Brussels, Belgium | AFP | Vincent Kompany might have been seen as the saviour when he returned to Anderlecht as player-manager, but early results suggest it will take time for the 33-year-old to make his mark on Belgium’s most successful club.
Anderlecht caused a sensation when they announced in May the appointment of Kompany, a product of the club’s youth academy along with stars such as Enzo Scifo and Romelu Lukaku.
The role of player-manager is virtually non-existent these days, and the task always looked a daunting one for Kompany, who had just finished a successful 11-year spell at Manchester City.
With just two points taken from his first four games, it was announced on Thursday that Kompany, while captaining the team on the field, would leave substitutions and tactical changes to his staff during games. It is a first indication that the combination of roles was too much.
Kompany has returned to a club where much has changed since he emerged there as a teenager before joining Hamburg in 2006.
The 34-time Belgian champions finished sixth last season, 20 points behind champions Genk, who they face this Friday. This season is the club’s first in 55 years without European football.
Things have not been going well for Anderlecht since the wealthy businessman Marc Coucke bought the club in late 2017, ending a period of almost 50 years in the hands of the Vanden Stock family. And now the reign of “Vince the Prince” has started in underwhelming fashion too.
Kompany was treated like a rock star when he was unveiled, citing City coach Pep Guardiola as the example to follow.
“Like every supporter, I suffered last season,” he said.
He hopes to have a big impact on the field, providing he stays fit. He also hopes instilling a new philosophy can revive the fortunes of a club who were once a leading European force.
– British influence –
After over a decade in England, he has added a significant British influence to his staff, with Welshman Simon Davies — previously on the staff at City — becoming head coach.
“We are starting a magnificent project to take Anderlecht back to where they belong with an accent placed on developing young players,” Davies said.
Another Welshman, Craig Bellamy, is in charge of the under-21s, while Kevin Reid — who worked with current Belgium coach Roberto Martinez at Everton — has come in as a video analyst.
Last season’s top scorer, Ivan Santini, was sold to China, but Kompany used his contacts to make notable swoops in the transfer market.
They have signed English forward Kemar Roofe from Leeds United, while Dutch defender Philippe Sandler, 22, signed on loan from City.
– Nasri adds star quality –
But the biggest coups have been the arrivals of Belgium midfielder Nacer Chadli on-loan from Monaco and ex-France star Samir Nasri, another old teammate of Kompany’s at City. Nasri, 32, was a free agent after leaving West Ham United.
He and Kompany are rare old heads, with nine players aged 24 or under starting in a 2-1 home defeat by KV Oostende on the opening weekend, including four teenagers.
Since then, they have drawn 0-0 with Royal Excel Mouscron and Mechelen before a 4-2 defeat at Kortrijk despite Nasri giving them the lead.
Now they have a run of games against last season’s top four, with Standard Liege, Antwerp and Club Brugge coming up after Genk. The pressure could quickly increase on Kompany, who has already faced criticism from leading ex-players.
“The coach Kompany needs to put Kompany the player in his place,” said Marc Degryse, a former Anderlecht and Belgium forward, in the daily Het Laatste Nieuws.
“He is just a human being, as well as being a very good footballer, but I get the feeling he thinks he’s God.”
The decision to make Kompany captain on the field has been taken, according to Davies, to allow “the best player in the league” to focus purely on his playing role, at least during games.
“Vinny and the club have a vision, and we all work to it as staff, but it’s important that he is a player on matchday,” said Davies.
Anderlecht and their new boss are still searching for the winning formula.