Kompany faces huge challenge at Burnley as realities of relegation start to bite

play
Kompany 'had other offers' before taking Burnley job (1:19)

New Burnley manager Vincent Kompany says he wasn't short of offers from a range of clubs before deciding to take the job with the Clarets. (1:19)

Vincent Kompany was always different to the stereotypical footballer during a 17-year playing career which saw him become one of the Premier League's great defenders and captains with Manchester City, so it is no surprise that the challenge of managing Burnley proved to be irresistible for the former Belgium international.

During his time at City, where he won 10 major honours including four Premier League titles, he was nicknamed "the Professor" by teammates and coaching staff, in part because he graduated with a Master of Business Administration degree (MBA) from Manchester Business School in 2018 after several years of study, but also, in less complimentary terms, because Kompany "had an answer for everything," according to sources.

- Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
- Don't have ESPN? Get instant access

That the 36-year-old has a strong personality and a set of unshakeable principles is clear. He is a FIFA ambassador for the SOS Children charity, has invested in projects to help disadvantaged youngsters in the Belgian capital Brussels and in Democratic Republic of the Congo, the birthplace of his father, Pierre, and donated proceeds from his City testimonial in 2019 to Tackle4MCR, his fund to help combat homelessness in Manchester.

But Kompany is also a competitor, a man driven by a challenge, and his decision to take charge at Burnley following their relegation from the Premier League last season is a testament to that. Having dropped into the Championship, Burnley are facing serious financial difficulties due to the terms of the £65 million loan taken out by American owners ALK Capital at the time of their takeover in December 2020.

As a penalty for relegation, sources have said that a substantial portion of that loan, reported to be as much as £55m, must be repaid to the banks. England goalkeeper Nick Pope has already been offloaded to Newcastle United in a £10m deal, while experienced defenders Ben Mee and James Tarkowski have been allowed to leave as free agents.

With budgets severely restricted and key players leaving Turf Moor, the Burnley job would seem to be anything but an attractive one, but despite the problems he has walked into, Kompany says it was the right job to persuade him to leave his role as coach at Belgian club Anderlecht and return to England.

"It's really a very delicate and dangerous period of time when you've got these transitions [at a club]," Kompany said. "You can fall very far down or go very quickly back up. The difference between left and right is massive, but it's all about small details.

"I didn't need to leave Anderlecht or need to go Burnley, but I had four or five conversations with people at the club and we started talking about the problems it is facing in the short term. The club were very open with me, there was extreme transparency.

"The short answer is that if you go down, you want to go back up. There is nothing exciting about being relegated, but it is a chance to build momentum and go back up to the Premier League. But the reality is that if it doesn't happen, we know what to do with the debt and how to grow the club.

"The Brentfords or Brightons, they didn't just go and jump into the Premier League. It's about recruitment, developing players. It's not rocket science, just keeping people calm. But I have signed a four to five-year contract. I am patient and not looking to hop from one club to the other. I am prepared for any scenario."

Other high-profile players from Kompany's generation have been careful and strategic when plotting their career path in coaching and management. Steven Gerrard coached Liverpool's under-18 team before taking over at Rangers in 2018 -- going on to win the Scottish league title -- and the 42-year-old is now managing Aston Villa. Frank Lampard, now at Everton, took Derby County to the Championship playoff final in his first and only season at the club before landing the Chelsea job in 2019.

Wayne Rooney, however, found life much more difficult at Derby as a result of the club's dire financial situation post-Lampard, and he resigned in June after being unable to save the team from relegation to League One last season following a 21-point deduction.

Kompany is walking a tightrope at Burnley. With the squad they have from the Premier League, promotion this season is a possibility, but if the financial issues deteriorate, Kompany may find himself in a position not dissimilar to that experienced by Rooney of players leaving and being replaced by inferior ones.

"You have the choice of different pathways," said Kompany, when asked about choosing a tougher route than the likes of Gerrard and Lampard. "You can jump from one club to another and hope you reach the Holy Grail because you've landed with the right squad, or you try to find people."

Kompany insists he is walking into the Burnley job with his eyes wide open and will not make false promises and naïve statements of intent.

"I'm not the guy who shouts 'we are going to do this.' I prefer to have disgruntled fans now than in three months' time," he said. "I don't want to make big statements.

"In my previous job [Anderlecht] I ended up the wrong side of it. We'd already gone too far down the wrong path and I can see it cripples the club. There's nothing you can do, you want to get players you can't get, but you have to sell players. That's why I rated the job I did at Anderlecht as I did -- a fantastic job.

"The advantage we have right now [at Burnley] is that we are on the brink. That's why I came here to turn a corner because then it becomes a very healthy club again."

Having been such a central figure in City's success in recent years, Kompany's connection to the club and Pep Guardiola will accompany him throughout his managerial career, whichever way it goes. Kompany says that he is, and will always be, his own man as a manager, demanding that his players reflect his personality. But he admits there is one key lesson that he learned from Guardiola which he has taken into coaching.

"I met this fantastic coach, the best in the world, and the simple thing I took from him wasn't a style of football," Kompany said. "I didn't take a style of football from Pep.

"It's that he was the very best at telling his players why they were doing things on the pitch -- anything you do, why you are passing it in a certain way, why you're defending in a certain way.

"And that's it, if I take something to Burnley, what I take as a coach, is to always to be able to tell my players why they are doing something.

"If we don't have the ball, we must be aggressive and on the front foot. When we have the ball, find some spaces to score a goal and don't be afraid of having the ball. From a defensive side, I do have an aggressive side too. I can't have players pulling out of challenges, no way."

If a manager must lead by example, Kompany has already shown his Burnley players that he won't be pulling out of a challenge. If they match his determination and focus, the club's off-field problems might just fade away with progress on the pitch.