August 11, 2022

BBeing appointed Burnley manager was not part of Vincent Kompany’s plan. The Belgian returned to his first club Anderlecht in 2019 to start his coaching career after a decade of success at Manchester City and was expected to transform the team and leave Brussels with a glut of trophies. There was some rebuilding work needed, but despite the green shoots of hope, the Kompany era was more evolutionary than revolutionary and his tenure ended three years into a four-year contract.

Finishes of eighth, fourth and third showed progress but not enough for the board, whose term was going to end one way or another this summer. There was no shortage of admirers for Kompany, who has a reputation as one of the smartest and most eloquent men in football. But despite ‘more attractive offers’, Kompany decided that the next chapter would try to bring Burnley back to the Premier League at the first request.

There are similarities between the situation he found in Anderlecht and the one he encounters at Turf Moor. A new team was to be built in Brussels after the sale of the best players and there was a desire to create a younger team, which focused on local players as the club lacked the money to buy.

Burnley have a skeleton playing staff and have lost James Tarkowski and Ben Mee. Players such as Nick Pope and Maxwel Cornet are expected to leave and those remaining may find it difficult to adapt to Kompany’s tactics. He will need a new captain and central defender couple as a priority.

Anderlecht was a long-term project cut short, while it will take short-term results at Burnley to prevent the club’s financial situation from becoming perilous.

Kompany used his contacts to bring players to Anderlecht that some would consider out of reach for other clubs of a similar level. His former teammates Samir Nasri and Nacer Chadli joined and youngsters from Manchester City and Bayern Munich were signed.

“Since there was no money at Anderlecht, he spent most of his work bringing in youngsters from the second team and from abroad whom he knew well,” explains the former goalkeeper. ‘Anderlecht and City Geert De Vlieger. “With his contacts, he tried to motivate the players to come and play at Anderlecht to show them the big picture.”

Captain and centre-back Ben Mee was a key figure at Burnley but he is leaving. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

These players were targeted for their ability to fit into a team with a high intensity style. It’s a philosophy Kompany will aim to implement at Burnley and is a far cry from what Turf Moor are used to after a decade of Sean Dyche. Burnley have a debt of £65m to pay which could limit summer spending. It’s likely that Kompany will look to his former club City to borrow players to give them some league experience.

Kompany stuck to his philosophy through good times and bad due to his belief in how he wanted to play, even if it was detrimental in the short term.

“There was a touch of Pep in the way he played,” says De Vlieger. “He was ready to take up the challenge to make it not only an Anderlecht challenge but also a big Brussels challenge, which means that all young players from Brussels would have their chance in the first team and play his way of football and would do the best outside of that.

“The slogan was ‘trust the process’. At times it looked good, but the problem was that when there were good young players like Sambi Lokonga, they had to let him go to Arsenal because they needed the money. It was a very difficult thing for Kompany: trying to achieve something with young players while knowing that if they did well, they would have to sell them.

The desire to play exciting football with a group of young players was exhilarating for Anderlecht but performances were inconsistent. The search for the next academy talent was relied upon whenever a rising star was sold. At Burnley, there is no successful academy to use, so Kompany will have to look far and wide to find their new team.

Kompany is not the finished article as a manager – to get to the top he will need to be more pragmatic, especially in a league as competitive as the Championship. The arrival of Craig Bellamy to the coaching staff could provide Kompany with the second opinion needed.

“I don’t think he made any big mistakes,” says De Vlieger, “but I think the big difference for him is that he has a game philosophy, the way he played with Pep and City, but he did it with very talented and quality players if you try to do the same you need quality players and if you don’t have that level of player you need to change your style a bit because you play against yourself more than your opponents. Sometimes his own team was a bigger problem than the opponent.

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Kompany’s return to England is timely given that his wife is from Manchester and his three children were born in the area. It offers a logical path to the Premier League and an opportunity to prove he could one day lead City, where his statue stands outside the stadium. However, it will not be easy to start from scratch.

There is no doubt that Kompany has the ability to get it right, but he will need time and resources and these are perhaps luxuries that Burnley, like Anderlecht, cannot afford.