“The irony has not escaped anyone,” said Vincent Kompany. His Manchester City career was interrupted by injuries that ruled him out of 152 matches and if a testimonial was recognition of his success, Kompany said it was “typical of me” that a hamstring strain kept him out of a game between City greats and Premier League all-stars last night.
It was not the priority on an evening to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for a charity to tackle homelessness in Manchester, Tackle4MCR, that Kompany has launched with the politician Andy Burnham.
The son of a mayor – Pierre Kompany was elected in the Brussels suburb of Ganshoren – has teamed up with the mayor of Greater Manchester as he has looked to repay his adopted home city.
“I have always been moved by other things, more than just football,” Kompany said. “When I look at what Manchester means to me, my kids are Mancs, my wife is a Manc, and we always had this idea we had to do something substantial. The opportunity came to team up with Andy Burnham to try and solve the homelessness crisis.”
Former Manchester United players, including the Mancunians Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, lined up against Kompany’s side last night and he said: “We are specifically dealing with homelessness in Greater Manchester and you can’t have a successful project without having the red side involved. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was involved when we did the fundraising and it is a credit to the club.”
Kompany’s conscience helped him become a role model at the Etihad Stadium. He was pleased to see Raheem Sterling become an eloquent spokesman against racism. “I encourage all the young players to do more than just play football and go home,” he said. “You get advice to the opposite but it makes them more rounded people and better people.”
He is now Anderlecht’s player-manager and some distance from Manchester has helped Kompany reflect on City’s transformation since he joined in 2008.
“Now I am in a different country, you realise the magnitude of the club,” he said. “I never realised when I was here. When you come back, you realise, ‘wow, it is a big club now’. It was special to play a part in it and to be appreciated now.”
He helped mould a rapidly-changing club. “From the first day, I have always put the team first,” he said. “There were many players who were bigger players than me but myself and a core, Joe Hart, Nigel de Jong, we were really holding a lot together, making sure the club was bigger than any individual. As a group of players, we had a big impact in shaping the culture from the inside.”
That culture is a reason he thinks City can survive the loss of another injured centre-back. Aymeric Laporte will be out for four months with a knee problem. Kompany was not replaced in the summer transfer market but he is confident Pep Guardiola has forged a group who can cope.
“You need the bigger players in the bigger games,” he said. “But the key strength of this Manchester City team and what Pep has been able to do is that it is relying more on the system than the individuals.
"If you go back through the last two years, they’ve had to deal with long spells of Fernandinho out, of Kevin de Bruyne out, of myself being out, ‘Kun’ Aguero as well – big players – and the team has never seemed to collapse.”
And he is optimistic of future success. “It would be ridiculous to bet against City winning the Champions League,” he said. “It will happen. It is a matter of time.”