8. Nemanja Vidic
Manchester United have arguably never truly replaced Vidic, as either a centre-back or captain. And yet he would be higher on this list but for the reality that, of his four seasons as the designated leader, he only played a majority of his games at his peak for one.
Yet that season, 2010/11, he arguably merited the PFA Player of the Year or Footballer of the Year awards. He was so dominant that Chris Smalling looked good alongside him.
7. Wes Morgan
Not just one of only two men to skipper their side in every minute of every game of a Premier League-winning season, but the most unlikely man to lift the trophy.
Morgan was 30 and had more than 500 career appearances under his belt before he even played in the top flight. He was the lower-league stalwart who epitomised the way Leicester’s unlikely lads rose to the occasion: his old-school defensive partnership with Robert Huth helped them keep five consecutive clean sheets in the run-in.
6. Steven Gerrard
The only captain in this group never to win the Premier League, and indeed one who is sadly associated with a famous failure to lift the title in 2014. But he was also one who took leading by example to extraordinary levels.
It’s an exaggeration to say that Gerrard won the 2006 FA Cup Final and the 2005 Champions League Final single-handed but, given the size of his contributions on a major stage, perhaps not much of one. No one should underestimate what it took for a Liverpudlian to captain Liverpool for 12 seasons, some in troubled times.
5. Patrick Vieira
Few sign off as captain in such style. Vieira’s last kick as an Arsenal player won them the FA Cup in 2005. His greatest achievement, however, was to skipper what remains the only team to complete a Premier League season unbeaten, the 2003/04 Invincibles.
It was a sign of Vieira’s stature that he was promoted above a host of senior players to take over as captain from Tony Adams, and felt like the natural replacement.
4. John Terry
If it felt like Terry relished the image of “captain, leader, legend”, the fact is that Chelsea have won only one league title in their history with anyone else as their designated skipper.
While Terry was a bit-part player by 2016/17, he’d only missed five league games in the previous four title-winning campaigns. No one else has led five title-winning teams and, in 2005 and 2006 in particular, Terry doubled up as arguably the best defender in the league.
3. Vincent Kompany
The kind of leader whose influence stretches far beyond the pitch: Kompany won four league titles as Manchester City captain, and if he wasn’t an automatic choice for the last two, his dream ending showed that Pep Guardiola still turned to him for pivotal games. The Belgian delivered when it mattered most.
Take away two of his goals – against Manchester United in 2012 and Leicester in May 2019 – and they probably would have been runners-up in both years.
2. Tony Adams
The only man to skipper title-winning teams in three decades, Adams first lifted the trophy at 22 and did it again at 35.
In 1991, he anchored a defence that only conceded 18 times, and yet his definitive title win arguably came in 1998 with that unexpectedly glorious goal against Everton on the final day. It was the proof that George Graham’s famously well-drilled defence worked well with Arsene Wenger’s new-age methods.
1. Roy Keane
The most remarkable leader of all. Others shared Keane’s capacity to galvanise, but few seemed to do it by blending inspirational performances with withering verbal assaults. No one else appeared to regard second place as such a damning failure or had such an aura.
His most astonishing performance as captain came in Turin in 1999, a display of sacrificial drive, and Keane led a Treble-winning team – even if a characteristically self-critical figure said he didn’t deserve a Champions League winner’s medal because he was suspended for the final.
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