When he takes his Burnley side to the Etihad for Sunday’s FA Cup sixth round tie, Vincent Kompany will be faced with a familiar sight. An image, moreover, that recognizes him as one of the main promoters of the revolution that Manchester City has experienced in the last decade. Because there, in a prominent position on the stadium esplanade, there is a statue of Kompany that is full of meaning for all the fans of the club.
“I never had any doubt that it had to be that pose,” says Andy Scott, the renowned Scottish sculptor who created the statue. “It represented an almost messianic moment. I put it in my initial proposals when I was commissioned to do the piece. And luckily Vincent agreed.”
The statue shows the player in a pose that holds great significance for City. He shows him with arms outstretched and head bowed, a depiction of his celebration when he scored a great goal against Leicester City in May 2019, a goal that was instrumental in securing his fourth league title with the club.
But it also marked a charged moment of farewell. When he scored he was 34 years old, aware that his eleven-year association with the Etihad was coming to an end. It was almost his last contribution to the club before leaving for his homeland to become a player coach for Anderlecht. He is now back at City for the first time as Burnley manager, and will be forced to pass when he steps onto the pitch, forever frozen in a moment of reflection.
“It’s very unusual for a football sculpture,” says Scott, speaking to Telegraph Sport from his studio in Los Angeles. “Most of them tend to be from gamers in action. To me there was something moving about that pose that added to its power.”
Scott is no stranger to creating public works of art. His piece, the Kelpies, 300-tonne, two-thirty-foot-tall steel horse heads on the banks of a canal in Falkirk, is Britain’s most-visited sculpture after the Angel of the North.
Although he has used more conventional materials for football works in the past (he has one outside Ibrox by John Greig that is made of bronze), Kompany’s piece is similar in style to the Kelpies: forged from galvanized steel. Which I find very appropriate for your topic.
“Steel definitely suits him,” says Scott. “And it fits into that part of East Manchester, with its industrial heritage.”
The sculpture was unveiled at the Etihad in August 2021, the first in a triptych Scott has made for the club that includes images of David Silva and Sergio Agüero. It’s a fine piece of work, perfectly placed to blend in with the Etihad’s glass façade. But surprisingly, it was done without the artist ever coming across his subject.
“I received the commission just as covid started,” explains Scott, who was selected from a shortlist of three sculptors. “I spoke to him over Zoom, but unfortunately sitting down with him was impossible, especially since I live in the United States and there was no way I could fly. So I worked with photos and videos; the club sent me hundreds of photos”.
He constructed the piece in his then studio in Philadelphia.
“I didn’t move to Los Angeles until last May,” he says, “I went there hoping the sun would come up. But we’ve had the worst winter anyone can remember. It’s raining so hard right now I could have stayed in Glasgow.”
The work was created using the same welded steel mosaic technique that defines Kelpies. But Scott acknowledges that it’s his position that really enhances his design.
“It looked very different in the studio,” he suggests. “It was the club’s idea to place it right in front of a large glass façade. And it’s a great location.
We put it on overnight, and when the covers came off at the ceremony it was one of those pinch-your-own moments. I remember standing there thinking: holy molybdenum, that looks great.”
However, even then, he was unable to meet Kompany in person. Pandemic protocols remained in place at the time, preventing players from mingling with the public.
“However, I heard from him that he loved it,” Scott says. More specifically, so did the City supporters.
“The best thing was being there incognito listening to the reactions of the fans. It was one of the best days after installing it, seeing people walk by looking at it, talking about it. They accepted it very well. They seemed to understand immediately what it was about.”
Later, Scott would deliver his Silva and Agüero pieces, which are now in a splendid confluence with Kompany. But whatever the excellence of him, he has hardly been inundated since then with other clubs looking to sign him.
“Football is a fun business, and I think maybe they are so distinctive that people might think: ‘oh, those are from City, we want ours,’” he says. “That being said, I would love for the phone to ring from another club.”
Indeed, perhaps Burnley could be in touch, now that Kompany’s management are propelling them back to the Premier League.
“The conversations I had with him is City to the core, an honorary Manc,” says Scott. “I am sure it will be in conflict on Sunday. But one thing is certain, he will want to win.”
After all, as the statue insists, it is a football figure forged in steel.