There are plenty of similarities to the careers of Vincent Kopmany and John Stones, but coaching won’t be one of them.
As Manchester City prepare for a Friday night trip to Burnley, where they start the defence of a Premier League crown that has been on their heads since May 2021, England defender Stones has been quick to praise his former teammate, who is now the Clarets’ manager.
The City man made it clear, however, that despite the fact that they have both played in midfield and as defenders at the highest level, he will not be joining his Belgian friend on the training ground.
“Of those I have played with recently, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne would make good managers and probably Ruben Dias too,” said Stones. “Definitely not me though. I might eat my words but right now coaching doesn’t interest me.”
Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the top job in the future, Stones has credited Pep Guardiola for completely reinventing how he sees football and believes Kompany has all the qualities it takes to succeed.
“I messaged him when they got promoted, I was just so pleased for him,” said Stones, who was in City's starting XI for their season opening Community Shield defeat against Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday.
“I didn’t expect anything less to be honest given Vinnie’s character and desire. He will have gone in there with a target to be promoted and not expected anything less.”
The two men met last season when City handed Burnley a 6-0 drubbing on their way to winning the FA Cup – the middle leg of the historic treble that concluded with a Champions League final victory over Inter Milan in Istanbul.
“When we played Burnley at the Etihad in the FA Cup quarter-final I was so impressed by the way Vinnie had them playing,” recalled Stones. “It was a really difficult game, I know in the end the scoreline didn’t reflect that but I can assure you it was hard.
“Playing alongside him and sharing a dressing room with him I saw first-hand what a passion Vinnie has for the game, he is a winner and he won’t settle for second best.
“He will make a top-class manager. He has that empathy that you need. There are only a few people who know instinctively when to deliver a rocket and when to console you. He can read a dressing room.”
Ironically, when Kompany arrived at City from Hamburg he was a central midfielder and only later became a full-time defender. Stones has gone the opposite route with a hybrid role at City that sees him augment the engine room from the back line.
“I absolutely love it, I’m learning. Every year there’s something new,” he declared on the eve of a new season that could see him land a sixth Premier League title.
‘I always say when you’re happy, in anything, you enjoy it more. At the minute I’m happy and that’s when you can express yourself more. Pep saw with my attributes that he could simplify the game and help me improve and get better in that system. He’s unbelievable the way he sees the game.
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“I have shown myself that I’m able to do it, maybe showing some attributes I didn’t know I had but the manager has seen in me.”
After their exploits last season in becoming only the second English team to land the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League treble, there are those who might question the desire – if not the ability – to go and do it all again but as the Burnley game draws close, Stones teammate, Nathan Ake, who signed a contract extension this summer, has poured cold water on that theory.
“Last season, after you have been fighting everything, maybe it takes a little while to get back to that level but from the very first day back in training this summer Pep went into that and made sure we were doing the same things we’ve always done that have brought so much success,” he said.
‘If you don’t start doing it straight away then it’s going to be too late; that’s why he’s hammered us straight away, so that we have the same work rate. He’s been on top of us.”