Vincent Kompany has revealed that he labelled Arsenal midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga ‘the new Yaya Toure’ earlier in his career, and the Anderlecht boss still backs his bold claim.
The Gunners signed Lokonga from Belgian club Anderlecht in a deal worth £17.2million in the summer as Mikel Arteta bolstered his options in the centre of the park.
The 22-year-old has immediately gained the trust of his manager, making 12 appearances across all competitions and impressing with his calmness on the ball.
Since Granit Xhaka suffered a long-term knee injury in September, Lokonga has been relied on to partner Thomas Partey in midfield, and he has done so with aplomb.
Near the end of Manchester City legend Kompany’s career at the Etihad, he kept a keen eye on Lokonga’s progress in Belgium and urged Arteta – who was Pep Guardiola’s assistant at the time – to monitor him.
When Kompany moved into coaching himself at Anderlecht and Arteta took over at the Emirates, he recommended ‘the next Toure’ again.
‘As I was still at City I was coming to a point where I was thinking about my future; management, carry on, sign a new deal there,’ Kompany told the FIVE YouTube channel.
‘I was watching football from different countries and I saw Sambi play his first two games for Anderlecht, then he got a big knee injury.
‘But the first thing I did when I saw Sambi was I went to Mikel, and also Pep, but Mikel first and I said, “You’ve got to watch this guy, he’s the new Yaya Toure”.
‘And anyway, nothing comes from it, he’s got a cruciate ligament [injury] and then I end up falling into the management job at Anderlecht so I’m working with him now. I had the same conversation about him with Mikel, I still believe the same thing now [that he could be the new Toure].
‘I’m not even sure I’m going to do him a favour now if I say this kind of stuff.
‘You know what I like with Sambi and it’s rare in football – what Yaya did have – is he wants the ball no matter what. Team’s not doing well, give the ball to Sambi. Team’s doing well, give the ball to Sambi. He will never hide away from his responsibility.
‘He has things to improve. If he remembers the conversations we’ve had, he will know exactly what he still has to work on. But at the same time, the only thing Yaya had, Yaya was also a finisher and that’s a very rare thing to have.
‘But the point is, you need players who are not afraid to have the ball when the going gets tough.
‘You as a centre-back, your job stops at a certain point on the ball, you need to be able to give it to people who see the next pass, the next move, take responsibility, take people on and put that tempo when there’s no tempo in the game anymore. For me, that’s what Sambi has that makes him special.’
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