There have been many images of Vincent Kompany over the last three seasons: Vincent Kompany on crutches. Vincent Kompany sitting on the turf, head in hands. Vincent Kompany being helped from the pitch shaking his head.
The beaming, pride-filled Vincent Kompany lifting the League Cup for the third time in a glittering Manchester City career is by far the most agreeable image of a player, who has been struck down by so many setbacks (41 and counting, according to the Mail), many felt this day, this great release from recent purgatory might never come.
Kompany represents the oldest of old guards at City, from a time when the new boss’s accent was Welsh and the team’s playing style was slightly less well balanced than the smooth-as-silk repertoire we see today. Brought in as a £6m defensive midfielder by Mark Hughes, Kompany arrived at a time when City transfer splashes were just becoming a topic in the mainstream press.
Thaksin Shinawatra was wooing the locals with free satay sauce and the sumptuously exotic likes of Roque Santa Cruz, David Bentley and Ronaldinho were all said to be winging their way to Manchester.
Instead City hauled in the Brazilian genius of Jô to join the Bulgarian splendours of Martin Petrov and Valeri Bojinov and the hitherto little-known talents of Kompany.
|Kompany makes his City debut v West Ham in 2008|
European football was also on the agenda, but in the shape of a UEFA Cup trip to play EB Streymur, champions of a bleak scattering of rocks in the northern Atlantic. The club's game in the Faroes would go down in fan folklore. To match the basic ruggedness of Torshavn, City played the second leg at Oakwell, Barnsley. Multiple trips to the Nou Camp and Bernabeu were still a distant pipedream.
City had started the season with a 4-2 walloping at Villa Park. The side contained Tal Ben Haim at centre back and a midfield of Kelvin Etuhu, Gelson Fernandes and Michael Johnson. Ched Evans led the attack. By the second game of the season, at home to West Ham, useful signs for the future of the club had arrived in the shape of debutante Kompany. Starting in midfield, the Belgian would drop into central defence after Micah Richards had spent ten minutes on the turf attached to breathing apparatus. And so Kompany’s short journey from SV Hamburg to City’s central defence was already complete.
Since then he has grown into the club’s captain, an ambassador for everything right about Manchester City, an eloquent spokesman for the sport and a business graduate in his own right. Throughout this journey to greatness, he has been a humble and enthusiastic purveyor of everything sky blue.
In City’s simple dismantling of an end-of-era Arsenal side, he was immense, at once bossing the defence, charging forward through the middle and menacing David Ospina’s goal at the other end.
As fitting as it was to see three old hands, Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, forming the foundation of City’s third League Cup win in five years, the bright future under Guardiola may not include any of these players. Kompany’s injury troubles, allowing him only sporadic participation in City’s ascent to Europe’s top table are well documented. Little Silva, directing the midfield traffic in the face of Kevin de Bruyne’s muted performance, and the goal machine Aguero may only last one more season before they too become surplus to increasingly stringent requirements.
With Yaya Toure’s gigantic presence also waning, it feels like City are coming to the end of the first great chapter of their modern renaissance. Supporters will grimace in attempting to imagine the club without these stalwarts, but that time is closing in fast. Hamstrings are tighter, muscles more susceptible to pulls and the battery levels are not as high as they used to be.
Niggling injuries have long staunched Kompany's flow, but they were not to be a hindrance on this grand occasion.
He proved faster than the rocket-heeled Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as he shrugged Arsenal’s shiny new purchase off the ball in an epic thrust of his battered old frame. Down on the right flank, he produced a soft shoe shuffle that left Hector Bellerin scratching his hair extensions and those trademark surges through the middle that used to announce the arrival of the charging Yaya Toure now revealed Kompany in full flow.
The big man’s usefulness did not halt on arrival at the edge of the opposition penalty area either. Having scraped the post with a right foot poke, his moment of glory was not far away. De Bruyne’s intelligent flat corner to the edge of the area allowed Ilkay Gundogan a shot and, as it floated gently into the sea of flailing limbs in the box, a muscled leg let fly, diverting the ball past Ospina. It was Kompany of course, that galloping colossus, all uncontrollable body parts as he cavorted towards the corner flag. The elation stretching his face mirrored that of the last gargantuan goal pocketed in his name, his giant leap sealing the critical 1-0 win over a timid Manchester United that completely rerouted the 2012 title run-in with three games to go.
Here he was again, melon grin splitting his well worn features. Here he was playing in and scoring in a great Wembley final that he may well have thought was now beyond his fading powers. With John Stones and Aymeric Laporte on the sidelines looking on and Nicolas Otamendi as strong as an ox in the new firmament of City’s defensive stars, glory days like this may be numbered for Kompany in his soon-to-be capacity as apparent 4th choice centre back.
His total of 47 appearances in the last three seasons is only 10 more than centre back partner Otamendi’s total for the present campaign. His body’s capacity to recover has been questioned for over three years of trouble and strife, pulls and tears. For a player who has made it his trademark to go full throttle into the hectic field of battle, the body now says “be gentle with me”.
Vincent Kompany has given everything he has got for City in 326 appearances for the club. At Wembley his just reward was delivered in the fullest of spotlights. May it not be the last pot he lifts skywards in the name of Manchester City. This man of stout dignity, this captain for all seasons.