Desmond Kane

Two’s Kompany: Why City’s leader needs a worthy partner

Desmond Kane

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Just over a decade ago, Sir Alex Ferguson washed up at Celtic Park for a Champions League group game between Celtic and Anderlecht apparently armed with notions of submitting a bid for the teenage Belgian defender Vincent Kompany. Kompany was a work in progress at that stage, but was attracting admiring glances from various clubs around Europe. Fergie and Manchester United were primed to pounce.

Kompany endured the kind of tortuous evening in Glasgow that no defender wants to encounter in their career. Far less as a lad of 17. Goals from Henrik Larsson, Liam Miller and Chris Sutton catapulted Celtic into a 3-0 lead before the 30-minute mark. Celtic would win the match 3-1, but Fergie had seen enough. He was out of there before full-time.


Rather than launch a bid for Kompany, he opted to sign the young Irish midfielder Miller largely on his contribution over 30 minutes. The rest as they say is history. Kompany washed up at Manchester City via Hamburg in 2008 after departing Anderlecht two years earlier. Miller’s career descended into such mediocrity that he was last heard of operating in Australia.

The moral to the story? Form is temporary, class is permanent. Blinded by what was in front of him, it also illustrates that Ferguson’s eye for a player was not always reliant on 20/20 vision. In the ensuing 10 years, Kompany has moulded himself into the type of figure any club in world football would desire.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. What would Manchester United and their much-maligned manager David Moyes give now to have Kompany in their side? Come to think of it, what would any English Premier League side pay to have a player like Kompany in their midst?

He is one figure who has seen his stockpile of credibility enhanced despite Manchester City’s defeats to Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League.

He scored during the slightly unfortunate 2-1 defeat in the Camp Nou on Wednesday night after impressing in the 2-0 loss to Gerardo Martino’s side in the first leg at the Etihad Stadium three weeks ago.

On both nights, Kompany saw his side reduced to 10 men with fellow defenders sent off. Martin Demichelis walked for a rash tackle on Lionel Messi in the first leg; Pablo Zabaleta received a second yellow for complaining to a French referee about a wretched decision after he decided against awarding City a penalty when Edin Dzeko was clearly felled by Gerard Pique last night.

Through it all, Kompany has kept his point of view. Pace, power, leadership, hunger, desire and an uncanny ability to read the game. Kompany has it all.

One tackle on Andres Iniesta in the first half was particularly glorious.

His levels of consistency only highlight the paucity of proper defenders around him. Joleon Lescott cut a troubled soul last night. He was almost farmed out to West Ham on loan in January, and does not have the technique to perform at this level. In fairness to him, not many possess the attributes to censure Messi.

He endured a dreadful time trying to keep the home forwards quiet. His failure to deal with a pass from Cesc Fabregas that enabled Messi to clip the winning goal into the net shone a light on his lack of composure. Up until then, he was led a merry dance.

There has been a price to pay for ongoing failure in Europe. City unloaded £22m to sign Lescott from Everton in 2009 with over £4m used to purchase Demichelis from Atletico Madrid last summer.

They should surely expect more from such players on Champions League evenings, but money means nothing.

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We already knew Lionel Messi is almost irreplaceable for Barcelona, but Kompany enjoys a similar position with City. The value of Kompany in the modern game continues to soar because there is a shortage of men with his particular skills.

John Terry is probably the only defender in the Premier League who could take his place alongside Kompany with any true certainty.

Demichelis, Lescott, Matija Nastasic and Micah Richards are not players who are going to help carry City to their desired final destination in the Champions League. There are surely not many others City will look to fish out of the shallow Premier League pool of defenders.

It is slightly baffling that the world’s richest league is earmarked by a genuine poverty at the back.

Off the top of this onlooker’s head, Phil Jagielka, Sylvan Distin and Gary Cahill are the only three that would be worthy of a second look. Anybody fancy Michael Dawson or Kolo Toure when you are in trenches at outposts like the Camp Nou?

City studied Porto’s French defender Eliaquim Mangala in January, but opted against bringing in a defender to help out their captain. It seems to have been an error.

Shopping in the Premier League for defenders sounds akin to heading off to Harrods with only a tenner in your pocket. A crazy idea. And even if you could spend your money, there is better value to be had elsewhere.

Without highlighting the obvious, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham are hardly fertile grounds for reliable defending. It is no coincidence that Chelsea top the Premier League having shipped the least amount of goals.

Manchester City have spent well over £1 billion on mercenaries who have come and gone through the revolving door at the Etihad since Abu Dhabi began ploughing money into the club back in 2008, but the £6 million they apparently handed Hamburg to land Kompany six years ago will go down as one of the coups of the decade.

It is a remarkable fee for a such a defender, and one that illustrates a poverty of performance breaking out around him.

"Make no mistake, at £6 million, Vincent Kompany is arguably the best transfer market buy of all time,” said old cheery chops Alan Hansen, a Beeb pundit who knows the value of money working for Auntie after representing Liverpool back in the day.

“By leading Manchester City to the title this season, he has shown why he is on course to become the best defender of the Premier League era."

If he is given time, the daunting task for City coach Pellegrini is trying to land a central defender who is worthy of playing alongside his much-vaunted captain.

A figure Fergie could have landed for a few washers a decade ago.

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