Cut-price Kompany prize asset in City portfolio
Skipper proving worth on and off the field, writes Paul Wilson
Belgian footballers are all the rage at the moment, with Vincent Kompany's friend Jan Vertonghen tipped to follow the Manchester City captain into the Premier League at Arsenal or Spurs and City themselves reportedly leading the chase for Eden Hazard.
The latter has supposedly been leaving Lille for years, but if he does move this summer it is likely to be for an enormous fee, considering that every major name in Europe has been tracking him at some point. That would be untypical, for Kompany is much more your standard type of Belgian signing.
Unheralded at first, a snip at something in the region of £6m from Hamburg, Kompany almost sneaked under the radar when City were buying players in batchloads, but has subsequently proved to be the sort of solid defensive presence and quietly responsible team captain that every manager would like to sign. He would certainly cost more now, for at 26 his best years are ahead of him.
A couple of days after scoring the decisive goal in the Manchester derby, Kompany could be found on Twitter discussing the French presidential election with Vertonghen, a fellow defender currently at Ajax. You would not find many English players using Twitter for such a purpose, but with Kompany you get a bit of everything, in social networking terms at least.
Check out his Facebook page and you can find him posing with Liam Gallagher after the derby win, while elsewhere his father and sister take the opportunity to get close to greatness in the form of Diego Maradona.
Perhaps more importantly, Kompany posts messages directly to the fans, and more often than not gets the tone just right. "I appealed because I completely disagreed with the interpretation of the officials on the day," he said of the tackle on Nani in the FA Cup tie against Manchester United in January that earned him a red card and a four-match ban. By common consent Kompany played the ball and not the opponent, yet was somehow deemed to have done so in a dangerous manner. "My understanding," he said, "is that English football prides itself on hardness and fairness."
It was appropriate that Kompany should have scored the goal that defeated United and put his side back on top of the table, and you could tell what it meant to him from the way he celebrated.
There was no gloating or premature rejoicing afterwards, just another thoughtfully composed and positive message. "Just two games left," he said. "We'll give everything we have until the last minute of the season to make sure we finish with no regrets."
Roberto Mancini was not the manager responsible for bringing Kompany to City, but he was quick to make him captain once the disastrous decision to flatter Carlos Tevez's ego with the honour began to go wrong.
"Vinnie is an excellent captain and he has been playing very well," Mancini said. "He deserves a lot of credit for his performances all season, not just against Manchester United, but so do the rest of the team. We are a team once again now; when we restricted United to no shots at our goal in the last derby it was not just because Joleon Lescott and Vinnie played well, it was the team as a whole."
All the same, Lescott believes City have been at their best when the two defenders have been in partnership. "I'd like to feel I pull my own weight but we share the workload," he said. "Vinnie's form has been consistently good for a number of years now so you know when you play alongside him that as long as you try and match his levels of effort and commitment you won't be going far wrong."
City had a slight wobble when Kompany was suspended, though the effects were mostly confined to the Carling Cup, and dropped points again when he was injured in March.
Since his return the disruption caused by Tevez making his way back into the fold has been minimal, and City's now harmonious team spirit has been noticeable in recent weeks, even if it took slips by United to let them back into the title race.
They still had to bounce back after the defeat at Arsenal which seemed to have been so costly, and but for Andrew Surman's opportunistic strike in Norwich's 6-1 hammering at Carrow Road last month, Kompany and his defence would have kept clean sheets in each of the last four games.
City's defensive organisation will be given a more searching examination by Newcastle this afternoon, but Mancini's players go into the game having conceded fewer goals than anyone else in the league and with two wins over United under their belt, so they have no need to fear a side beaten 4-0 at Wigan last week, however impressive Papiss Cisse's goals against Chelsea.
With even Alex Ferguson conceding the gulf in goal difference is unlikely to be bridged, City must now be favourites for the title, even if their captain is reluctant to say so. "What did the manager say?" was Kompany's guarded response when asked if his side was now in the driving seat. Last week one manager said one thing and the other manager the opposite. This week, both are singing from the same hymn sheet.
"If we win at Newcastle we will win the title," Mancini said. "Sir Alex said that, so it must be right. He has far more experience than me."
Sunday Indo Sport