HOW Manchester City could have done with a fully-fit Vincent Kompany on the pitch at Anfield on Sunday — rather than watching in the TV studio.
The inspirational Belgian was allowed to leave in the summer — and no replacement brought in during the transfer window.
Boss Pep Guardiola’s makeshift defence could not contain league- leaders Liverpool on Merseyside, as the rampant Reds surged nine points clear of the champions with a 3-1 victory.
City fans could be forgiven for wondering if one more season could have been dragged out of Kompany.
But the former skipper, 33, has revealed how he realised part way through last term that his race was run at the Etihad.
And not even a last-ditch plea from his friends and long-term team-mates Sergio Aguero and David Silva could convince him to change his mind.
For 11 years, Kompany had played through the pain and battled back from injuries to lift trophies for his beloved City.
But in the last couple of years, he started going into each match already fearing it could be his last after so many setbacks.
He could also sense the sands were beginning to shift under his feet — and that he was no longer pivotal to Guardiola’s side.
It first dawned on him when he was left out of the starting XI at Chelsea for a key game in December 2018.
And another wake-up call came when he was omitted against the same opposition in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley in February.
That game came on the back of another long lay-off at the start of the year — during which time he had done a lot of thinking.
The wheel of change had been turning at City for some time and, in the end, Kompany simply felt he had to get out from underneath it.
He said: “I’ve played with broken bones, muscles half torn or on the edge of pulling — I got away with it when I was younger.
“However, there’s a cost. When you just carry on playing with something that’s not quite right, you also prevent it from healing properly.
“Eventually, it ends up being twice as bad as it would have been if you’d allowed it to heal.
“That probably explains why so many things started to go wrong for me, injury-wise, later in my career.
“Usually you know after you’ve played four or five games that you’re back into full stride again and have confidence in your body.
“The only issue is that when you play for a club like City, you don’t always get four or five games to get back your full match fitness.
“I needed to be ready in every minute of every game.
“I didn’t lose a game in my last 18 months — but I always felt pressure to be at my very best in every match I played.
“Rightly or wrongly, I worried that I was one bad performance away from my first-team chances being reduced to a minimum.
“That’s the pressure at City. Every time I came back from injury, I knew it could be my last game.”
While Kompany was out, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte were being talked of as City’s first-choice and long-term centre-back pairing.
He said: “The wheel of change is powerful, you can’t stop it.
“You might be able to slow it down a bit — but it took everything I had to keep it at bay.
“That’s why I decided when I did to get out from under that wheel. That’s how I thought about it.
“I had no idea if Pep felt the same, or if he’d have been happy for me to carry on playing beyond that season.
“It was this ongoing fight to prove myself as being worthy of a place in the City team that led me to my conclusion — ‘I’m going to have to leave’.
Kompany eventually made his mind up in the days leading up to the epic Champions League defeat to Tottenham in April.
He kept it a secret — not telling a soul until a second consecutive Premier League title was safely in the bag the following month.
Silva and Aguero, who he had shared a dressing room with for the last decade — then urged him to reconsider.
In his new book ‘Treble Triumph’, Kompany explained: “The biggest compliment I’ve ever had was from David. He tried to convince me not to leave City.
“Sergio did the same. To have big players like that asking me to stay was absolutely the best thing.”
Another wobble came as he lifted the Premier League trophy aloft at Brighton on the final day — after an epic title race with Liverpool.
He said: “I remember thinking, ‘S***, I’ve won four now, is that the lot?’ Then I remember that a completely irrational thought went through my head, ‘I just need one more, I need to win the next one’.
“I’d already decided to move to Anderlecht — but it still flashed through my mind.
“One thing is for sure, winning is addictive.”
Yet he left it until the eve of the FA Cup final before eventually telling Guardiola the Wembley showpiece would be his final match for the club he loved.
He had not wanted anything to distract from City’s bid for an unprecedented domestic Treble — but also needed to know his manager’s thoughts on how he should announce it.
He said: “Why did I leave it so late?
“I wanted him to be part of the decision of how and when we communicated it to the rest of the players.
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Why are there no Premier League games on this weekend and when does it return?
“I didn’t want him to tell them if he thought my announcement would have a negative effect ahead of the one remaining game.
“If we could gain 10 per cent by telling them before, then that’s what I wanted. If Pep thought it would have negative effect, then I would rather tell them after the game.”
Kompany was putting his team ahead of himself right until the last moment. How they miss him on days like Sunday.
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