Kom­pany re­jects claims that City have an un­fair ad­van­tage

City cap­tain points to Bos­man rul­ing as the cat­a­lyst for change in foot­ball

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - SOCCER -

Vin­cent Kom­pany has re­jected claims that Manch­ester City have enjoyed an un­fair ad­van­tage over the last decade thanks to their Abu Dhabi owner or that the club’s ex­trav­a­gant spend­ing has been bad for foot­ball.

The 32-year-old Bel­gian ar­rived at City in Au­gust 2008, a week be­fore Sheikh Man­sour, Abu Dhabi roy­alty and the half-brother of the United Arab Emi­rates’ pres­i­dent, bought the club from ex-Thai­land pres­i­dent Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra. Ten years on, and bil­lions of pounds in in­vest­ment later, the club Kom­pany joined has been trans­formed.

The scale and speed of that trans­for­ma­tion, though, has prompted crit­i­cism from jeal­ous ri­vals, in­creased me­dia scru­tiny and at­tracted the at­ten­tion of Uefa’s Fi­nan­cial Fair Play in­ves­ti­ga­tors, with the lat­ter im­pos­ing a ¤60 mil­lion fine on City for breach­ing spend­ing lim­its in 2014.

Kom­pany, how­ever, does not ac­cept the idea City’s trol­ley dash in the trans­fer mar­ket has dam­aged the wider game.

Speak­ing at the state-of-the-art City Foot­ball Academy, he said: “Any in­vest­ment by City re­cently has been to over­take other clubs’ 20-year ad­van­tage. The al­ter­na­tive is you go to Ger­many and you have Bay­ern Mu­nich who oblit­er­ate the league every year be­cause they’ve got 11 mil­lion fans. So what’s the al­ter­na­tive?

“What is fair about the sta­tus quo? Should City be in the third di­vi­sion [as they were 10 years be­fore Sheikh Man­sour’s takeover] and say ‘we’ve got awesome fans but we’re not al­lowed to have suc­cess’?”

Prior to join­ing City, Kom­pany played for An­der­lecht and Ham­burg, two sides who used to compete for Euro­pean hon­ours but now find them­selves out­gunned fi­nan­cially.

Asked if he thought City’s state-backed spend­ing was partly re­spon­si­ble for their de­cline, Kom­pany pointed to the 1995 Bos­man rul­ing as the real cat­a­lyst for change in Euro­pean foot­ball, as it en­abled out-of-con­tract play­ers to move to other Euro­pean Union clubs on free trans­fers.

“Bel­gians know that story very well be­cause the rea­son why we couldn’t compete any­more in Europe is we couldn’t re­tain our best play­ers,” Kom­pany said. Bos­man was good for me as a player but An­der­lecht used to have Dutch stars and the best Bel­gian play­ers and would go to the lat­ter stages of Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tions. But with free move­ment ev­ery­body went to where the big­ger teams were, the ones with the most re­sources, and that made the power of Eng­land big­ger.”

Good for Manch­ester

Kom­pany also be­lieves Abu Dhabi’s in­vest­ment in Manch­ester City has ben­e­fited Manch­ester the city, as well as the en­tire northwest, which is dif­fi­cult to ar­gue with when you see how much east Manch­ester has changed.

But nowhere is that sense of revo­lu­tion felt more sharply in the city than on the pitch, where the club once dis­missed by Alex Fer­gu­son as the “noisy neigh­bours” now set the tone.

For Kom­pany, who mar­ried his City-sup­port­ing Man­cu­nian girl­friend in 2011, a key mo­ment in City’s Manch­ester takeover came when he led his side to a 1-0 win over United in the FA Cup semi-fi­nal in the same year.

“It was the big­gest game in City’s his­tory for a long time,” he said. “You go to Wem­b­ley and there are 90,000 fans, all from Manch­ester, well, some from Lon­don, but most from Manch­ester, and they were a big, suc­cess­ful United team, they were the favourites.

“And then you win it and it hits you. We didn’t win any tro­phies that day but which game gives you more be­lief than any other? Prob­a­bly that one and the QPR game [to clinch the Pre­mier League ti­tle in 2012]. Ev­ery­thing else has been part of the process.”

As the ref­er­ence to fans from Lon­don sug­gests, Kom­pany has been in Manch­ester long enough to know how to nee­dle United sup­port­ers, but he is not with­out sym­pa­thy for their cur­rent dif­fi­cul­ties.

“I have com­pas­sion for the neigh­bours be­cause Sir Alex Fer­gu­son was such a big per­son­al­ity, you can­not take some­body like that out of a club and think ev­ery­thing is go­ing to con­tinue like be­fore,” he said.

“You need a tran­si­tion pe­riod. Manch­ester United is still a big club, it com­petes for ev­ery­thing, but it’s still deal­ing with the post-Fer­gu­son era – it’s as sim­ple as that.”

United also have some­thing City lack. Kom­pany and co may have won seven do­mes­tic tro­phies since Abu Dhabi started fu­elling them but the 1970 Cup Win­ners’ Cup re­mains the club’s only Euro­pean ti­tle. “The one thing you haven’t had, is the thing you want the most,” Kom­pany ad­mit­ted. “The Pre­mier League is still a mas­sive prize ... but your mind says what you haven’t achieved yet is what you want the most.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DAR­REN STA­PLES/REUTERS

Manch­ester City’s Vin­cent Kom­pany in ac­tion against Hud­der­s­field Town last month.

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