Colossus. Giant. Leader. Legend. However hard you try to find the words to describe Vincent Kompany, they don’t seem to be enough.
Just when we thought that Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, who cost his club almost €80m, was going to be the most influential figure in the Premier League’s greatest ever title race, the Belgian — who cost nearer €8m — provided a reminder of what the Dutchman has still to aim for and why champions City are favourites to retain their trophy.
Days after the PFA’s Player of the Year scored for Liverpool in a vital victory at Newcastle, Kompany came up with an even more important strike that was dragged straight from the pages of fiction, driven into the Leicester City net through sheer willpower, determination, and skill. A goal of such ferocity and quality that its impact was felt in the heart of every Liverpool fan across the world.
If van Dijk needs a role-model to inspire him for the future, he need look no further than Manchester City’s captain fantastic who has been at the club for more than a decade and who has already won three Premier League titles, four League Cups, and an FA Cup.
During that time he has overcome terrible injuries, survived five managers, and kept his place at the heart of England’s greatest team despite the millions spent on potential replacements.
All that having arrived in Manchester in 2008 for less than a reserve goalkeeper would cost you these days. This was his very first goal of the 2018-19 campaign but it is a contribution that could come to define an entire season.
Make no mistake, Leicester City gave City a real examination on an evening of intense pressure but it was Kompany’s sheer willpower and determination to win the game which kept this remarkable title race going to the very last day with the holders in the driving seat.
City go to Brighton next Sunday knowing victory willguarantee them the title. It isn’t over, of course, but if this was the goal which goes on to win the title then it was worthy of that name. For Liverpool fans it must have felt like a dagger to the heart.
A sign, perhaps, that despite their team’s remarkable resolve and never-say-die spirit, Manchester City are strong enough to match it when it really matters.
After this, can anyone really see Pep Guardiola’s side losing at the Amex against a Brighton side which has struggled all season to score goals?
Will Kompany even allow that to happen? He appears to have the superhuman powers to ensure it does not and what will leave Liverpool most disillusioned is the leadership he provided and the sheer mental strength of Guardiola’s side in the most testing of circumstances.
Yes, supporters on the Kop will look at the Kelechi Ihenacho miss in injury time which could have changed the result.
But City deservedly go into the final game at the top of the pile and it sets up a remarkable finish to an incredible season.
There have been some pretty special last-day title battles in the history of English football of course, not least Sergio Aguero’s injury-time winner against QPR in 2012 to win the trophy ahead of Manchester United at the very last gasp; and Arsenal’s legendary 2–0 victory at Anfield in 1989 to deny Liverpool a title win they believed was already wrapped up before kick-off.
This year’s race deserves to be up there with all of them, given the relentless nature of both participants who have lost just five games between them and topped 90 points each already.
The reality of a first-past-the-post championship, however, is that ultimately one of them has to lose out; and right now it looks like Liverpool.
When they lost the title on the last day of 1989 they did so with only 76 points on the board. This year, on the 30th anniversary of Hillsborough and with the emotions of that day no lessened, Liverpool have 94 points with a goal difference of +65 — the kind of total which would normally leave them streets ahead of the rest of the pack in an average season. But they still know they could miss out even if they beat Wolves at Anfield next weekend.
And it is Kompany who haunts them; because when Guardiola’s big names, the multi-milllion pound strikers and midfielders, couldn’t find a way to beat Leicester, the big defender did.
You have to feel for Liverpool’s players if they were watching, which no doubt they were. But whatever happens this weekend we have already been treated to an incredible season from two of the greatest teams of recent years -and it is going to take something very special on Sunday if Kompany’s goal is not to be the defining moment.