If this really is to be Vincent Kompany’s last competitive game in a Manchester City shirt, it will be a fitting end but letting go of all this will not be easy for either party. They have simply invested too much in each other. The greatest bonds, after all, are always the hardest to break.
Just as the one remaining bridge in the dressing room between the pre and post-Abu Dhabi era at City is no ordinary player or captain, so the club he arrived at as a bright and ambitious 22-year-old is scarcely recognisable from the one he could now leave as a 33-year-old and one of the game’s true statesmen.
They were threatening to turn off the lights before Sheikh Mansour’s largesse transformed the club in 2008, days after Kompany’s arrival from Hamburg for £6 million - one of the great transfer steals. Now they are history makers, the first English club to claim a domestic treble after this one-sided FA Cup final against Watford.
In truth, it may be more of a see you again soon than a goodbye from Kompany if the contract extension so many at City - team-mates and staff included - are praying will be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead fails to materialise. Whether as a coach, a future manager or, perhaps most intriguingly, as an executive or board member, it is hard to believe the Belgium defender will not be helping to shape City’s future off the field in the years to come with all the passion, drive and intelligence he has shown on it.
For now, though, we can only hope this is not farewell because it certainly feels like it - the tears on that lap of honour after City’s final home game, the emotions here. Oh to be a fly on the wall when Kompany and Pep Guardiola sit down for that beer the City manager has talked about, presumably before the Catalan returns home to Barcelona for a most deserved holiday in a week or so’s time. Talk about a brains trust. Kompany wants more regular football, Guardiola cannot promise it him. Unless a compromise is reached, something will have to give. The only certainty is Kompany is insistent he will not be retiring.
Sure, his fitness cannot be relied upon these days but no one needs to remind Guardiola what he will be losing in the dressing room if his captain departs when his existing contract expires next month. Kompany represents City’s soul. An adopted Mancunian who married a local girl, he delights in playfully mocking his United supporting father-in-law and, when he is not pinging unstoppable 30-yard drives into the top corner or throwing his body in the way of anything and everything, is helping to fight the city’s homelessness problem. It is not just City and their supporters who would miss him.
“I’m probably the most prepared player in the world for my after-career,” Kompany said over the weekend. He is not wrong. Fluent in four languages, in 2017 he graduated with a Masters in Global Business and his interests include media and property development. He will keep lacing those boots for a while yet, though. If he stays at City, it will not be out of sentiment on his club’s part.
If he has proven anything over the past couple of months, it is that he still firmly belongs at this level. Okay, so that thunderbolt of a goal against Leicester was out of the ordinary for a player more accustomed to stopping them but few defenders read the game quite as well or are as committed to the cause.
There might have been momentary panic from Kompany, shortly before City scored their first, when Watford’s players appealed en masse for a penalty after feeling the Belgian had handled Roberto Pereyra’s shot, but it was about as ruffled as he looked all afternoon. Troy Deeney barely got a sniff all game. There are few quite as adept at getting their body in the way, at making the block as Kompany, as Pereyra discovered again early in the second half.
It is not luck, it is a skill. No matter the pain that might come his way, he never takes his eye off the ball and has an innate sense of timing and anticipation. A captain colossus in every way.