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Friday, June 14, 2024

Vincent Kompany, Bayern Munich and the summer’s weirdest managerial appointment

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Football

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It may be the footballing definition of failing upwards; commit in excess of £100m to new signings and get relegated from the Premier League but escape the consequences in the Championship by landing the Bayern Munich job.

But then Vincent Kompany was always a Burnley manager with a difference. Even in his leaving, that has proved true. When Eddie Howe and Owen Coyle were poached, it was by Bournemouth and Bolton respectively. Steve Cotterill’s next job after leaving Turf Moor was at Notts County, Stan Ternent’s at Gillingham. Neither, it is safe to say, ever appeared on a shortlist compiled by Bayern.

Arguably Kompany did not either, given the length of it. Much as Bayern argue they had tracked him for a couple of years, he was perhaps 10th choice: Xabi Alonso, Julian Nagelsmann, Hansi Flick, Ralf Rangnick, Sebastian Hoeness, Oliver Glasner, Unai Emery and Erik ten Hag all seemed to figure ahead of him, along with seeing if Thomas Tuchel could continue.

There is a case for arguing that the principles Kompany learnt from Pep Guardiola while his captain at Manchester City are more pertinent than Burnley’s dismal relegation: that the jobs are so different, that Bayern will invariably have more talent than their opponents, whereas Burnley tended to have less, that they are bound to have more possession, that they will have players with sufficient assurance on the ball that they won’t give away a series of embarrassing goals with misguided attempts to pass out from the back, that the German superpower have recruited on a football philosophy and a skillset that could suit them. An enormously eloquent figure like Kompany presumably impressed in an interview.

Kompany oversaw a limp relegation after such a dominant promotion

Kompany oversaw a limp relegation after such a dominant promotion (Martin Rickett/PA)

The other interpretation is to suggest they haven’t watched Burnley at all last season. Because while it was easy to envisage Kompany making a jump to elite level a year earlier, after overseeing one of the most impressive promotions from the Championship, his taste of top-flight management was so unsuccessful that it could have deterred suitors, let along a club of Bayern’s calibre.

Put bluntly, a lot of what went wrong at Turf Moor was Kompany’s fault. The Belgian had argued that it took players 120 training sessions and 100 meetings to understand his style of play and then jettisoned some of his promotion-winning stalwarts to pack his side with new signings. Back in the Championship days, he had told his employers: “Turnover is really dangerous in this business. It makes or breaks you.”

It broke Burnley, to the extent that, as a result of clauses in loan deals, Maxime Esteve and Mike Tresor have now become permanent signings, at a cost of over £20m. Right now, Burnley would not be able to sell either – certainly not Tresor – at their purchase prices. Nor, indeed, many a Kompany buy of the last year: not Aaron Ramsey or James Trafford, not the injured Jordan Beyer or Zeki Amdouni, though the forward has ability. Two of the success stories of his Championship campaign, Anass Zaroury and Manuel Benson, lost value as they were marginalised last season. “We need to fill the team with tradeable assets,” Kompany told the Burnley board, the best part of two years ago. The most tradeable asset proved the manager, bringing in some £10m in compensation.

The transfer policy that worked in the Championship was a crushing failure in the Premier League. It leaves Burnley with a mess, with far too many players once all their loanees return (with the notable exception of Wout Weghorst, many are Kompany signings) and a need to offload some to make money, plus the question of whether an oddly compiled squad suits another manager and whether players attracted to Lancashire by the charismatic Kompany are as enthused by his successor.

Bayern Munich unveiled Vincent Kompany at the Allianz Arena

Bayern Munich unveiled Vincent Kompany at the Allianz Arena (Getty Images)

All of which may be irrelevant to Bayern. With their various sporting directors, in Max Eberl and Christoph Freund, and various powerbrokers, Kompany will have far less influence over transfers in Bavaria. If the job there is more as a head coach, at Burnley he was something of a throwback to the age of the all-powerful manager.

Owner Alan Pace gave Kompany huge sway. While first-team coach Mike Jackson will remain at Turf Moor and his assistant Craig Bellamy is a possible replacement, Kompany’s departure creates a power vacuum. And, potentially, a problem for a club who surely need promotion to offset their heavy spending.

Meanwhile, Kompany marked his unveiling at Bayern by noting the 2025 Champions League final is at the Allianz Arena. The combination of enormous self-belief and a high-class squad may mean he will feel he can win it. All of which would be a stunning shift in fortunes for someone Eberl called “one of the most interesting coaches in Europe”. Bayern’s director of sport said: “He has everything except the experience of having worked at a top club.” Kompany has experience of relegation. And if that is hardly relevant to Bayern, it still makes his perhaps the weirdest managerial appointment in a summer of surprise choices.

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