Man City to Burnley and back? Vincent Kompany says Not so fast. (2023)

Man City to Burnley and back? Vincent Kompany says Not so fast. (1)

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Kompany has become one of football's most talented young coaches. There is no rush to take the next step.

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AfterRory'ego Smitha

Report from Burnley, England

Looking ahead to the summer, Vincent Kompany realized that he was entering unfamiliar territory.

He spent his entire career barely catching his breath. As he played, seasons followed each other: league, cup, European, international matches, all stacked on top of each other. The summers were squeezed into the short break between major tournaments and energy-hungry, pre-season world tours.

The years as manager were even busier. Not that it came as a surprise: he chose Burnley, recently relegated from the Premier League to England's second tier, for his first head coaching job outside his native Belgium. Championships are proud, uncompromising, gleefully grueling competitions that identify themselves as endurance competitions. "Just naming names is tiresome," Kompany said.

And so it turned out. From the outside, Kompany and Burnley made it look pretty easy. The club confirmed an immediate return to the Premier League, winning promotion with a month's margin. Finished the campaign with over 100 points. For Kompany, however, this was a misunderstanding. "This league is brutal," he said.

He pointed to the fixture list as evidence: 46 league games crammed into 39 weeks, with the season ending on May 5. "We had a month off for the World Cup," he said. In his opinion, the most valuable reward for a promotion is not the wealth it brings, but the possibility that you don't have to go through all that anymore.

"Leaving the Premier League is the best motivation to return to it," said Kompany.


Man City to Burnley and back? Vincent Kompany says Not so fast. (3)

All this, of course, was exactly as he expected. The problem was figuring out what to do when traffic stopped. Three months elapsed between Burnley's last Championship game and the first Premier League game next season - a gap much longer than Kompany's before. Suddenly there was too much time.

The solution he came up with - something he admittedly had never tried before - was to give his players two pre-seasons. They would have two tranches of rest on either side of a training camp in Portugal, trying to strike a balance between letting them recharge rather than dulling their sharpness.

However, he did not quite practice what he preached. His season did not end with the end of the championship schedule. On his first free weekend in 10 months, he took part in four matches: three in the Premier League, already set to compete next season, and one in Salford, in the English fourth tier.

This combination of perfectionist attention to detail and obsessive work ethic is characteristic of Kompany. This is what those who played with him remember best, especially at Manchester City: focus, sense of responsibility and diligence, perhaps best exemplified by the fact that he recorded all the various (and largely justified, he was not an unfair ruler) fines, which he as captain counted in the actual ledger.




And that's what made his move to manager - first to Anderlecht, the club where he started and ended his football career, and then to Burnley - seem so natural, so obvious, so clearly destined for success. Of course, you can't predict with certainty which players will make good coaches; Kompany, however, seemed like a pretty safe bet.

Certainly Burnley wasn't his only option last summer or his only offer since then. The company has a policy of not engaging in speculation at any level; the only time he seemed nervous during an interview at Burnley's training ground this month was his determination not to talk about his natural tendency to be outspoken.

And yes, while admitting he turned down a couple of "really big clubs" last summer in favor of joining Burnley in the Championship - volunteering to take part in what he describes as "fighting a pack of hungry dogs" - not everyone was attracted what has happened since then.

Fortunately, others are not so discreet. These voices said that Tottenham made contact after the sacking of Antonio Conte. He has also been approached by Chelsea, a team that is apparently constantly looking for a new manager. Leeds were considering him as a replacement when they sacked Jesse Marsch. He told them all no.

This summer would certainly bring more offers, not only because Kompany had guided Burnley to promotion, but also because of the way it was done. In 10 months, he completely changed the style of the club, taking over a team that had been around for yearsdefinedaftera rough, battle-hardened, restrained styleand filling it with youth, panache and panache.

"I was based on the values ​​that defined Burnley," said Kompany. “Culture is different from style. What was Burnley before? Hardworking, brave, tough. I tell my players that even if we are no longer the biggest team, we can still be the strongest, the smartest and the bravest. Our game has an advantage. That hasn't changed. We couldn't have the talented players we have if they didn't understand what it means to be a Burnley player.

He may not see it as the transformation it looks like, but it's still an impressive body of work. Instead of trading this for a lucrative deal elsewhere - a job at Spurs is still up for grabs and Chelsea will no doubt be back in a few weeks - Kompany decided, just before the end of the season, to sign a new five-year contract with Burnley.

It was an unorthodox, seemingly heretical decision. Elite football is a shark that is constantly moving forward. Managers, like players, have been conditioned to believe they need to grab bigger, better things as soon as they come along.


This was Kompany's moment for sure. He is only 37 years old - in his infancy by managerial standards - and has completed an apprenticeship. Now it's time to climb the next rung of the ladder towards what many believe is his ultimate, unavoidable destiny: to replace Pep Guardiola as Manchester City manager once he decides to retire.

Kompany's decision to wait instead can be attributed in part to his relationship with the hierarchy at Burnley - "I trust people" - and his excitement at what remains to be achieved. The economic realities of the game may make it impossible to win the Premier League with Burnley, for example, but he is convinced that his side, this club, have yet to reach their peak. "We are still very far from our ceiling," he said.

However, his decision to stay mostly comes down to the belief that speed should not be confused with progress. Kompany knows that football offers very few "good conditions" for coaches, places where they can hone their skills and define their methods without worrying about unnecessary interference or sudden, wild mood swings that can come after a grueling few weeks.

In Burnley, he feels he has found it. "If I'm with the right people, that's a big advantage," he said. Moving forward, moving in what most would see as a general upward trend, treating management as a series of challenges to be faced and levels to be surpassed may not be the acceleration it seems. Standing still may be a better guarantee of getting where he wants to go.

"The only goal I have in mind, from a coaching point of view, is to be the best," he said. “The journey is not about how fast I get there. I want to be the best, regardless of the steps, and this result takes time in every segment of life." In his opinion, this is a "universal formula", although it is perhaps best treated as an equation.

The company clearly has the ability and talent to manage. His work at Burnley proves it. But talent is only the first step. "You turn talent into quality through time and effort," he said. He never missed the latter. It marked his entire career. She once feels like she has an ex. He has time and is ready to use it.

Rory Smith is The Times's main football correspondent from Great Britain. He covers all aspects of European football and has covered three World Cups, the Olympic Games and numerous European tournaments. @RorySmith

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