Vincent Kompany leaves Manchester City as a club icon. The face of their glorious 2010s, the captain, the leader.
He departs on the highest of highs, winning his fourth Premier League, second FA Cup and fourth League Cup to complete a domestic treble for the first time in English football history.
It was not just as captain he was significant this season, though. His strike against Leicester will go down in Premier League history as one of the great what-if moments.
Kompany, along with Sergio Aguero and David Silva, has been the ever-present through Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola’s successes.
Signed just before the influx of Sheikh Mansour’s riches, the Belgian central defender has been the heart of the modern Manchester City.
Named Premier League Player of the Year in 2011/12 and in the PFA Team of the Year in 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2013/14, Kompany was not short of personal honours to go with his array of team-earned medals.
At his best, the Belgian was arguably the best central defender in world football.
Despite making the Team of the Year in 2014, it was after that first, dramatic title that injuries derailed Kompany’s journey.
Captain fantastic and brickwall defender, he was on course for an all-time great career in 2012, but an array of physical issues kept his minutes down. He started just 139 Premier League matches across the following seven campaigns.
Had it not been for injuries (and how many careers can we say that about?), Kompany might be up with the greatest ever centre-backs. Instead, he must settle for a place among the Premier League’s best, but even that is up for debate.
Longevity and leading several successful teams takes Kompany to a certain level.
Debating any athlete’s greatness can be done by different criteria. Longevity will play a part for anyone creating an all-time Premier League XI, and peak ability, influence and legacy will matter to varying degrees for different people.
Kompany’s longevity, or his absences, may harm his case. His peak was immense, as was his influence on the transition from big-spending noisy neighbours to dominant force. His Premier League legacy will be one of leadership, and that goal against Leicester.
His position in the hypothetical Premier League Hall of Fame is undoubted. He’s a first-ballot inductee.
Whether he belongs in the all-time Premier League team, making him a top two central defender, is the point of debate.
And that, perhaps, is where there’s (and this sounds strange after such a spectacular time in Manchester) slight frustration. Like his goal against Brendan Rodgers’ side a few weeks ago, Kompany’s career has its fair share of what-ifs.
City’s record with and without him for many years was testament to his quality as a defender and leader. What if he had played 30 or more league matches every season? How many titles would City have won?
Kompany’s availability changed City. Had he remained fit, only dealing with the niggling injuries of age in his latter years, there’s little doubt he would belong in the Premier League’s greatest team. He would, most probably, be up with the modern iconic defenders.
Manchester City do not need Kompany in the same way any more, reflected in their 4/6 price to win next season’s Premier League title in 888sport’s football betting.
It will, however, be peculiar to see the back-to-back champions without their talisman, who – even at 33 – was a constant presence in the closing weeks, in the biggest matches of all.
City are currently the best Premier League team there has been. Kompany’s role in their ascension is as significant as any other player; as a defender, as a club representative and as a man.
Amid all the spending, FFP talk and managerial changes, it was a Belgian central defender signed for £7 million from Hamburg in August 2008 who was the centre of Manchester City’s transformation.
Kompany may no longer be irreplaceable as a defender, but it will not be easy, even with City’s money, to find someone capable of filling his boots at the club.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*