On Monday, Vincent Kompany captained his team to another victory over Manchester United. The win not only restored a little pride in what has been a difficult season but also went some way to proving Roberto Mancini’s point before the game that the 15 point gulf between the two sides is not an accurate reflection of the quality both clubs possess.
Despite scoring an unfortunate own goal, Kompany put in the kind of assured performance that has seen him become the most coveted centre-half in Europe. The story that keeps cropping up is that Barcelona want him has Carlos Puyol’s long-term replacement.
Not many are able to resist the lure of playing for this Barcelona team but he would be wise to wait another year before going. Next season will be the most important year of his career as he prepares to captain Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’ to World Cup glory in Brazil.
Belgium are considered one of the favourites and Kompany would surely prefer the stability of playing for City in the run up to the summer instead of fighting for a place at Barcelona.
There is much to admire in Lescott and Toure—their defensive intelligence and physical strength make them the kind of old fashioned centre-backs preferred by British managers—but the City manager has a preference for more athletic and mobile defenders who are not afraid to play football.
Mancini has shown great faith in Matija Nastasic (20 years old) and Karim Rekik (18), two outstanding young City defenders. But the players that the press are linking to the club are not any more experienced. The Daily Mail have suggested that Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala (22) and Roma's centre back Marquinhos (18) are the primary summer targets. Mancini will need a better plan than this if Kompany leaves.
City will have to sign a world-class defender with experience if the worst happens. Mancini has been a long term admirer of Giorgio Chiellini and the Juventus defender would make an ideal replacement, assuming he can be convinced to leave Turin to try his hand at Premier League football. The Italian is one of the most accomplished defenders in Serie A—last season Juventus conceded just 20 goals on their journey to the title and Chiellini’s outstanding performances for Italy helped them reach the Euro 2012 final.
Another possibility is to train Jack Rodwell as Kompany’s replacement. Assuming that Belgium can be persuaded to stay for at least another year, Rodwell could spend next season learning from the talismanic captain. The former Everton player was tipped to develop into a centre-half when he first began his career but has since stagnated in his current position as a defensive midfielder.
It was when Kompany made the shift from defensive midfielder to centre-back early in his career that he blossomed as a footballer and the same might be true of Rodwell.
He has all the attributes to be a success. His height (over six feet tall) and strength will serve him well against Premier League strikers like Andy Carroll and Demba Ba, and he has the pace and technique to become the modern ball-playing defender that Mancini prefers to use. He is also a great tackler and could be used as Nastasic’s partner in a 4-4-2 lineup or as a sweeper in a three-man defence.
It is highly likely that the Kompany rumour is just that, a rumour. He would not have signed a new six-year deal last summer if he thought his ambitions could not be met at City. But if there is any truth to the story then Mancini will have an enormous task filling the gaping hole that Kompany’s departure would leave in City's defence.