At least for another 24 hours or so, the FA Cup occupies a particular place in the modern history of Manchester City.
It is the only honour the club has won since the 1976 EFL Cup that was not initially presented to Vincent Kompany.
Carlos Tevez was City’s captain when Yaya Toure scored the only goal to down Stoke City at Wembley eight years ago, but the true identity of the on-field leader in sky blue was already common knowledge.
Tevez’s infamous touchline spat with then-manager Roberto Mancini and extended golfing holiday were still to come, but a hastily made and withdrawn transfer request in December 2010 highlighted strained relations.
At a time of accelerated, turbulent change, Kompany became City’s anchor. He skippered the side when they beat Manchester United 1-0 in the semi-finals and it was symbolic that he and Tevez took a handle each of English football’s most famous old trophy on the Wembley lap of honour and hometown parade that followed.
Kompany will lead City out at the national stadium in search of an unprecedented domestic treble in Saturday’s final versus Watford, the last game before his contract expires.
The 33-year-old’s thirst for the big moments and biggest occasions was again brought to the fore during the final stretch of the epic Premier League battle with Liverpool – his spectacular 25-yard winner against Leicester City in the penultimate match likely to endure as the season’s picture-book moment.
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) May 7, 2019
It was title number four in England’s top flight for Kompany, whose innate leadership qualities were already clear to one dressing-room figurehead before the Tevez-Mancini maelstrom, when the Belgium international arrived in his now adopted city as a fresh-faced 22-year-old.
“He was only young when he came in, but he would ask for meetings,” Richard Dunne, long-serving captain and pillar of defensive strength in different times at City, told Omnisport.
“He would be saying, ‘What are we doing? Why is this going on? What’s wrong here?’.
“Even at that young age he had that mentality of a captain, the mentality of someone who wanted the club to improve and wanted to understand how we could improve. He was an impressive character.”
Signed by Mark Hughes from Hamburg for a reported £6million on August 22, 2008, during the dying days of Thaksin Shinawatra’s shambolic tenure as owner, City’s means to improve in the manner Kompany desired changed beyond all recognition when Sheikh Mansour’s takeover shook the footballing world 10 days later.
As the trophies have rolled in, Kompany has been a constant. “He is a guy who teaches me a lot about the club and helped me in the bad moments,” manager Pep Guardiola told BBC Sport this week.
The ravages of persistent calf injuries have actually embellished Kompany’s legend. His emergence from the treatment room for the final stretches of recent seasons carries cinematically heroic quality.
Manchester City will feel a very different place if the outcome of the beers Guardiola has promised to share with his captain at the end of the season results in a parting of ways, while Dunne feels the repeated narrative of fitness woes have actually come to cloud where his former team-mate should stand in the Premier League pantheon.
WHAT A DECADE IT’S BEEN!
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— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 17, 2019
“When he arrived, he just read the game so well for what we were used to, being in the Premier League as centre-halves,” he said. “He was that little bit different, the way he played.
“The first year when they won the league he was outstanding. There was nobody that could touch him.
“As well as what he was doing on the field, the way that he held himself, the way that he spoke and the way that he led the team puts him right up there with John Terry and Rio Ferdinand and people like that.”
Kompany has long held honorary Mancunian status, marrying City fan Carla Higgs and adopting the flat vowels and glottal stops their children Sienna and Kai are sure to imitate.
His work alongside Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham to address the city’s homelessness crisis, launching the Tackle4MCR initiative that has been bolstered by the proceeds of Kompany’s testimonial season, has further strengthened those ties.
Dunne might reside in Monte Carlo nowadays, helming his burgeoning FMC Elite youth football academy, but he understands how a club and a city he called home between 2000 and 2009 has seeped into Kompany’s bones.
“When you live in Manchester for a long time, it does grow on you. It becomes a second home,” he said.
— Andy Burnham (@AndyBurnhamGM) May 10, 2019
“Vinny has been so well welcomed in the city that he’s comfortable there, he loves it and he feels like it’s an opportunity to give something back.”
Dunne added: “The club’s changed, so the atmosphere around the club will change. There’ll be a different type of supporter coming to games. But I think the heart and soul of it is always going to be the local people from Manchester.
“I don’t think they’ll ever lose that, having the likes of Vinny Kompany there. It wasn’t what it is now, when he joined.”
Given the resources at their disposal, there is little the modern Manchester City cannot buy. But generation-defining footballers and men like Kompany are truly priceless and do not come along so often.
If his last act in a City shirt is lifting the third part of Guardiola’s treble on Saturday, it would feel like the perfect goodbye that nobody is quite ready to face.
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