Kompany sets standard for Manchester City on, off field
At about the same time Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini was grappling with £24 million striker Mario Balotelli during a training session bust-up last week, club captain Vincent Kompany was dominating headlines in Belgium.
Sport/Foot magazine revealed that the City and Belgium captain was in advanced talks to buy second-division club White Star Woluwe. Kompany, the magazine explained, wanted to establish a structure where young people from the Belgian capital have the chance to develop as players and people.
The deal will only go through if three criteria are met: 1. The club, currently second, is promoted this season. 2. Plans for a 10,000-capacity stadium are approved by Brussels mayor Freddy Thielemans. 3. Kompany is allowed to rename the club Brussels United.
You can't quite imagine Balotelli having the same sense of social engagement as his captain, whose Vica foundation focuses on helping underprivileged children in Brussels.
"Vincent transcends football," Steven Martens, the Belgian football federation's general secretary, told Knack magazine. "He is pure charisma and has a very high IQ: leadership comes past his ears, eyes and nose."
Kompany is also an ambassador for SOS Children's Villages and regularly uses his Twitter account to comment on social injustices around the world: from the French presidential elections (Sarkozy is "an unstable two faced character and his politics are dangerous as its based on exploiting the fear of people"), the British government's withdrawal of aid to Rwanda ("Two faced policies. Stopping aid is not a sanction it's just easy press. Same government trades with the people that are keeping the conflict alive, those who plunder. All about the natural resources") and Belgian paper De Morgen's campaign to stop using the word immigrant: "It's archaic, marginalising and even discriminatory."
On the pitch, Kompany enjoyed a majestic 2012. World Soccer named him one of the top four defenders in the world, he was short-listed for the FIFA/FIFPro World XI and L'Equipe picked him in its World Team of the Year. When City was down to Queens Park Rangers in the May match it had to win for the Premier League title, Kompany was thinking of the futility of winning the club's Player of the Year award if it missed out on the championship. After City won 3-2, with it a dramatic first Premier League title, he had the wherewithal to remember to mention his marriage and birth of his daughter among the other "best days of my life." Smart move.
Last summer he extended his contract with City to 2018, making him, along with Eden Hazard, the highest-paid Belgian in the Premier League. Sport/Foot claimed his weekly salary was €135,000 (compared to Marouane Fellaini's €95,000, Thomas Vermaelen's €80,000 and Mousa Dembele's €67,000).
"The project here is not just a sporting one," he told former Belgium forward Mbo Mpenza, interviewing him for La Dernière Heure. "It will bring a lot to the city and to the people. We're going to build a new training center to bring together the juniors and senior players and which will do a lot for the community in this part of town. The objective is to bring young players through to the first team. The project is to take the club back to its former glories, and it goes a lot further than just spending a lot of money on players.
"But people won't see this for perhaps another 10 years. I'm happy to be part of all that. It's not a three-year project but rather one for 10, 15, 20 years. It's exciting to think I can be part of those taking the club where it wants to go."
Despite City owners Abu Dhabi United Group spending around €400 million on new players since taking over in August 2008, Kompany is adamant that the club has not changed.
"Believe me, this remains the club of the city," he told De Standaard last week. "We have not renounced our values, and that's why the club is beautiful to me. This is a great club, it has a magnificent past and an even brighter future."
Kompany's role in that future is secure; Balotelli's is less so. Even if Mancini claimed that owner Sheikh Mansour is a Balotelli fan, "because he recognizes the talent and he exports the name of City over the world," the return on the pitch (this season: one goal in seven league starts) is barely worth the investment off it.
That's not the case with Kompany, whose status is best summed up by De Morgen columnist Hugo Camps.
"It's quite simple," he wrote. "Vincent Kompany is our country's best foreign minister."