Vincent Kompany has announced his departure from Manchester City having captained the club to the domestic treble. He leaves English football as a true Premier League legend, writes Adam Bate.
There was no self-indulgent farewell tour.
Certainly no documentary to announce the decision. Not for him the spectacle of being chaired from the field for a drawn out substitution.
He wasn’t even the man to make way for John Stones late on in the FA Cup final win over Watford. David Silva was afforded that standing ovation.
Vincent Kompany settled for the trophy. Another trophy. The man who captained Manchester City to this historic domestic treble.
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In a game where it is now customary for ex-pros to bemoan that leadership is a lost trait, nobody could level that accusation at the Belgian. He was City’s rock. The one who set the tone. The one who set the standards.
He was also the link to an earlier era. One in which to be a Manchester City player had very different connotations to now. He arrived from Hamburg in the summer of 2008 when City’s last result of the previous season had been an 8-1 defeat to Middlesbrough. Even Afonso Alves scored a hat-trick.
Kompany not only survived the transition of City into a modern super-club, he led the change. Few would dispute that he has been the Premier League’s outstanding centre-back of the decade.
He was certainly its most successful.
“I don’t care about my CV,” he has said but it is a mighty one. Four Premier League titles under three different managers, the club’s player of the year in the first of them. Four League Cups. Two FA Cups eight years apart.
It is a list that puts him among the first rank of City’s heroes. Club legend Tony Book had the honour of bringing out the FA Cup on Saturday, and was heralded with a banner, but Kompany is now the face of City’s greatest era.
Of course, that reflects the accident of timing and what he’s been part of, but this £6.7m signing would have established himself as a hero in any era. As a leader, no doubt, but first and foremost as a world-class footballer.
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At his best, Kompany had it all. A front-foot defender with presence and more than enough pace to cope in the quickest of leagues, he was the sort of player who bulled strikers who were not used to being bullied.
Having played in midfield earlier in his career, his technique did not let him down and he was never a passive defender, always willing to take risks if it meant nipping in front of the forward to assert his dominance.
That approach, that desire to play a high line, led many to believe that he would suffer as the years went by. Undoubtedly, he was left more vulnerable as the injuries took their toll – and there were plenty of them.
More than once he must have thought it was over as he trudged off clutching that calf, the walk accompanied by whispers from the stands. He took it all with grace, never a malign influence, always a positive one.
The hard work was worth it. The willingness to battle on paid off. Kompany got to finish on the high of all highs and he was no passenger either – starting five games in a row for the first time in two years during the run in.
He did more than start them too, he starred in them. That goal against Leicester, the come-from-behind win over Brighton to seal the title and the biggest FA Cup final victory in more than 100 years. What a way to bow out.
Everything feels inevitable afterwards and perhaps City would have found a winner anyway in that final home game of the season. But there were only 20 minutes to go. The clock was ticking when Kompany intervened.
Big players do it in the big moments and his was the sweetest of strikes.
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And how about that final game in a City shirt? The battle with Troy Deeney was one he relished and won. Guardiola is well aware of the significance of that. For all of City’s class, he needed Kompany’s physicality too.
For that reason, he will be missed on the field but for many reasons he will be missed off it. Kompany’s attitude set him apart as a dressing room leader and the significance of that should not be underestimated.
“Every now and then when things are getting too comfortable, I go a little aggressive in training or I speak up and say what I think,” he explained recently. That innate sense of what the team needs is an invaluable quality.
“I am going to do everything I can to put a bit of blood in that water so this team gets even hungrier,” he added. But now City must do so without him.