Abu Dhabi’s money helped City smash an unfair status quo, claims Vincent Kompany

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Vincent Kompany has rejected claims 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.

Manchester City have become the standard-setters in English football
Manchester City have become the standard-setters in English football (Nick Potts/PA)

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’?”

Manchester City v Southampton
Manchester City left their old home Maine Road in 2003 (Jon Super/PA)

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.”

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

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola poses in front of the Etihad Stadium at the City Football Academy
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola poses in front of the Etihad Stadium at the City Football Academy (Peter Byrne/PA)

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.”

Yaya Toure scored the FA Cup semi-final winner seven years ago
Yaya Toure scored the FA Cup semi-final winner seven years ago (Anthony Devlin/PA)

“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 space in the trophy cabinet is what former Barcelona and Bayern boss Pep Guardiola was hired to fill two years ago, and winning the Champions League is the goal that is driving Kompany on.

“It’s simple to explain: the one thing you haven’t had, is the thing you want the most,” Kompany admitted.

“The Premier League is still a massive prize to achieve, so they are equal priorities, but your mind says what you haven’t achieved yet is what you want the most.”

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