Tony Book was on the Wembley pitch on Saturday. The man who lifted the FA Cup in 1969 brought it out in 2019. A few years ago, Book’s place as Manchester City’s greatest ever captain was guaranteed. Then Vincent Kompany came along.
Now Kompany, like Book, is part of City’s past, but a constant reference point, an emblem, a man who did not grow up a City fan but who came to represent them in a way that every homegrown supporter could only envy.
“He defines the essence of the club,” said chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak. Kompany assumed a status that went far beyond that of a centre-back, even one who, at his peak, was arguably the best in his position in the world.
He had the combination of towering height and raw pace, allied with a fearlessness that occasionally took him into tackles he should have shied, the reading of the game that explains why he is now a manager and the technical prowess of a midfielder.
It took vast quantities of self-belief and considerable talent to unleash the thunderbolt that brought his goal against Leicester City. That was Vincent Kompany, the man who rose to the occasion.
Kompany is a natural leader – perhaps unsurprisingly as the son of an immigrant who became Belgium’s first black mayor – and personality played a part in his prowess.
It was telling that Al Mubarak said: “There have been many important contributors to Manchester City’s renaissance but arguably none more important than Vincent Kompany.”
That was not to downgrade Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola’s participation but Kompany was the man who predated Sheikh Mansour’s takeover, albeit by a matter of weeks, and became central to the revolution.
Along with Pablo Zabaleta, another 2008 arrival, he showed the new project had heart and soul, that imports could become adopted Mancunians. Few took their commitment to the club further; Kompany even married a City fan.
And few have scripted a better ending. Consider this for a trilogy. In his antepenultimate game Kompany scored that astonishing winner against Leicester, perhaps the most significant goal in the title race.
In his penultimate outing, he lifted the Premier League trophy for the fourth time – only John Terry has claimed it more as captain – at Brighton & Hove Albion. He bade farewell at Wembley, captaining City to the joint biggest FA Cup final win ever.
Kompany was City’s de facto leader before Mancini promoted him from the ranks in 2011. “Vinny’s always been Vinny; he just got the armband,” recalled his old centre-back partner Joleon Lescott last year.
From Uefa Cup to treble winners - Kompany's 11 years at Manchester City
The Belgian, the son of a Congolese, felt an old-school British captain in some ways. It is sometimes said that the leaders of the past are a dying breed. Kompany seemed to belong to a tradition featuring Bryan Robson and Graeme Souness, Roy Keane and Tony Adams, the men who could lead by word or deed.
And yet in other ways, he represented something very different. Multilingual and with a social conscience, Kompany is helping Manchester’s homeless by donating the proceeds of his testimonial to ensure they all have somewhere to sleep.
His allies stretched from teenage teammates like Phil Foden to the city’s mayor, Andy Burnham. It was tempting to recall Lescott’s words last year about Kompany’s future.
“Vinny will do whatever he wants to do,” he said. “He’s very, very intelligent so I’m sure he’ll be president somewhere soon or Prime Minister when he’s finished.”
Though not just yet, though. Kompany laughed off a recent question about retirement. Instead he goes to Anderlecht as player-manager, the club he first supported as a six-year-old. Loyalty remains a leitmotif and if the role sounds a throwback, there may be few more capable of executing its dual duties.
Certainly it will form a contrast with his bit-part role in recent seasons. A man who rarely doubts himself has been held back, by injuries and, at times, selection. He could easily have ended up with more than his 360 appearances for City.
City have a younger centre-back partnership, in Aymeric Laporte and John Stones, though the faith Guardiola displayed in Kompany for major matches illustrated how even a manager who some had thought was a sceptic was won over by the veteran.
But he will leave a void. David Silva or Fernandinho could replace him as captain, while Kevin de Bruyne or Bernardo Silva could be an option for the long term.
None, however, will bring Kompany’s aura. Perhaps none will achieve as much with the armband on. For Kompany’s place in City history and City folklore is secure.