Is it only a matter of time before Kompany replaces Guardiola at Man City?
With his arms outstretched, fists clenched, and a focus on his face, Vincent Kompany glistens in statue-form outside Manchester City's Etihad Stadium.
Since 2021, the steel sculpture has served as a permanent reminder of the instrumental role that City's former captain played in the most decorated era in the club's history.
On Saturday, City fans can catch a view of the real-life Kompany when he returns to the Etihad.
He's not back to cheer on his former team. Instead, he'll be attempting to eliminate it from the FA Cup.
Four years after leaving City as one of its greatest ever players — and potentially its most important — Kompany is making his name in coaching and is a manager of increasing repute at second-division club Burnley, which has been drawn to play City in the FA Cup quarterfinals.
In his first year at the northwest club that was relegated from the Premier League last season, Kompany has quickly got Burnley — a team formerly known for its direct and pragmatic style of play — playing free-flowing, easy-on-the-eye soccer and to the top of Championship with a 13-point lead.
An instant return to the Premier League beckons. Indeed, it's pretty much a matter of when, not if, Burnley seals promotion.
Kompany's burgeoning coaching status can be elevated even higher, though, if he can mastermind an improbable FA Cup win against City, a club he knows inside out after 11 years there as a player.
His wife is from Manchester. So are his children, who are City fans.
"The kids will now have a tough decision (on) who to support," Kompany said with a smile.
In the short term, it's about reaching the semifinals of the FA Cup and, with it, securing a trip to Wembley Stadium.
There's a longer-term narrative at play, though.
Given his trajectory in coaching - along with his bond and historical importance to City - Kompany is widely regarded as a future manager of the club. Pep Guardiola, the current City manager, even said it himself.
"I think his destiny to become manager of Man City is already written in the stars," Guardiola said a few weeks ago. "It is going to happen. I don't know when, but it's going to happen."
Kompany was a pillar behind City's emergence as a force in English and now European soccer following his signing in 2008, just prior to the club coming under ownership from Abu Dhabi. He was captain of the team for eight years and won four Premier League titles.
After leaving City, Kompany returned to his native Belgium and retired after a year playing with Anderlecht, where he then spent two years as coach.
It was a bold decision to move to Burnley in the offseason of 2022 because the club had just been relegated and had a style of play and identity so intrinsically linked to its long-time former manager, Sean Dyche, who worked wonders on a small budget in his 9½ years at the helm.
In no time at all, Kompany has done away with it and turned Burnley into an enterprising scoring machine. The 3-1 win at Hull on Wednesday took Burnley to 74 goals for the campaign — nine more than any other team in the Championship — and the team also has the best defensive record despite losing England goalkeeper Nick Pope and defenders James Tarkowski, Ben Mee, and Nathan Collins in the wake of relegation.
After the game against Hull, Kompany spoke of Burnley being at the start of a cycle and having a "three-or-four-year period together."
"Can we continue that and keep improving the club? That's the aim," he said.
That will be music to the ears of Burnley's American ownership, the ALK Capital investment group. Kompany certainly seems the real deal, an intelligent man — in 2017, he got a Master's degree in business administration from Manchester Business School — and a leader with some gravitas.
Footage on social media of a locker-room rant at his Anderlecht players last year showed he is not a person to be crossed.
He is also loyal, which points to Kompany potentially sticking with Burnley even if bigger clubs come calling.
There would be an emotional pull, however, if City ever needed a new manager, and it's hard not to view Saturday's FA Cup game as something of an audition for Kompany.
Steve Douglas is at https://twitter.com/sdouglas80
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