More than a few eyebrows would have been raised in Burnley and beyond when Vincent Kompany emerged as the most likely candidate to become the troubled club’s new manager.
Kompany will forever have legendary status as a player following his trophy-laden spell at Manchester City – his statue outside the Etihad Stadium is testament to that – but he has yet to forge a solid reputation in management.
The 36-year-old this week left his role as head coach of boyhood side Anderlecht following a mixed spell at the helm and is poised to replace Sean Dyche at Burnley, whose future is in turmoil after their relegation to the Championship and their well-documented financial problems.
Vincent Kompany left his role at Anderlecht this week and is poised to take the job at Burnley
Burnley were relegated from the Premier League after losing at home to Newcastle on the final day
Kompany made a difficult start to his transition from player to manager. Installed as a player-coach in the summer of 2019, shortly after his departure from City following 11 years at the club, he endured a poor start which saw him relinquish his matchday duties to his assistant.
The growing derision at Anderlecht’s disappointing form under Kompany, coupled with his decision to return to City for his testimonial in the international break in September 2019, sparked fan protests and widespread criticism. Many thought he simply was not cut out for the gruelling world of management.
In fairness to Kompany, he was hardly walking into a comfortable job. At the time of his return to Belgium, Anderlecht were themselves in crisis, with financial woes leading to demonstrations from supporters angry at the state of the club on and off the pitch.
Kompany had been at Anderlecht since leaving Manchester City in the summer of 2019
The following summer, Kompany officially retired from playing and took sole ownership of the managerial hotseat at Anderlecht, agreeing to reduce his salary by 50 per cent – although sections of the team’s support thought his wage cut should have been far greater.
A third-place finish in his first full season deserves credit as it came after the club spent just €5million in the summer window, when a series of high-profile players, including Kemar Roofe, Jeremy Doku and Alexis Saelemaekers, all departed for pastures new.
Fans had started to warm to Kompany, whose team was among the youngest in the Jupiler Pro League and lost the fewest matches of any team in the division, despite a poor end-of-season play-offs, which saw Anderlecht – a side with a proud record in European competitions – drop into qualifying for the third-tier Europa Conference League.
Anderlecht failed to secure a spot in the inaugural Conference League after suffering a disappointing defeat to Dutch team Vitesse, but gradually they began to improve as Kompany started to impose his style.
Critics said that, while Anderlecht looked good going forward, they were not secure enough at the back – ironically where Kompany plied his trade during a successful playing career.
Kompany again finished third in the regular season and had the chance to win his first piece of silverware in the dugout after reaching the final of the Belgian Cup.
Defeat in the final of the Belgian Cup meant Kompany left Anderlecht without winning a trophy
But his Anderlecht side lost on penalties to Genk, meaning he will depart Belgium having been unable to secure a trophy.
Yet trophies will not be on the minds of Burnley fans. They will want nothing more than promotion back to the big time – and will not care how they do it.
Should Kompany be appointed manager, he will arrive at Turf Moor with a familiarity of the club’s situation as it is not too dissimilar to the one he inherited at Anderlecht.
Burnley, like the Belgian outfit at the time, are staring into financial abyss. Following their relegation from the Premier League, the club faces the early repayment of a significant portion of a £65million loan given to owners ALK Capital to complete their takeover in 2020, on top of losing more than £100m in television money.
Highly-rated goalkeeper Nick Pope could be among the spate of players leaving Burnley
James Tarkowski is one of nine players who are out of contract at Turf Moor in the summer
Maxwel Cornet has a relegation clause in his deal at Burnley and could also depart the club
They are also bracing for a mass exodus of players and will have to embark on a considerable rebuild as no fewer than nine are out of contract, while the Clarets’ top assets, such as Nick Pope and Maxwel Cornet, may also be heading out the exit door.
Pope will undoubtedly have his suitors, with West Ham and Fulham among those interested in the English goalkeeper. Cornet, meanwhile, has a now-active relegation release clause in his contract which allows clubs to sign him for £17.5m.
Burnley are set to lose stalwarts such as James Tarkowski, who was valued at around £50million not so long ago, Ashley Barnes and James Cork – players Kompany could certainly do with. Their impending departures provide Kompany with another significant headache as he prepares to accept the role back in England.
The financial issues are likely to have an impact on Burnley’s ability to replace the departing players with those good enough to mount a serious assault on promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Kompany would have a huge job on his hands if he is to be appointed Burnley manager
Burnley are hoping he will accept a similar challenge to the one he had at Anderlecht at Turf Moor, but the move is a gamble for both parties.
For Kompany, a coach tipped as a future City manager and who has been likened to Pep Guardiola, taking the job at a club in the state of Burnley could do lasting damage to his fledgling career in management.
There are unquestionably easier jobs, with much less potential peril, out there for the 36-year-old as he continues to find his feet as a head coach.
Appointing someone with the inexperience of Kompany also represents a risk for Burnley, given the huge task ahead of a club that is in a desperate state. Fans could be forgiven in thinking a manager with knowledge of the Championship, and how to get out of it, may have been a better choice.
Should Kompany succeed, however, he could end up with another statue of himself outside of a football ground in England.