MANCHESTER: In the opening minutes of last weekend’s derby against Manchester United, City skipper Vincent Kompany was caught dawdling on the ball and gifted an opening which the champions – fortunately for him and City – were unable to convert.
That was a worrying moment for his team-mates, for manager Manuel Pellegrini and for City’s fans. If Kompany were still ‘off his game’ after injury then the prospects for City were bleak; such is his importance to both the performance and the mentality of the team.
Fortunately, the shock of the moment was not lost on the Belgian either. He was back to his rock-solid best for the remainder of a game which City romped away to win 4-1. Already he is considered as one of the finest – if not the very best – central defender in the club’s history.
Kompany’s commitment to the club is not only professional. His relationship with Manchester itself and the fans carries extra dimensions which underscore the manner in which he leads the team: he is married to a local girl, herself a lifelong City, and has involved himself in a local charity and grassroots organisations.
The former Anderlecht and Hamburg defender joined City five years ago and had graduated to captain by the time they won their first league title in 44 years, in 2012. That year he was also hailed as the official Premier League Player of the Season.
Initially, under Mark Hughes, Kompany’s role was uncertain. He vacillated between centre back and defensive midfield. But the arrival of Roberto Mancini secured his place in the heart of defence which blocked the ambitions, in turn, of both Jerome Boateng and Micah Richards.
No point in arguing: Kompany has been outstanding as was illustrated when he was ranked 23rd among ‘The 100 best footballers in the world’ by The Guardian. The £6m which City paid Hamburg for Kompany now looks less like a bargain and more like a ‘steal’.
Initially handed the No33 shirt, he took over the No4 after Nedum Onuoha was loan to Sunderland in 2010. The only lack of consistency in his City career has been his defensive partner. At first it was Kolo Toure then Joleon Lescott and, after the England man fell out with Mancini, in came Matija Nastasic.
The 2012 championship win remains the highlight thus far for Kompany. He not only captained the side to the last-seconds win over QPR which snatched the title but had headed the winning goal weeks earlier against United which made the dramatic climax possible.
His reward was a six-year contract extension, the longest of its kind in City’s history, and a statement of mutual respect and loyalty on behalf of both club and player.
City’s newly-evidenced ability to fly forward in attack at speed owes much to the knowledge of Kompany security at the back.
** Martin Demichelis is not expected to have recovered in time from a pre-season knee injury to line up for Manchester City in at least the first meeting with Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
DeMichelis, who played under new City manager Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, was signed for £3.5m during the summer from Atletico de Madrid after City hit early injury problems in defence. Almost immediately, he suffered a knee injury of his own.
Pellegrini said: “It’s been an unfortunate start for Martin here but we do not want to rush him because he will be an important member of our squad as soon as he is ready.”
DeMichelis will also miss the league games against Aston Villa and Everton which sandwich the Bayern tie before the October international break.