Pep Guardiola has welcomed Vincent Kompany’s return to the Etihad for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-finals by saying his former captain could one day replace him as Manchester City manager, but the Belgian is in no rush to agree.
The news that Guardiola had once again named Kompany as his successor sparked at least partly mock frustration from the Burnley manager, who is far too smart to be drawn into unwise remarks about his career path.
But the fact of the matter is that with each passing week, the 36-year-old is a more and more credible candidate for the day his former manager resigns.
A player’s résumé of four league titles and six cups at City provides its own reference, but his achievements with Burnley, who are nine points away from promotion and just two wins from their first FA Cup final in 61 years, is quite another testament.
Not that Kompany would indulge in such fantasies. “He needs to stop saying it,” Kompany joked. “I’m a championship manager. I don’t know what you want from me.
“I keep saying he’s trying to win the Champions League, I’m trying to win the league so I don’t think those kinds of talks make sense.
“I think his priority should be to stay at Manchester City for another 10 years. You need the best manager in the world. I also want to be extremely respectful of the club I lead. This club means everything to me. I want this club to get better.”
Tonight’s FA Cup quarter-finals are all the more poignant as his first trophy – and City’s first in modern times – came in the 2011 final against Stoke. His last game for City came in the FA Cup final as his side clinched their first domestic treble with a 6-0 win over Watford.
In between, Kompany was the poster child for City’s transformation from one of the punch lines for the most badass football jokes to the dominating trophy winners of the past decade.
“The club is now a monster, a machine, it’s huge,” said Kompany. “I think the biggest challenge over time has been establishing that kind of identity, that new identity.
“Success in the beginning, people just saw Man City as the money club and that may still be all for some but now City as a football brand is an incredible example of how to do it well.
“It was a really good trip. What I like about being here at Burnley is for a club that isn’t that big, we’re a small club compared to Premier League level, but in terms of culture and infrastructure it’s a really promising club.
By 2019, however, Kompany had decided to end his 11-year City career to pursue his coaching ambitions.
In his last competitive visit to Etihad in May 2019, he scored a superb long-range goal that defeated Leicester 1-0 and all but secured City the league title which they secured days later in Brighton.
“The decision in my head was formulated that this season would be a good moment for me to leave; probably just 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 that if I had said I was going to go back and keep playing I was hoping she would have stopped me.
“Then we won the league, won the FA Cup, that was my last game and I had a good 45 minutes at Wembley because of the goal line where I could watch the fans. That’s exactly the way to end it. I wouldn’t change anything about that.”
Given his performances, it was no wonder that, as pundit Gary Neville famously predicted in his commentary after Leicester’s goal, City marked his career by building a statue outside the Etihad.
Kompany will avoid watching on Saturday but admits arriving for a day’s work at a place where there’s a statue of him outside will be a surreal experience.
“It’s hard to put into words what an honor it is and I’m extremely grateful and, in the end, that feeling, that emotion, is something that not only I share, but also my family,” Kompany said.
“When my father saw it, it meant more to him than anyone else. But since I’m coming in to play I don’t think I have time to think about it too much unless you mention it. Then you mention it and I’m like, ‘Right, that’s a little weird!’
“I think I got massive recognition from the club for who I was, not just as a player, as a competitor, maybe at moments as a leader.
“But I still am and now I’m on the other side and that’s still who I am and who I want to represent for Burnley every day of the week.”