Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Why always him? Vincent Kompany the man Pep Guardiola turns to for the big occasion

Manchester City captain's thunderous strike against Leicester City follows a trend of the Belgian scoring important goals at pivotal moments in the season

Bernardo Silva fulfils many roles at Manchester City. Midfielder, winger, runner, spokesman, selfless team man. The multilingual Portuguese can feel City’s resident diplomat. It is rare he disagrees with anyone in public. And yet when confronted with Vincent Kompany’s claim that he scores goals like his astonishing winner against Leicester City in training, Silva broke the habit of a lifetime.

“Not true at all,” he said. “I'm sorry, Vinny, but it's not true.” It was said with fondness. “What a strike,” Silva added. “I don't know what happened in his mind but the way he shot that ball was unbelievable. If anyone deserved that goal it’s him. What a player for us; for this club.”

Kompany is a leader, a symbol, perhaps City’s greatest defender. Yet when he had the ball 25 yards from goal, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling and Pep Guardiola were among hoping he did not let fly.

Kompany ignored them all and, in the process, perhaps powered City to the title. "I could hear people saying 'Don't shoot, don't shoot!',” he said. “I've not come this far in my career to have young players tell me when to shoot. For 15 years, I've told people I'll score one like that." A 25-yard thunderbolt, struck with inch-perfect precision caught everyone except himself by surprise.

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“It is amazing, unbelievable,” said Aymeric Laporte, the man who gave him the ball. “I never see one goal like that.” If Aguero’s injury-time, title-deciding winner against QPR in 2012 will always remain the Etihad Stadium’s most iconic goal, it is not merely recency bias that suggests Kompany’s cracker could belong in second.

A former teammate, Mario Balotelli, famously unveiled a T-shirt reading “Why Always Me?” after scoring at Old Trafford. Kompany had gone a year without a goal, but the same question felt valid. Why always him? A towering figure is a big-game player; for the third successive season, Guardiola has turned to Kompany for the run-in. He was City’s best defender in the Champions League quarter-final against Tottenham Hotspur this season. He opened the scoring in last season’s League Cup final against Arsenal.

A disproportionate amount of his City strikes have come at pivotal moments. He has scored 18 Premier League goals. They have included crucial finishes in the 36th (his 2012 header to defeat Manchester United), 37th (versus Leicester) and 38th (the 2014 tap-in against West Ham) games of title races.

“I felt it was my time to contribute,” Kompany said. “Your whole life you prepare for these moments and you never know when they’ll come. But by believing you increase the chance of experiencing moments like this. It’s special.”

He was the man who believed when his team-mates doubted his prowess from distance. His previous goal from outside the penalty box had come 12 years ago, for Hamburg against Brann in the Uefa Cup. “A nice goal,” Kompany added. “Watch it back. It’s not about how many times you do it, it’s about when and how you do it. Sometimes you can’t explain it. You feel it, you do it and execute it. I’ve been playing football since I was six years old and somewhere in me I have these kind of moments.”

Kompany has the technical prowess to mean his City career began in midfield and that Barcelona once coveted him, but he has come to represent the old-school defender whose predilection for going to ground has got him a band of social-media doubters. Yet Guardiola, whose critics claim his sides lack personalities because he programmes players, has come to cherish a big character in the traditional mould.

Silva underlined Kompany’s influence. “He's our captain,” he said. “Not only on the pitch but off the pitch too with his importance in the dressing room: the way he trains, the way he gives us all the advice, the way he welcomed me when I arrived. What a player, what a captain and hopefully he can stay with us for a few more years."

With Kompany’s contract up in the summer, that is not certain. But if he leaves, it should be having won four titles as captain, level with Roy Keane. Only John Terry has more. Why always him? That personality, that willing to take responsibility, that relish for the major occasion help explain it.

Updated: May 8, 2019 12:50 PM

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