Greatest European Soccer (Football) Captains of All Time

Metal_Treasure
Soccer captains are certainly underrated because some of them are not necessarily the best or most talented players on their teams. But captains have attributes that are also needed on the pitch. Very often the teams look and play significantly worse without a certain captain.

The greatest captains are associated with leadership, experience, decision making, commitment and diplomacy. They are able to motivate and inspire the players around them. Besides, captains have to talk to referees and even discipline some players.

There are two types of captains and both can be equally efficient. Captains of the first type are very vocal and imposing figures who make their presence and feelings known throughout the squad. Captains of the second type adopt a quieter, more subtle approach, choosing instead to lead by example on the pitch and allowing their football to do the talking.

Club captains and national team captains are eligible.

The Top Ten

1 Johan Cruyff - Ajax Johan Cruyff - Ajax

Johan Cruyff, the Dutch wizard, was captain of Ajax in the early 1970s. He is credited with dragging the Amsterdam club to the pinnacle of European football with his intelligence and forceful personality. Cruyff's leadership changed football forever - in Ajax was born the total football that would make Cruyff and the Netherlands famous and feared. They used the philosophy that every player could perform in every position, and utilised a fluidity and style unseen before in football. - Metal_Treasure

Magnificent player but not a captain...

2 Franz Beckenbauer - Bayern Munich, National Franz Beckenbauer - Bayern Munich, National

Der Kaiser.
As a captain, Franz Beckenbauer won every trophy going at both club and international level. Der Kaiser is also regarded as one of the greatest defenders ever to step onto a pitch. - Metal_Treasure

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3 Franco Baresi - Milan, National Franco Baresi - Milan, National V 1 Comment
4 Roy Keane - Manchester United, National (Ireland) Roy Keane - Manchester United, National (Ireland)

Without doubt the best team captain at club level ever

The temperamental Irishman was brilliant and controversial at the same time (11 red cards). - Metal_Treasure

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5 Didier Deschamps - Marseilles, National Didier Deschamps - Marseilles, National

Deschamps wasn’t the most talented man in the French team but he provided the perfect foil for those more talented attacking players and made for an exceptional leader on the pitch. His qualities for organisation and inspiration tied the outstanding talents together, known as the ‘Golden Generation’. - Metal_Treasure

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6 Paolo Maldini - Milan, National Paolo Maldini - Milan, National Paolo Cesare Maldini is a former Italian professional footballer who played as a left back and central defender. Maldini captained Italy for 8 years and AC Milan for 12, and was renowned for his leadership skills, earning him the nickname “Il Capitano”, or ‘The Captain’.

Paolo Maldini learnt from the very best: his teammate, Italy and Milan legend Franco Baresi. Maldini captained Italy for 8 years and AC Milan for 12, and was renowned for his leadership skills, earning him the nickname “Il Capitano”, or ‘The Captain’. Although he never led Italy to victory at a major tournament, he did go to two finals as captain, at the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000. - Metal_Treasure

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7 Carles Puyol - Barcelona Carles Puyol - Barcelona

The lionheart himself. The residency and captaincy, symbolic loyalty and leadership skills for every defending player.

Although he was never made captain of the Spanish national team, he was still a leader on the pitch. - Metal_Treasure

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8 Steven Gerrard - Liverpool Steven Gerrard - Liverpool Steven George Gerrard is an English professional footballer who plays for Major League Soccer club LA Galaxy.

As a captain he is both vocal and able to lead by example on the pitch. Without doubt his most iconic moment came in the 2005 Champions League final when Liverpool appeared dead and buried, 3-0 down at half-time to AC Milan. However, Gerrard rallied the troops, scored the goal to get Liverpool back in the game and inspired the team to a historic comeback and a famous Champions League trophy. - Metal_Treasure

Captain fantastic! Inspirational and can carry the whole team on his shoulders. Fell in love with football, watching him play.

2005 champions league final. Enough said. More passion than any other player on the pitch at any given time, stuck with the club through thick and thin.

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9 Francisco Gento - Real Madrid Francisco Gento - Real Madrid

One of the most successful captains of all time and one of the most successful players of all time. The Spaniard won 12 La Liga’s, six European Cup’s, two Copa del Rey, two Latin Cups and one Intercontinental Cup. - Metal_Treasure

10 Tony Adams - Arsenal Tony Adams - Arsenal

Adams spent his entire playing career of 22 years as a defender at Arsenal. With Arsenal, he won four top flight division titles, uniquely captaining a title-winning team in three different decades. - Metal_Treasure

The Contenders

11 Oliver Kahn - Bayern Munich, National Oliver Kahn - Bayern Munich, National

Kahn led both club and country to glory over what was a sparkling career. He was Bayern captain for six years from 2002 to 2008, and over the course of his time in Bavaria he lifted the Bundesliga eight times, four of those while leading his side. - Metal_Treasure

12 Iker Casillas - Real Madrid, National Iker Casillas - Real Madrid, National Iker Casillas Fernández is a Spanish professional footballer who plays for Portuguese club Porto and the Spain national team as a goalkeeper. V 1 Comment
13 Lothar Matthäus - West Germany Lothar Matthäus - West Germany
14 John Terry - Chelsea John Terry - Chelsea V 2 Comments
15 Francesco Totti - Roma Francesco Totti - Roma Francesco Totti is an Italian professional footballer who plays for, and captains, Serie A club Roma.

He was never made captain of the Italian national team, as the team was never starved for a leader, with Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro captaining the team in Totti’s time with the Azzurri. - Metal_Treasure

16 Alessandro Del Piero - Juventus Alessandro Del Piero - Juventus Alessandro Del Piero Ufficiale is an Italian former professional footballer who played as a deep-lying forward.
17 Bobby Charlton - Manchester United Bobby Charlton - Manchester United Sir Robert "Bobby" Charlton is an English former football player, regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time, and an essential member of the England team who won the World Cup in 1966, the year he also won the Ballon d'Or.
18 Bobby Moore - West Ham United, National Bobby Moore - West Ham United, National

He captained West Ham United for more than ten years and was captain of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup. Moore’s authority on the football pitch was assumed without any need to bellow or shriek. - Metal_Treasure

19 Raúl - Real Madrid, National Raúl - Real Madrid, National
20 Andrea Pirlo - Juventus Andrea Pirlo - Juventus Andrea Pirlo is an Italian professional footballer who plays for American club New York City FC in Major League Soccer and the Italy national team.
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