"When you judge me, you'll have to remember I've been out for six months." That's how Vincent Kompany signed off his first interview of the season back in October, after what was already hissecond comeback of the season.
It is with those words in mind, another six months of little match action later, that hisperformance against Southampton should be analysed.
The Manchester City captain has barely kicked a ball in the last two seasons and it seemed his constant injury struggles could rob him of the chance to lead his club as the Pep Guardiola era takes shape.
They still might, given nobody, least of all Kompany and Guardiola, can be certain of when he will be able to play consistently.
But after 18 months of intense rehabilitation, of detoxes and early morning bootcamps, and a seemingly endless list of increasingly cruel set-backs, he is back in the City team and showing that he has been sorely missed.
His goal, a bread and butter header from corner,served to highlightthe profligacy of City's attacking players, who had got themselves into a number of good positions only to finish poorly or pick the wrong pass.
But for all City do still need to bring in forwards this summer, the glaring issue with their season has been their inability to defend. The vast majority of their transfer budget will be spent on centre-backs and full-backs but a fully fit Kompany, if such a thing exists, would save them tens of millions of pounds.
A fully fit Kompany would have saved Guardiola and the City fans a whole load of heartache over the past few months, too.
Having missed pre-season with a groin injury picked up just over a year ago, he lasted 90 minutes of his comeback against Swansea in the EFL Cup but, crucially, not the added time.
He limped from the pitch with moments to go and it was not for another three weeks that he was seen again. It was aftersome somewhat shaky showings against Everton, and Southampton that he implored the media to remember his injury battles as he played his way back into form.
A few days later he was taken off at half-time afterslicing his clearances and misplacinghis passes in a EFL Cup Manchester derby. He was tired, Guardiola said, and it was feared then that not only was he not fit enough to contribute, but that technically he could not do what his manager wanted.
It was another three weeks before he would start again, onlyto pick up another injury - perhaps the cruellest of the lot, given he collided with Claudio Bravo and landed on his knee - which would rule him out for another two months.
The feeling that he was trapped in an endless cycle of injuries only increased when he made his third comeback of the season against Palace and then disappeared again, only to resurface 10 days ago at Chelsea, more than two months later.
In his most recent spell on the sidelines Guardiola was asked how he chooses his centre-backs for each match and, in his answer, he seemed to forget Kompany was an option. When later asked if Kompany can play out from the back the way the Catalan wants, he said he did not know, because he had missed so many training sessions.
After so many set-backs, so many different types of seriousinjuries, it would take extraordinary character to bounce back again and again, and that is clearlywhat Kompany has.
At Chelsea he was a dependable presence, putting in the type of performance which suggested, even in defeat, that he still has both the mentality and the ability to be a part of this team.
Fitness concerns, inevitably, kept him out last weekend against Hull City but there he was atSouthampton, leading the defence in the absence of the ever improving John Stones, himself injured.
This was one of City's most dominant displaysof the season, but they still needed Kompany to ward off the threat on the counter that has undone so many positive attacking performances over the first months of Guardiola's tenure.
And as the forwards struggled to break through, Kompany stepped up. He attacked David Silva's corner with adetermination that few in this squad can match, sending a powerful effort through Fraser Forster, who shouldhave done better in truth.
Not that Kompany cared as he charged towards the travelling fans, all arms and legs and delirious screams. Every concievable emotion must have coursed through his veins as he celebrated with the City supporters, themselves delighted with what they had seen.
City went on to add more goals to their tally but it was the captain who laid the groundwork and made it possible. This was a performance, in isolation,that said much of Kompany's temperament and class,but remember: never mind six months, he has hardly played at all in the last 12.
This was a truly admirable peformance in every respect.