Vincent Kompany is heading back to Manchester City with Burnley (Picture: Getty)
Vincent Kompany returns to Manchester City tomorrow with Pep Guardiola believing it his former captain’s ‘destiny’ to one day manage the club.
It is typical of Kompany he has brushed off his former mentor’s comments but the way he has transformed Burnley, who travel to the Etihad for an FA Cup quarter-final, since taking over last summer suggests he would be a worthy candidate.
Although he played under the Spaniard for just three years of a trophy-laden decade at City, Guardiola’s influence is stamped all over Kompany’s Clarets because even more startling than the way Burnley have romped away with the Championship has been the manner in which they have done it.
They laid down a marker with 70 per cent of the ball in their opening 1-0 win at Huddersfield and have carried on at almost that rate throughout the slog of a Championship campaign. By contrast, when Burnley lost 2-0 at home to City in Sean Dyche’s third-last game in charge, nobody batted an eyelid at his side having less than a quarter of the possession.
And yet, when Kompany took over in the wake of relegation – and with American owners ALK Capital not entirely trusted after their leveraged buyout – there was scepticism.
He inherited a team needing to sell their best players, including prize assets Ben Mee, Nick Pope, Nathan Collins, Dwight McNeil and Maxwel Cornet. Kompany used his local knowledge to bring in seven players from the Belgian leagues – Josh Cullen, Vitinho and Anass Zaroury among them – and his Guardiola connection to sign Arijanet Muric and loanee Taylor Harwood-Bellis. Another loan arrival, Southampton’s Nathan Tella, has scored 16 goals.
The average age of the squad has come down significantly but equally impressive has been the way some Dyche hold-overs have shone under the new regime, with Josh Brownhill, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Charlie Taylor, Jack Cork, Ashley Barnes and Jay Rodriguez all making significant contributions.
That underlines what Kompany says is the biggest lesson he took from Guardiola’s leadership at City.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (Picture: Alex Livesey/Getty)
‘Where the passion came from to become a coach is the simple aspect of making players better,’ said the former defender. ‘If you make players better, then you win more games.’
No team in the English leagues has won more games than the 23 Burnley have managed this season and a Premier League return looks inevitable.
Yet Kompany is modest about his own achievements. Instead it is Mikel Arteta, a former coach under Guardiola, who the Belgian regards as ‘definitely an extension of Pep’.
On Guardiola labelling him a potential successor, Kompany said: ‘City should always have the best manager in the world. That is not me.’ That caution is understandable. Kompany’s playing contemporaries Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Scott Parker all thrived as managers outside the Premier League. All have been sacked this season.
But coaches who have successfully changed the identity of a club in the way Kompany has at Burnley are few and far between. At some point in the future, a return to the scene of his greatest glories may not be so fleeting.
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