Pep Guardiola has welcomed Vincent Kompany’s return to the Etihad for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final by saying his former captain could replace him one day as Manchester City manager but the Belgian is in no rush to compete.
The news that Guardiola had once more tipped Kompany as his successor drew a reaction of, at least partially, mock frustration from the Burnley manager who is far too canny to be drawn into unwise pronouncements about his career path.
But the simple fact is that, with every passing week, the 36-year-old looks an increasingly credible candidate for the day when his former manager stands down.
A playing cv of four league titles and six cups at City offers its own reference but his achievements with Burnley, who are nine points from promotion and just two wins from their first FA Cup Final in 61 years, is a whole different body of evidence.
Not that Kompany will engage in such fancy. “He’s got to stop saying it,” Kompany joked. “I’m a Championship manager. I don’t know what you want from me.
“I keep saying, he is trying to win the Champions League, I am trying to win the Championship, so I don’t think those kinds of conversations make sense.
“I think he should stay for another 10 years at Manchester City, first and foremost. They need to have the best manager in the world. I want to be extremely respectful to the club I manage as well. This club means everything to me. I want this club to get better.”
Today’s FA Cup quarter-final is all the more poignant given that his first trophy – and City’s first of the modern era – came in the Final in 2011 against Stoke. His last game for City was in the FA Cup Final when his side clinched the first ever domestic treble with a 6-0 humiliation of Watford.
In between, Kompany had been the figurehead of the transformation of City from a punchline to the worst football jokes into the pre-eminent trophy winners of the last decade.
“The club, it is a monster now, a machine, it is huge,” said Kompany. “I think the biggest challenge has been over time to establish that kind of identity, that new identity.
“Success in the beginning, people were only seeing Man City as the money club and that might still be it for some, but for now City as a football brand is an incredible example of how you do it well.
“It was a really good journey. The things I like being here at Burnley is for a club that is not the size, we are a small club compared to Premier League levels, but in terms of culture and infrastructure it is a really promising club.”
By 2019, however, and with that treble looming, Kompany had decided to end his 11-year City career to pursue his coaching ambitions.
His last competitive visit to the Etihad, in May 2019, saw him score a superb long-distance goal that beat Leicester 1-0 and all but assured City of the league title which they secured, days later, at Brighton.
“The decision in my head was formulated that that season would be a good moment for me to leave; probably just a little bit before the game. But it was solidified the moment the ball hit the net. It was done. Right,” he said.
“I said to my wife, if I had said I was going to go back and continue playing, I would have hoped she would have stopped me.
“Then we won the league, won the FA Cup, that was my last game, and I got a good 45 minutes at Wembley, because of the scoreline, where I could watch the fans. That is exactly the way to end it. I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”
Given his achievements, it was little wonder that, as pundit Gary Neville had famously predicted in his commentary after the Leicester goal, City marked his career by building a statue outside the Etihad.
Kompany will avoid looking at on Saturday but admits arriving for a day’s work at a venue where he has a statue of himself located outside will be a surreal experience.
“It is hard to put into words how big an honor it is and I feel extremely grateful and, in the end, that feeling, that emotion is something shared not just by myself, but my family,” said Kompany.
“My father, when he saw it, it meant more to him than anyone else. But as I’m coming in to play, unless you mention it, I don’t think I have time to think about it too much. Then you mention it, and I go, ‘Right, that’s a bit weird!’
“I think I got massive recognition from the club for who I was, not just as a player, as a competitor, maybe a leader in moments.
“But that’s still who I am and now I am on the other side, and that is still the person I am and what I want to represent for Burnley every day of the week.”