best captains in football

10 best football captains of all time

The captain role is often considered an underappreciated post in the world of football. But the man wearing the coveted armband can prove the difference between a good team and one which has the ability to go on, against all odds. Below are the top 10 best captains in football:

10. Carles Puyol

FC Barcelona
Credits- FC Barcelona

The wild-haired Carles Puyol of Barcelona often looks different next to his well-groomed and aesthetically impeccable colleagues. However, the central defender has played just as big a role in the club’s success that included Xavi, Messi, and Iniesta.

The one-club mentality that was never shook off and with talks that having the calibre of players in front of him made his job as captain a simple one; but after six Liga titles and three Champions Leagues, his influence cannot be disputed, as the current Barcelona team speaks for itself.

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9. Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff
Credits- Getty Images

Victory and glory usually followed Johan Cruyff wherever he went on a football pitch. The Dutch wonder led Ajax in the early 1970s, lifting the Amsterdam club to the pinnacle of European football with his intelligence and forceful personality.

Ajax was the birthplace of total football that would make Cruyff and the Netherlands famous and feared. This philosophy was engraved in every player in every position, creating a fluidity and style never seen in football before, the club paved their way to three consecutive European Cups between 1971 and 1973. That moment made Cruyff’s leadership change Ajax, and football itself, forever.

8. Didier Deschamps

Didier Deschamps
Credits- Ligue 1

This quietly industrious midfielder was famously dismissed as the “Water Carrier” by fellow countryman Eric Cantona who became a key asset for any team he played for. Currently making his name as a coach, those qualities for organisation and inspiration were already more than present in his playing days wearing the captain armband.

Deschamps also made history while captaining Marseilles, lifting the European Cup in 1993. That moment made him the youngest midfielder ever captain to win the title, and he went on to prove himself far more than ever as one of Europe’s most effective destroyers in the middle.

7. Tony Adams

Tony Adams
Credits- Getty

Tony Adams was known for playing hard both on and off the pitch just as every typical central defender. But teaming up with Arsene Wenger at Highbury changed everything. The Arsenal legend transformed into the perfect professional who was rewarded with glory beyond his wildest dreams.

Adams represented the pre- and post-Wenger Arsenal link, playing for his first and only club for a total of 19 years and 672 games, wearing the armband for 14 years lifting the First Premier League a total of four times to establish his place in Gunners history.

6. Franco Baresi

Franco Baresi
Credits- Getty

Only Paolo Maldini as Milan’s ageless representation at the back prevents Franco Baresi from being considered the Italian club’s greatest captain. Perhaps, the dynamic central defender deserves his place in the Rossoneri Hall of Fame for to 20 years of exemplary service.

Baresi had the honour of captaining a Milan team that had the star presence of Maldini, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Roberto Donadoni, and Marco van Basten. This all-star side went on to six Serie A trophies and three European Cups with the defender at the helm.

Having played his entire career with Milan. He is regarded as one the best, and most loyal defenders ever to appear for them.

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5. Emlyn Hughes

Emlyn Hughes
Credits- Getty

Emlyn Hughes was the man behind Liverpool’s all-conquering team of the 1970s. His solid unspectacular central midfield style did not match with the softly spoken star at first glance, but he was a true inspiration to the Merseyside club in their first great era.

In 1973 Hughes took the Liverpool captaincy and immediately led the team to their first First Division title. Then, the European Cups followed in 1977 and 1978, along with three more First Division crowns. After 12 years representing the Reds, the captain left at the height of the team’s powers.

4. Franz Beckenbauer

Franz Beckenbauer
Credits- Getty

The Kaiser is regarded as one of the greatest defenders ever to step onto a pitch. He single-handedly created the sweeper position (known as anchoring midfielder today) as he stood in front of the back line, preventing opposition attacks and bringing the ball forward with at most skill.

Under the captaincy of Beckenbauer came Bayern Munich’s first golden era with Gerd Muller in the front and Kaiser at the back. The Bavarians went on to life three Bundesliga titles and three consecutive European championships from 1974 to ’76, all under the leadership of the incomparable German.

3. Billy McNeill

Billy McNeill
Credits- The Telegraph

In the 1960s, Billy McNeill was an uncompromising yet fair defender, alongside master coach Jock Stein, responsible for one of the greatest upsets in the history of world football. The pair’s Glasgow Celtic team, made up entirely of players born in Scotland defeated favourites Inter in the 1967 European Cup final, becoming the first British team to win the title.

That success came in the middle of a run of nine successive Scottish championship titles, still a record. Another one-club man, McNeill is justly remembered as one of the most influential players ever to pull in the white and green colours.

2. Paolo Maldini

Captain Paolo Maldini
Credits- Getty

Partnering with Italy and Milan legend Franco Baresi, the one-club man learned from the very best in the Rossoneri defence for the first years of his career. When Baresi retired in 1997, there was only one choice to succeed him as captain of AC Milan.

However, Maldini was already 29 when Baresi retired, but he would go on to play for an incredible 12 more years for Milan, making a total of 902 appearances. Silverware flowed throughout his career, giving him the name ‘Il Capitano’.

1. Roy Keane

Roy Keane
Credits- The Telegraph

Roy Keane and Sir Alex Ferguson were always going to be a match made in heaven at Old Trafford. A combative midfielder capable of pulling the strings from the middle won everything going around the turn of the 21st century for Manchester United.

The Irish was a mix of temperament and command, always willing to put his body on the line and never afraid of anything. Keane was the core factor around which United’s winning teams were built. The Red Devils won a total of four Premier League titles and the incredible treble season in 1998/99, where United lifted the Champions League for the first time in 31 years under the legendary Roy.

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