Football: Kompany returns to Man City as rising star of management

Burnley manager Vincent Kompany will face his former boss Pep Guardiola when his side take on Manchester City in the FA Cup quarter-finals. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON – Vincent Kompany could walk past his statue at the Etihad Stadium on his way to the away dressing room for Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final, as the former Manchester City captain returns as Burnley boss.

A winner of four Premier League titles in an 11-year City career as a player, he will forever be synonymous with the club’s transformation from the “noisy neighbours” living in Manchester United’s shadow to the dominant force of English football.

The Belgian, 36, is now also making a name for himself as a manager.

He will almost certainly bring Burnley back to the Etihad again next season in the Premier League, with the Clarets storming towards promotion from the Championship.

Many feared the worst when a six-year stay in the English top flight came to an end last season.

Due to the terms of a controversial leveraged takeover by an American consortium in late 2020, a “significant proportion” of a £65 million (S$106 million) loan had to be repaid when they were relegated.

Nearly £70 million worth of players departed as Nick Pope, Dwight McNeil, Nathan Collins and Maxwel Cornet were snapped up by Premier League clubs.

In addition, two pillars of the club’s stay in the top flight, Ben Mee and James Tarkowski, left on free transfers.

But the decision to act swiftly to land Kompany after his first managerial spell at Anderlecht came to an end has proved a masterstroke.

The Burnley manager has put together almost an entirely new squad relatively cheaply, with his knowledge of the Belgian market and connections at City helping to land bargains.

The team’s only defeat in their past 23 games came away to United in the League Cup in December.

They have a 19-point cushion in the race for promotion and a 13-point lead over second-placed Sheffield United at the top of the Championship.

Kompany’s success has caught the eye of his former boss, Pep Guardiola.

“I think his destiny to be the manager of Manchester City is already written in the stars,” said the Spaniard, after the sides were paired together in the draw for the last eight of the FA Cup.

“He has the attributes – work ethic, knowledge of the game, well-respected, experienced.

“He is doing really well. He knows the club, the environment, the fans, what our people need. The destiny is there.”

The City manager reiterated his views on Friday, saying: “It’s nice he’s back (at the Etihad). We’ve looked back and seen what they’ve done all season, I’m not surprised about their position in the Championship.

“They’re so close to being a Premier League team. But of course we want to win and we’ll take it seriously.”

Guardiola’s current contract runs until 2025, but Kompany is less convinced he is the natural successor.

“I think City should always have the best manager in the world, and that is not me,” he told the BBC.

“My goal is I am looking forward to coming up against better managers – I live for that.

“My biggest strength is that if I fail, I get back up, I come back stronger – and that process is more important for me now.”

Kompany and his team will face the ultimate test of where they stand this weekend as they aim to end City’s hopes of matching United’s treble of the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup from 1998-99.

But, even if they fall short, there is some consolation that a return to facing some of the world’s best on a weekly basis should be just a few short months away.

City loanee Taylor Harwood-Bellis is ineligible to face his parent club, although the Burnley defender is already out with a foot injury.

Guardiola has no fresh injury concerns following their 7-0 Champions League thrashing of RB Leipzig in midweek, a match in which Erling Haaland scored five goals.

Stopping the Norwegian hotshot will be key for Burnley.

Kompany, who was arguably one of the Premier League’s best centre-backs in his day, will surely have some words of advice for his defenders. AFP

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