or whoever is in charge to see that."

"I don't expect him to come out and watch me because I think he has enough players he can pick in England but I don't think a manager should ever rule it out," he added. "Definitely not."

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