HE was there before it all began – albeit only by a few days.
He became a symbol of the club and the city, a constant presence as everything changed.
And now, just the day after Manchester City completed the first domestic Treble in English football history, Vincent Kompany has announced his departure.
In football, talk of a “legacy” is often overblown.
After all, players, managers, even owners, are just short-term features, names and faces, on an ever-evolving story.
Yet the Belgian did not just share, enjoy and play a key part in City’s rise from being “noisy neighbours” to the family that owns the street.
Instead, Kompany stood for something else, greater, more consuming.
Oh, and he could play a bit, too.
What is sometimes forgotten, although it should not be, is that Kompany grew and matured as the perfect reflection of City’s ambition.
He was originally, way back in 2008, nine days before the City scene was altered completely by the Abu Dhabi takeover, signed as a central midfielder.
KOMPANY INTEGRAL TO CITY SUCCESS
But ever since Roberto Mancini converted him to a central defensive role, and then made him skipper for the 2011-12 season, Kompany has been an integral part of the club’s flowering.
Yes, nobody would argue the money did not help.
Without the vast funds from the Gulf, it might not have been possible.
But would Chelsea have been Chelsea without the money made available by Roman Abramovich?
Would Arsenal have been able to give Arsene Wenger the players he wanted without the funding from Danny Fiszman?
Would Manchester United have dominated for so long had they not been able to pay more, in wages and transfer fees, over a longer period, than their rivals at the start of the Premier League era, success which gave the platform for longer glory?
Of course not.
And while City have a huge financial advantage, one they have utilised to the full, it needed an internal force to make it work.
DRESSING ROOM LEADER
For the critical years, that force WAS Vincent Kompany.
He drove his team-mates as hard as he drove himself.
Reminded them what they were aiming for, acted as the dressing room conscience.
He was rewarded, handsomely, too, although you feel the footballing rewards, those medals and triumphs, meant more to Kompany than the financial ones.
It was Kompany who made the “Aguerooooo!” moment possible, by scoring the only goal in the Manchester derby the previous Monday night that had put City ahead of their rivals.
Kompany who scored the killer second against West Ham on the final day two years later, ensuring the second title.
And when, for once, Pep Guardiola’s men were struggling to find the answer against Leicester, on another vital Monday night, who else but Kompany would come up with the moment of brilliance, picking the perfect time to score the first goal he has ever claimed from outside the box?
Kompany deserves all the tributes that will come his way.
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He deserves, too, the right to go out on his own terms, with his move to form club Anderlecht as player/manager an intriguing switch.
When they start building statues outside the Etihad, Kompany’s should be the first.
One guarantee – it will be big, imposing, formidable and with a smile as wide as any you have seen.