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Kompany more of a lame duck than 'president'

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Manchester City's Vincent Kompany

Manchester City's Vincent Kompany

PA

Manchester City's Vincent Kompany

THEY call Vincent Kompany 'The President' in Belgium, partly out of respect for his elevated status as the country's leading footballer but also because of the perception that, whatever the Manchester City captain wants, he usually gets.

Similarly, during the latter stages of Roberto Mancini's reign as manager at City, the Italian and his staff began to refer to Kompany as 'The Professor' on the basis of the centre-half's readiness to offer an opinion on the rights and wrongs of any given situation.

Against Barcelona tonight - a game likely to be the last Champions League chance for many of the City squad - Kompany may have a final opportunity to justify his presidential billing as he attempts to emerge from the most prolonged and worrying form slump of his career.

That neither of his nicknames are particularly affectionate will not trouble the City captain (28), who will lead Manuel Pellegrini's team in their bid to overturn a 2-1 deficit in the Nou Camp to progress to the quarter-finals.

Both stem from his contributions on the pitch, with his performances for City and Belgium earning him a reputation as one of the world's best defenders and a rival to the likes of John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic as the outstanding Premier League centre-half of the past decade.

Yet having been dropped after clashing with team-mate Fernandinho in the half-time interval of City's 2-1 defeat at Liverpool, Kompany faces Lionel Messi and Co no longer certain of his position among Pellegrini's untouchables.

Until Kompany was named as a substitute for the 2-0 win over Leicester City, he shared equal billing with Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero - players seen as too important to be dropped.

Hierarchy

Such was Kompany's standing at the club, where his voice is heard at the top of City's Abu Dhabi hierarchy, the former Hamburg defender claimed recently that he would not swap the Etihad Stadium for the Nou Camp if Barcelona came calling.

"I don't plan to leave Manchester City," Kompany said. "I feel a bond with Manchester as a place and with the fans. I would not even leave to join Barcelona. I cannot think of any club where I could have as much influence as I have here."

Kompany's influence grated with Mancini, but it is embraced by Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, who acceded to his captain's request for a separate meeting with defenders and additional analysis prior to the World Cup finals last summer.

When asked if he allowed Kompany the same kind of influence, Pellegrini quickly stressed the lines of demarcation.

"I analyse the performance of the players with the players," the Chilean said. "We will continue working this way to get our best performance. He doesn't have a problem with the way we defend."

Whether Kompany strays beyond his remit as captain, losing his focus on the responsibility of defending, is open to debate.

He does not project the brash 'Guv'nor' image which curtailed Paul Ince's career at Manchester United, but the Fernandinho episode, when the midfielder scolded Kompany for his first-half display, shed light on the irritation of some over the captain's sphere of influence.

Staff have remarked on Kompany's aloofness, yet he remains popular with the Belgium squad, where his studious nature is attributed to a rounded personality and field of interest beyond football, including politics and literature.

Problems

However, his problems this season stem from a decline on the pitch, with the injuries - muscle strains affecting calf and groin - of the past two seasons continuing into this campaign.

Kompany was at fault for Liverpool's first goal at Anfield and also performed poorly in the first leg against Barcelona.

His habit of diving into tackles has become a weakness, with the increasing regularity of his being left on the ground after a challenge regarded as a sign of misjudgement.

In mitigation, Kompany has struggled to form a consistent partnership at centre-half, with only Martin Demichelis, with his reading of situations and calmness, complementing the captain's game.

Eliaquim Mangala, the £42m signing from Porto, has done little to suggest that he can succeed where Stefan Savic, Joleon Lescott and Matija Nastasic failed in forming a reliable partnership with Kompany. But having dropped Kompany, Pellegrini delivered a warning.

So when he steps on to the Nou Camp pitch tonight, the City captain needs to perform like a president rather than a lame duck. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk