There are some things in the world that people love to hate. If you could ever think of an individual who embodies that sense of loathing more in British football, it’s John Terry. His shenanigans with Wayne Bridge and ban for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand were damming, let’s not deny that, and his decision to parade around with a fresh Champions League trophy in Munich was a satirical farce.
Vincent Kompany, on the other hand, is Terry’s opposite. There’s never any off-the-field controversies with the Belgian – he talks eloquently with a touch of class, an example to anyone on how to present yourself in the public spheres.
In the last year, however, those personal conceptions often pre-determine peoples’ views on the most important of football matters: what actually happens on the pitch. And there’s no better way to say it than in it’s crudest form: Terry is better than Kompany at the moment, and has been for at least 18 months.
But how? How could that controversial Englishman possibly be looked at in the same light as (supposedly) one of the best central defenders in the world?
The outspoken and retired Welsh striker Craig Bellamy inadvertently summarised it perfectly: ‘I know what JT’s like and nothing surprises me about him, so I’m not going to comment on that guy- I think everyone in football knows what the guy’s like.
‘But that’s off the field. On it, he’s an outstanding player, he’s a great captain, and it’s always going to be difficult when you play against him.’
That’s the key. Analyse him through a footballing lens alone and you’ll see how he’s been one of the greatest English defenders of all time. His longevity at this age has also been underappreciated; Mourinho and Chelsea have shown little appreciation towards sentiment (as Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Ashley Cole all found out) and Terry’s pivotal part to play (he’s played every minute this season and just earned a new contract) is an outstanding achievement. Not that anyone seems to want to admit it.
But back to Kompany. He, too, also seems to possess similarly excellent leadership skills. He was an excellent figurehead when Mario Balotelli infamously contested a fine that he received several years ago, acting professionally in a sort of hybrid role where he was both an arbitrator and a supporting mentor for the Italian.
Those qualities have, in the opposite sense, ironed over the cracks of what has been a difficult two years. He was outstanding in City’s debut title winning campaign, forming a solid partnership with Joleon Lescott, but since then City have failed to find him a partner- and his status of superiority means he’s practically immune to criticism. Lescott, Stefan Savic, Tal Ben-Haim, Jermone Boateng (the best central defender in the world?) and Matija Nastasic have all been deemed surplus to requirements. A strong degree of faith from Manuel Pellegrini has only prevented Martin Demichelis from following suit. Eliaquim Mangala is next in line.
Kompany’s weakness seems to revolve around his naive dogma to come charging up the pitch, getting turned in no-man’s-land, exposing his team in the process, like the game’s console-controlled player that Gary Neville once likened David Luiz too. Unlike the hard-tackling Englishman Terry has been labelled as, he actually seldom dives into tackles. In 22 league games this season, he’s conceded a staggering four fouls and not once been booked- Kompany, in 14 appearances, has conceded 24 fouls and been booked five times. You can point to those usual rebuttals, that Terry has better midfield protection or that Gary Cahill is a better defensive partner, but ultimately, Terry is just a more intelligent player.
John Terry is hardly liked, respected or admired. Vincent Kompany is a figurehead of inspiration. When you really think about it, those perceptions should be truly inverted in a footballing sense. Only then will you appreciate just how good Terry is, regardless of what those around you will believe.