The word man-management is often used in connection with managers in football, because it is naturally a fundamental aspect of their job. Keeping players happy, disciplined, and hungry while avoiding any signs of bias and turmoil in a team creates an environment for success.
However, there isn’t much a manager can do from the sideline in a stadium echoing supporters, expressing angst and disappointment on some occasions and elation on others. This is exactly when the captain must step in. The man in charge of the armband must maintain the sanity of the team at all times.
When things turn in the team’s favor, the captain needs to make sure his players don’t let go of the gas and give the opponent a chance to bounce back. In a situation where the plan collapses, he has to make sure that the players don’t let their emotions get the best of them in the hottest times.
Right now there are players in this game who have been the deciding link between the team and the gaffer. Years from now, for the many qualities for which they will be remembered, being a great leader and a competent captain will be part of it. Here are five of those current players who have been exemplary captains.
# 5 Manuel Neuer
Manuel Neuer has been a ubiquitous figure between the sticks for Bayern Munich and Germany. He made 457 appearances for the German giants and 108 for his country. Widely regarded as one of the best goalies of our time, Neuer wears the armband with great pride in his fourth season.
The German goalkeeper had proven his leadership qualities at his childhood club Schalke before moving to Bayern. At the age of 25, he led Schalke until his first appearance in the Champions League semi-finals in 2011. In the same season, he also led his team to the triumph of DFB Pokal, their first since 2002.
At Bayern, he had to wait his turn to be given the armband which happened after the retirement of Philipp Lahm in 2017. But due to a fractured metatarsal, Neuer never really had playing time to assert his presence as captain. It was not until the 2018 season that Neuer regularly played the role of captain.
Since putting on the armband on his sleeve, he has won three Bundesliga titles, a Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and two DFB-Pokal trophies. At Euro 2020, Neuer wore a rainbow-colored captain’s armband to support the LGBTQ + community during Pride Month.
# 4 Jordan Henderson
Agree to disagree if you have to, but the truth is Steven Gerrard spoiled Liverpool fans during his tenure as Reds captain. He was astute, charismatic, lively and authoritative. It was almost impossible for the Liverpool faithful to believe that they could have an equal figure in the squad.
Amid the uncertainty and mood swings, Jordan Henderson was declared captain of the Reds in 2015. He had been vice-captain a few times as Gerrard was in his twilight and a successor had to be prepared. But Liverpool’s fanbase weren’t the most tolerant of Henderson.
After all, he was a man they once saw as a reminder of the club’s turbulent times, a man regularly criticized for his “side passes.” However, the England international has paid little head to the critics and, with his head held high, has done everything in the right spirit for the club.
Today there is hardly anyone who dislikes Henderson for the man he is on the pitch. A vocal character who never mince words and has taken a stand for his team at every opportunity. He always put his team and the leader first and his generous nature helped keep the peloton in a good mood and on the right course.
Hendo will go down in history as the man who ultimately won that Premier League trophy for the Reds and even led them to Champions League glory. The 31-year-old has made 413 appearances so far for Liverpool and is stepping up again this season.