Neil Humphreys: Man City in exalted Kompany
Guardiola must not allow priceless leader to leave
Vincent Kompany makes Manchester City easier to love. That's a remarkable achievement because the title favourites are not easy to love.
The Reds are. They have the history, the heartache and the 29-year-old monkey that clings to the back of every Merseyside martyr.
Even City boss Pep Guardiola acknowledged this difference, accusing the media of pro-Liverpool coverage in a mildly petulant outburst.
The Spaniard has a point. Apart from the Liverpool haters, who really wants City to prevail for a second season in a row? They are building an empire with enough petrodollars to sink the opposition for years to come.
But they also have Kompany.
He improves City's likeability. He makes the prospect of one club dominating domestic football almost palatable. Nothing about his success feels bought or entitled. Everything is earned.
City's skipper leads as if that armband was tattooed to his bicep at birth.
He scored as City pipped Leicester City 1-0 yesterday (Singapore time), smashing the winner into the top corner, the strike of a lifetime befitting a career for the ages.
A glorious goal that makes no sense at all actually makes perfect sense to a man of Kompany's reasoning. His colleagues weren't scoring. So he did. Simple. He kept his head while others were losing theirs.
He lined up a shot from 25 metres because no one else had.
Kompany made his first attempt from outside the area since 2013 because that's what was needed to break the deadlock, that's what City required of their captain.
In Kompany's mind, the thrilling finish was a no-frills response to a tense situation. He did what needed to be done, a pragmatic approach that has rewarded him with three titles, with possibly a fourth to come on Sunday.
City would be wise not to take their incomparable skipper for granted.
Kompany possesses qualities that City's billions can't buy. In the age of ball-playing centre-backs, where every defensive footballer is expected to sweep the pitch like Beckenbauer and pass like Hoddle, Kompany is refreshingly old-school.
He dominates in the air and delivers in every tackle. Less elegant on the ball, perhaps, than John Stones, Kompany reads the game just as well, if not better. More importantly, he owns both the armband and his surname.
He revels in the company of men. Manchester United ruled for decades with leaders like Kompany. City have never won a major trophy without him. This is not a coincidence.
The 33-year-old has nurtured a long career by driving himself past footballers with superior natural talent, following the likes of Gary Neville and Roy Keane in becoming greater than the sum of his parts, a priceless achievement that Guardiola cannot overlook.
Even in the 70th minute of a title-defining game in a decade-long career, Kompany's colleagues were still making the mistake of underestimating him. Guardiola admitted that he was thinking what his team-mates were screaming out loud.
Don't shoot, Vinny. Please don't shoot.
The Belgian battler was still being questioned, still being called upon to defy his own limitations and the scepticism of those around him.
So he delivered, in a way that Paul Pogba doesn't, in a way that Leroy Sane often hasn't. Even Stones can't always be relied upon to deliver when it matters, proving again that the greatest footballers are not necessarily the most gifted.
But Kompany was built for the biggest moments, scoring that critical header in the 2012 Manchester Derby that propelled City to their first title, scoring in last year's League Cup final and being the man for all triumphant seasons.
His longevity is a triumph of will over skill, overcoming enough injuries to write off half a dozen careers.
But his tenacity makes him an empathetic character. He's human. His body fails him. Frequently. But he fights back. He endures. He's every pub player and Sunday morning jogger. His setbacks and recoveries are relatable.
He bleeds like us. After the Leicester victory, he cried like us. He's one of us in a way that City's otherworldly megastars can never be, which leaves Guardiola with a bit of a dilemma.
Kompany's age and injury record work against him, but if Guardiola allows his captain to leave, he loses more than a leader. He loses his most likeable asset.
The world may not be quite ready to fully embrace City, but everybody loves Vincent Kompany.
Vincent Kompany: I've not come this far to be told I can't shoot
Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany said he ignored calls "not to shoot" from his teammates as he fired in from long range to earn his side a crucial 1-0 win over Leicester City in the English Premier League yesterday morning (Singapore time).
With Liverpool having reclaimed the top spot in the standings after their win at Newcastle United on Saturday, City looked nervy as they reached the hour mark at the Etihad without scoring a goal.
Kompany then came to the rescue by firing in a stunning strike into the top corner in the 70th minute for his first goal of the season - his first-ever from outside the box in the EPL - to win the match for City.
"Everyone was saying, 'don't shoot', but I've not come this far in my career to be told when I can and can't shoot," Kompany told Sky Sports.
"I've had 15 years of top-level midfielders telling me not to shoot, but I always told them one day, I am going to have a shot from outside the box and I'm going to score a goal."
City striker Sergio Aguero was among those who didn't want Kompany to shoot. He told his captain jokingly after the match: "Vinny, I told you, 'don't shoot. No Vinny, no!'. "
City manager Pep Guardiola was another one.
"Don't shoot! Pass the ball, pass the ball," said Guardiola, when asked about his thoughts as Kompany took aim.
"Honestly, I wasn't too confident but football is mad for that. The artists are the players, they have to decide things in a fraction of a second and what's important isn't the goal, it's him shooting while believing he was going to score."
The 33-year-old Kompany's career has been blighted by injuries, but Guardiola said they will be discussing a contract extension at the end of the season.
For only the eighth time in EPL history, the title will be decided on the final day of the season. This Sunday, City will be assured of retaining their crown if their result away to Brighton is equal or better to what Liverpool achieve against Wolves at Anfield.
But Kompany warned: "It's a big goal, we've not achieved anything (yet)."
Guardiola insisted that the pressure is still very much on his side. He said: "Liverpool play without pressure because they know it is not in their hands...
"Brighton got a result against Arsenal. We... know how tough it will be. They are strong with set-pieces. It is in our hands, one more game." - REUTERS, AFP
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