Just a couple of years ago, Vincent Kompany was hailed as Manchester City’s best ever defender by club legend Francis Lee, among others. The Belgian was considered a world class, arguably unrivalled globally, centre-back by the end of the 2011/12 season, having inspired City to their first league success of the modern era. He was captain of his national side too, a regular starter amidst the deep defensive talent pool Belgium are enjoying this generation. Even at the end of last season, Kompany’s do-no-wrong reputation was still very much intact, being named in the 2013/14 PFA Team of the Year for the third time in four seasons after another Premier League medal, before leading his nation to a commendable quarter final berth at the Brazil World Cup. Kompany was seen by many as the English league’s standout dominant defender, taking over the reins from a declining Nemanja Vidic on the red side of Manchester.
Off the pitch, things were going well for the stopper too. In 2012 he signed a record six-year deal to keep him at Manchester City, earning a reportedly handsome £135,000-per-week paycheque in the process, and looking set to see out the prime years of his career at the Etihad Stadium. In March 2013, Kompany also invested interest elsewhere within football – literally – when he bought his hometown club FC Bleid-Molenbeek, then of the Belgian Third Division, renaming them BX Brussels and surging new inspiration and opportunity into his local community. All this was communicated through his Twitter account, with which Kompany has been known to positively share opinions, interact with fans and spread awareness of projects such as BX Brussels.
So where has it all gone wrong for Manchester City’s once-talismanic captain? If any neutral were to tune in to a City match this season, he or she might well find an out of sorts Kompany and wonder if all the hype was some long running social media joke, grossly exaggerated sarcasm akin to that used towards Emile Heskey and Paul McShane.
Converse to general opinion the year before, much-maligned Martin Demichelis has in fact been The Citizens’ best performing centre-back. Truth be told the Argentine and Eliaquim Mangala were the defensive partnership during City’s best run of results for the season, all through the busy December schedule too, while Kompany was side-lined with a hamstring injury. The latter’s return in January coincided with a faltering run of five matches without a win or clean sheet, including the FA Cup humiliation at the hands of Championship minnows Middlesbrough. Crucial mistakes followed Kompany into Europe, as early into the first leg of City’s Champions League exit to Barcelona, his misfired clearance handed Luis Suarez the chance to give the Catalans what proved to be an unassailable advantage.
The Belgian’s lowest moment certainly came during March 1st’s league defeat to Liverpool. Having been pedestrianised by the pace of a Coutinho-Henderson attack which gave the Reds the lead, teammate Fernandinho let rip at his captain during the half-time interval, forcing manager Manuel Pellegrini to step between the players before blows were exchanged, reportedly. The bust up, hardly expected behaviour from a role-model, as the 28-year old aspires to be, led to punishment for both players as they sat out the next fixture.
Since then, Kompany’s Twitter page has went almost completely silent, posting nothing but occasional promotional retweets or club announcements. His performance on the pitch, it appears, has translated to a limited focus on interaction with social media.
Such poor form also translated onto the most recent bout of international competition, as Kompany was sent off during Belgium’s 1-0 defeat of Israel in European Championship qualification. The build-up to that decision was comical, as the defender attempted to shift his 6’4” frame with all the nimbleness of a tractor, lost possession, then paid the price with an indisputable second yellow card offence. The twenty-odd seconds sequence of events just about perfectly summarised Kompany’s 2014/15 campaign thus far: still trying to impress but failing to miserably.
The recently repeated mishaps that have befallen Belgium and City’s captain are significant of his drastic loss in form. Opponents have completely discarded their respected fear for the Premier League Player of the Year from 2011/12; of late, City’s number four couldn’t strike a less imposing figure if he took to the field in full Sky Blue clown attire.
The cause for Kompany’s sudden decline is unclear. The aforementioned month out of action during December aside, he has had no major injury concerns to worry about in public knowledge. And the fact that Manchester City’s run of form in fact improved during that time is only further indicative that he was playing below par before said injury struck. Lack of confidence, outwardly again, should not be a problem smarting the big lad’s performances – he is one of the highest paid defenders in the world, captains a nation praised for its defensive quality, and boasts an array of collective and individual awards from over the past half-decade. And of course, there is no excuse for a lack of quality players playing alongside him at club level, as City’s squad is made up nearly completely of international standard players.
To suggest motivation, or its lack thereof, is an issue may seem a bit like a vague, copout excuse, but for Kompany this may well be the case. Of course, City have failed to come close to conquering Europe’s elite sides – the natural next step for a club investing hundreds of millions of pounds in its development – but on a personal level, Kompany is virtually roost ruler at the Etihad. A new club, perhaps even a new league, might present the kind of week-in-week-out fresh challenges that the Belgian desires. Being at the prime age of his playing career, any top club in Europe – Barcelona have been mentioned in the past – would welcome such a decorated defender. Though money-making might not appear to be an issue concerning Manchester City’s owners overly much, the allure of making a forty, fifty, sixty million pound profit on a player purchased for just £6 million may be too much for a businessman like Sheikh Mansour to resist.
Of course, this is all just speculation, regarding a player who has been one of the most prominent faces of Manchester City’s success in recent years. Vincent Kompany of 2010-14 could come roaring back next season, if the Belgian stays in Manchester and continues as club captain. The clichéd ‘form is temporary’ motif exists for a reason after all. Though what is for sure is that Vincent Kompany of 2014/15 has been drastically out of sorts, and that must change quickly somehow if he is to maintain his credible reputation as one of the world’s most feared defenders.