Vincent Kompany was determined. With two games of the Premier League season remaining, Manchester City’s captain had no intention of passing up the chance to win another trophy. So he took action.
A dogged and resilient Leicester City had frustrated the league leaders at the Etihad, and time was running out. Drawing was not an option; only a win would take City above Liverpool and put them on the brink of a second successive title.
That Pep Guardiola’s side scored with a little under 20 minutes remaining was not a surprise. The manner of the goal, though, was entirely unexpected. Kompany, who had found the net just 20 times in 11 years at the club, who had shot from outside the box only ten times previously, collected the ball within range of Kasper Schmeichel’s goal.
Leicester’s defenders, fatally in hindsight, backed off, almost encouraging the Belgian to try his luck. And he did, driving an arrowing shot into the top corner. Schmeichel was left helpless, and City were victorious. It proved to be the decisive goal in the title race.
“I woke up and said: ‘I’m going to do something today.’ I woke up like that as well for the last five games and it never happened,” Kompany said. “But I think it’s a recipe for success: wake up and think: ‘I’m going to do something.’ Sometimes these things are just meant to happen – I can’t explain. I wanted it, I believed in it, and it happened.”
Kompany has always been a man for the big occasion. But this was perhaps his finest moment. It was made more special by the fact that, after eleven years of success, this might be his final season at the club.
If he does leave in the summer, though, Kompany will hope for one final trophy, one last glorious farewell. Victory in the FA Cup final against Watford this weekend would be a fitting way to go out.
He might, of course, feel he has plenty to offer beyond the end of this season. Kompany has only started 13 Premier League games this season, with John Stones and Aymeric Laporte Guardiola’s preferred defensive duo for much of the campaign, but when he has played – which has been increasingly often in the Premier League run-in – he has been typically reliable.
The issue for the 33-year-old is that his illustrious career has taken its physical toll. Injuries have plagued Kompany – making his resurgence towards the end of this season all the more impressive – and he is not getting any younger. Guardiola, too, is not one to keep a player in his squad out of sentimentality.
“We are going to take a beer together and decide what is best, especially for the club,” Guardiola said of Kompany. “He is an incredible human being and he has helped me a lot. This club is what it is because of people like Vincent. At the end of the season, after the FA Cup final, we will see.
“Unfortunately, sometimes he is injured but when he is fit he is an incredible centre-back. He is a personality and a leader too.”
The future for Kompany, then, remains undecided. He has admitted himself that “nothing is written in stone”.
It is clear, though, that the end is in sight for Kompany. Whether it comes this summer, or the summer after, will change nothing about the Belgian’s legacy. He has been one of the Premier League’s greatest centre-backs, a leader and talisman for Manchester City since his arrival in 2008.
He has won four Premier League titles, an FA Cup and four league cups. He has been a constant as City have risen to the summit of English football. And there might be more success to come.
For Kompany, another FA Cup final victory would mean he has come full circle. That was his first piece of silverware as a City player back in 2011, a 1-0 win over Stoke at Wembley that ended a run of 35 years without a major trophy.
Such a barren spell is now a distant memory for City fans, and that is in large part because of Kompany’s influence. If he starts against Watford on Saturday afternoon, expect him to make an impact. It may not be with another long-range wonder goal, but he will be there front and centre, putting his body on the line, and leading by example.