Vincent Kompany could walk past his statue at the Etihad Stadium on his way to the away dressing room for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final as the former Manchester City captain returns as Burnley boss.
A winner of four Premier League titles in an 11-year City career as a player, Kompany will forever be synonymous with the club’s transformation from “noisy neighbors” living in Manchester United’s shadow into the dominant force of English football.
But Kompany, who captained City, is now also making a name for himself as a manager.
The 36-year-old will almost certainly bring Burnley back to the Etihad again next season in the Premier League with the Clarets storming towards promotion from the Championship.
Many feared the worst when a six-year stay in the English top flight came to an end last season.
Due to the terms of a controversial leveraged takeover by an American consortium in late 2020, a “significant proportion” of a £65 million ($78 million) loan had to be repaid when they were relegated.
Nearly £70 million-worth of players departed as Nick Pope, Dwight McNeil, Nathan Collins and Maxwell Cornet were snapped up by Premier League clubs, while two pillars of the club’s stay in the top flight, Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, left on free transfers.
But the decision to act swiftly to land Kompany after his first managerial spell at Anderlecht came to an end proved a masterstroke.
– ‘Written in the stars’ –
Kompany has put together almost an entirely new squad relatively cheaply, with his knowledge of the Belgian market and connections at City helping land bargains.
Burnley’s only defeat in their past 23 games came away to Manchester United in the League Cup in December.
They have a 19-point cushion in the race for promotion and a 13-point lead over second-placed Sheffield United at the top of the Championship.
Kompany’s success has caught the eye of his former boss, Pep Guardiola.
“I think his destiny to be the manager of Manchester City is already written in the stars,” said Guardiola after the sides were paired together in the draw for the last eight of the FA Cup.
“He has the attributes — work ethic, knowledge of the game, well-respected, experienced.
“Doing what he has done is so difficult and he is doing really well. He knows the club, the environment, the fans, what our people need. The destiny is there.”
Guardiola’s current contract runs until 2025, but Kompany is less convinced that he is the natural successor.
“I think City should always have the best manager in the world, and that is not me,” he told the BBC.
“My goal is I am looking forward to coming up against better managers — I live for that. My biggest strength is that if I fail, I get back up, I come back stronger — and that process is more important for me now .”
Kompany and his team will face the ultimate test of where they stand this weekend as they aim to end City’s hopes of matching United’s treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup from 1998/99.
But even if they fall short, there is some consolation that a return to facing some of the world’s best on a weekly basis should be just a few short months away.