Kompany's final battle? Man City legend still vital as Pep's men go for historic treble

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The Belgian still has plenty to offer Pep Guardiola's champions and his qualities will still be needed as they aim to refresh the squad this summer

It was only a throwaway line, buried in the middle of Sunday’s post-title-winning press conference, but it could be instructive when it comes to piecing together Manchester City’s plans for the summer and continued domination of English football. 

Pep Guardiola, after spending time reflecting on the “toughest” league triumph of his career, was asked what comes next. 

City are finalising their transfer targets at the moment and part of Guardiola’s response suggests he feels the need to freshen things up.

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“Already three years together with the same people, last year just came Riyad,” he said, before trailing off to talk about Mahrez's goal at Brighton

After three years at Bayern Munich he had already decided to leave, of course, and at Barcelona he was preparing for his fourth and final season in charge. In a bid to keep things fresh after three seasons of success the Catalan ultimately changed Barca’s tactics, but only after considering a squad overhaul that could have seen senior players moved on. 

Now, despite staving off the complacency he feared would derail last season's 'Centurions', Guardiola feels he needs to replace three or four of his current squad if they are to stay at the top of English football, and to move forward in Europe.

In part, City’s hand has been forced. The threat of a transfer ban looms, so any long-term plans may need to be brought forward. Similarly, certain players have already asked to leave, while some are not performing to the standards Guardiola has set, making them easy candidates to make way.

Nicolas Otamendi, Danilo, Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus and even Leroy Sane all fall into those two categories, although some are more likely to leave (Otamendi) than others (Gundogan).

And then there is Vincent Kompany. The expectation - by sources close to the captain and the club’s decision makers - had been that he would sign a one-year extension to the deal that expires this summer.

Kompany quote

However, nothing has been decided and there is still a possibility that Saturday’s FA Cup final against Watford could be his last appearance for City.

If no agreement can be reached it would surely represent a huge loss to the club, not just on the pitch but off it.

It would be hard enough to replace two reliable centre-backs in Otamendi and Kompany, let alone find somebody as influential as the 33-year-old club captain.

In recent weeks, he has once again provided proof (not that any were needed), that he is one of the most important figures in the dressing room.

He came in from the cold to play six of City’s last seven matches, including the last four in a row, helping to hold the defence together at tough grounds like Selhurst Park and Old Trafford, and even striking one of the most important goals of the title race, the instant classic against Leicester.

And as he surely prepares to line up at Wembley, there will be nobody better to rally the troops.

“My style is pretty simple,” he said this week. “Every now and then when things are getting too comfortable, I go a little aggressive in training or I speak up and say what I think. But the main thing is that these guys, together with the manager, are always able to understand what the priority is. We focus on winning games. Winning one title was not enough, it had been done before. Back to back; that is special

“I know this team and they are like a pack of lions. When this team is hungry, they are such a special team. I’m going to do everything I can to put a bit of blood in that water, so this team gets even hungrier!", he added albeit confusing lions and sharks.

Knowledge of the animal kingdom aside he seems to be at the top of his game right now. He has always been a big presence around the club, but in the last month he has become, for perhaps the first time in Guardiola’s reign, a go-to option in the starting line-up.

That alone speaks volumes for his character, given Guardiola would have happily sent him the way of Joe Hart back in the summer of 2016, had the centre-back not been injured and had so many other fitness concerns hanging over him.

Kompany has missed large parts of the past five seasons and Guardiola has barely been able to hide his frustration at that fact in recent years, often pointing out that his captain is “always injured”.

Kompany quote

The Belgian had a string of breakdowns between 2015 and 2018, yet he kept bouncing back, no matter how futile his situation appeared, and always stepped in to do what he does best - marshal the defence, leading by example.

Yet this past month or so has been up there with anything in his career, given the level that his current team-mates are at.

He has not always been a calming influence on the pitch in recent weeks, but he has maintained his place in Guardiola's XI because while others are perhaps a bit more measured, none are as passionate, as captivating, as downright determined to win - before his thunderbolt against Leicester he attacked every corner as if his life depended on it, not to mention the full-length body block (and studs-up lunge) in the first half.

In the wake of that memorable strike, Sky Sports commentator Gary Neville raised the prospect of a Kompany statue outside the Etihad Stadium.

That will surely happen one day, alongside the likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva, but Kompany will not be thinking about that for one second. 

On Saturday he could lift the FA Cup and seal what would be an unprecedented domestic treble for City. After that his contract situation will be resolved.

Whatever happens next, you'd be a fool to think he is done yet.

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