Vincent Kompany informed his Manchester City team-mates that he was leaving the club amid emotional scenes in the Wembley dressing room after their FA Cup triumph over Watford secured an unprecedented domestic treble.
It was announced on Sunday that Kompany will take over as player-manager at Anderlecht - the Belgian club where he began his career - on a three-year contract this summer as one of the greatest defenders of his generation prepares to make his first foray into management.
City and manager Pep Guardiola fought to keep Kompany for another season but, after careful deliberation, the 33-year-old concluded the offer a player-manager role with Anderlecht was too good to turn down on several levels and felt it was the right moment to bring an end to his glorious tenure at the Manchester club, with whom he won 10 trophies in 11 years.
Kompany described the impending move to Anderlecht as “the most passionate yet rational decision I’ve ever made” but spoke, in an emotional Facebook post, about what City had come to mean to him after 360 appearances and four league titles.
“As overwhelming as it is, the time has come for me to go - and what a season to bow out,” he said. “I feel nothing but gratefulness. Sheikh Mansour [the City owner] changed my life and that of all the City fans around the world - for that I am forever grateful. A blue nation has arisen and challenged the established order of things. I find that awesome.”
Khaldoon al-Mubarak said Kompany “defines the essence of the club” and, for a decade, had been “the lifeblood, the soul and the beating heart of a supremely talented squad”. “There have been many important contributors to Manchester City’s renaissance but arguably none are more important than Vincent Kompany,” al-Mubarak added.
Anderlecht are believed to have known of Kompany’s intentions to join them in the days before City’s title triumph at Brighton last Sunday but the first his City team-mates heard of the news was in an emotional address in the dressing room after Saturday’s 6-0 thrashing of Watford at Wembley when their fears were realised.
Spontaneous applause broke out after Kompany revealed his decision and he was hugged and embraced by team-mates, coaches and staff amid tearful scenes before they posed together for pictures with the trophy.
There were longer, more personal individual conversations with team-mates at the Hilton London Wembley hotel, where the squad had stayed, before a jubilant squad continued their exuberant celebrations on the flight back to Manchester from Luton Airport.
City’s players were attending a dinner arranged by the wives and partners on Sunday afternoon, which Kompany’s City and Belgium team-mate Kevin De Bruyne appeared to allude to when, after paying a heartfelt tribute to his compatriot on Twitter, the midfielder reminded him he was “picking [him] up at 2pm”.
Kompany is likely to be a prominent presence in City’s trophy parade in Manchester city centre on Monday afternoon, which will conclude with a party for the players and all the club’s staff at Manchester Cathedral.
Given his injury troubles in recent seasons, City had offered Kompany another heavily incentivised contract for next season. Yet the combination of being able to manage his own playing time while taking his first steps into management at Anderlecht, the club he had played for from six-years-old before his move to Hamburg at 20, was ultimately too much of a lure. Kompany’s impending exit will strengthen Guardiola’s desire to sign a centre-half - Matthijs de Ligt at Ajax and Leicester’s Harry Maguire have both been linked - especially since there is a possibility of Nicolas Otamendi also departing. City are also ready to trigger the £61.3 million release clause in the contract of Atletico Madrid and Spain midfielder Rodri.
Kompany revealed that he had visited Anderlecht last year on an informal basis “just to say hello” to Marc Coucke, the Belgian entrepreneur who bought the club in December 2017, and sports director, Michael Verschueren, both of whom sought his opinion about the club’s difficulties. “I offered my help, no strings attached, should they need it,” Kompany explained.
Following the appointment of Frank Arnesen as Anderlecht’s technical director, Kompany was involved in helping to organise “some technical sessions on how to build a strong playing identity based on attractive, attacking football”, which eventually led in the past few months to the club offering him the role of player-manager.
“Michael and Frank explained to me in detail how they saw it working in practice,” Kompany said. “They had thought it through. Mr Coucke, the owner, pledged full support: time, budget, framework, staff, facilities… I was left not only impressed, but also intrigued by this sign of confidence in me. It got me thinking.”
Kompany said Guardiola had “reignited my love for the game” and that the City manager’s style of football was the one he “[wants] to teach and to see played” at Anderlecht. “With that, I will also put a bit of Manchester in the heart of Belgium”,” he said.
Interestingly, Kompany insisted this was “no goodbye - it’s a see you later” and it seems likely that the Belgian will return to City. More immediately, his testimonial will take place on September 11, with the funds raised going to his Tackle4MCR charity, which aims to end the homelessness crisis in Manchester. But Kompany has a very strong relationship with Al-Mubarak and it is not unfeasible he will end up back at City in the future in some capacity, whether in coaching or management or on the executive side of the operation.
“I cherish the counsel and leadership of a good human being, Khaldoon Al Mubarak,” Kompany said. “Man City could not be in better hands.”
Twitter tributes pour in for Kompany
>You've been magnificent! From a former City captain. https://t.co/yLsirnOj7M— Rodney Marsh (@RodneyMarsh10) May 19, 2019
Thankyou Vincent Kompany for everything good luck see ya soon LG x— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) May 19, 2019
Playing for about 10 years with this man for club and country. And what an privilege it’s been. Big player, Big personality and big leader. Learned a lot from you. Wishing you all the best for the future. Btw picking you up at 2 pm todaypic.twitter.com/RWjIhAkUel— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) May 19, 2019
Looked after me from day one. Led by example, showed everyone what it means to be a leader, wear their heart on the sleeve, and give everything for this club.— Phil Foden (@PhilFoden) May 19, 2019
We will miss you Captain pic.twitter.com/e8xkzmpjm6
Compartimos 8 años creciendo con el club. Un placer haber estado este tiempo juntos. Todo lo mejor en esta nueva etapa//We shared 8 years growing in this club. It was my pleasure to share this time together. All the best in this new stage, @VincentKompany �������� pic.twitter.com/sSotPvCJCT— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) May 19, 2019