Burnley boss Vincent Kompany's high praise for 'ultimate player' Josh Cullen and why the midfielder is a shining example for fellow professionals
Josh Cullen's sporting acumen — and his willingness to put the team first — is what sets the midfielder apart from other professionals in the game, according to Vincent Kompany.
The pair worked together for a couple of seasons in the Belgian Pro League at Anderlecht, with the Republic of Ireland international plucked from West Ham United for just short of £1m following a loan spell at Charlton Athletic.
The Burnley boss admitted that the former Hammer had been acquired as a squad player at Lotto Park, but made an instant impression before asserting himself as one of the pack leaders.
He made 55 appearances in the Belgium First Division A for the 34-time champions before becoming Kompany's fourth signing at Turf Moor having succeeded Sean Dyche in the summer.
"I can't be complimentary enough, but I think everyone can see what he does," said the Manchester City legend. "The team appreciates it; his strength is that he's the ultimate player that puts the team before himself.
"Football naturally always drives you towards being selfish, it just happens that way because you've got to look after yourself, and there are only very few players, despite all of that, who decide to make a conscious choice to put the team above themselves. You can't really scout that, you only know it when you work with players."
Kompany, a four-time Premier League winner, added: "The best way to describe Josh [Cullen] is that he came to Anderlecht, from Charlton, as a squad player and he became the most important player in my squad.
"Then he came to Burnley, back in English football in the Championship, where he was really going to help us out, and he became one of the most important players in the team."
The 26-year-old has proven to be an essential component in the mechanics of Kompany's Clarets, starting 25 times in the league as the Championship leaders slowly pulled away from the rest of the division.
The table-toppers have lost just twice all season in the second tier, they're the leading scorers in the EFL, they've won eight league games on the bounce, and they're now 18 points clear of third place Watford in their push for a Premier League return.
And Cullen, who was the recipient of the ROI's prestigious Player of the Year gong, has been central to that, according to Kompany, while painting himself as a shining example for others to follow.
He said: "If you set up a session, and you pass the first ball in that session, that's going to be at the best possible standard he can do it at.
"Then the last tackle he's going to make in every single session will be at the highest possible standard he can do it at.
"It's hard to ever predict how far these types of players will go because he has the attitude and resilience of a top athlete and any limitations he has he just seems to overcome and go above.
"He's an example for other players as well because some players with extreme talent would have tremendous careers with half of what he has in terms of personality and attitude."