It’s hard to imagine Chelsea without John Terry as its captain.
But time waits for no one, and one day in the not too distant future, the Blues will be forced to put out a starting team without the 31-year-old defender who has been one of the club’s leaders on and off the field over the last decade.
Terry has been with Chelsea since age 14 and has worn the captain’s armband since taking over from Marcel Desailly back in 2004.
So when Terry decides to retire who are the possible candidates from the Blues current roster who have what it takes to take over the captaincy?
Here are five I think would be up for the job, with the pros and cons of each.
If Terry were to retire this season, then Lampard might be a nice choice should the veteran midfielder try to squeeze some more years out of the tail-end of his career.
Although the 34-year-old Lampard fits the mold perfectly as Chelsea captain material, the bottom line is he is probably just too old to be considered in the running to be the next to wear the armband in west London.
Lampard is third on Chelsea’s all-time scoring list and tied for the team lead in goals last season (11). He is looked to for his leadership by younger teammates and has always been a model of consistency.
The Englishman set a record for playing in 164 straight matches from 2001 to 2005 and statisticians at Opta graded Lampard as the best player in the English Premier League from 2000 to 2009.
So with all in his favor as well as the respect from fans and management it would seem Lampard would be a great choice, but by the time Terry decides to retire, his running mate Lamps shouldn’t be too far behind himself.
The guy I think most suited and deserving of being Chelsea’s captain when Terry leaves is Čech.
Through his first eight years at Stamford Bridge, arguably, no one has been more important for the Blues. And management recently rewarded the 30-year-old Czech Republic native with a four-year contract meaning goalkeeping shouldn’t really be big a concern until 2016.
In his Blues career, Čech has kept 178 clean sheets (48 percent of the games he has played in) and is a huge reason the club has its hands on the UEFA Champions League trophy and will be playing in the prestigious tournament again this coming season.
Čech would be a fantastic captain since he has been a backbone of the team for years. He is on the pitch in his goalkeeper position as much as anyone on the club and has to be vocal and direct the flow of the game as it unfolds in front of him.
Some die-hard Chelsea fans would probably prefer an Englishman to get the captain’s armband, but with all he’s done and all he means to Chelsea, Čech would be a wonderful choice if he were interested.
Maybe the most dependable of the Blues over the past five years, Ashley Cole also possesses all of the qualities it takes to be a captain.
He leads with his consistent solid play at his left-back position and has a wealth of experience now in his years with Arsenal, Chelsea and the English national team.
But like Lampard, despite all these things going for him in terms of a potential captaincy, the 31-year-old Cole is likely three to four years too old to eventually be given the responsibility long-term when Terry retires.
Juan Mata burst onto the scene last season and quickly proved his worth as he was named Chelsea's Player of the Season for his stellar play.
On the pitch, the 5’7” Mata acted as the Blues quarterback (six goals and 13 assists) and fits the mold of the quality, ball-control player that owner Roman Abramovich wants for Chelsea’s future.
With a calm demeanor, the 24-year-old Mata would be a perfect choice because of age, talent and also his experience with the Spanish national team. But should Čech, Lampard or Cole actually want the position ahead of Mata, they should be given the chance and honor of wearing that armband for as many seasons as they can.
Still, should Mata lead and play the way he did much of last season for two more years, he would be an ideal candidate to lead the Blues through the next decade.
Probably a player who at first glance now looks like he has seemingly little chance to take over as Chelsea captain when Terry calls it a career, Fernando Torres can play himself into the role this season with a strong performance on and off the field.
El Niño has had his down moments since signing with the Blues in January 2010, but with Didier Drogba now heading to China and Torres’ playing time likely to be doubled, the Spaniard will finally get his chance to prove he’s the go-to guy at Stamford Bridge this season.
Chief executive Ron Gourlay tried to ease the 28-year-old’s mind and told him he
wasn’t going anywhere after the Blues' Champions League win over Bayern Munich.
Should Torres have a strong season and fulfill his role as the starting striker for the European champions, feel better about playing for the Blues and publicly reveal his desire to stay with the club, then, and only then do I think he would enter any conversation as Terry’s replacement at captain.
This reveals there are three guys with captain-like credentials but they are all in their 30’s while two other viable candidates are in their 20’s but have very short track records at Stamford Bridge.
If I had to break down by percentages my guesses on who will actually follow Terry I’d say Čech would be the top choice with around 22 percent followed by Mata (17%), Lampard (13%), Cole (10%), Torres (8%), David Luiz (7%), Ryan Sturridge (6%) and somebody else (17%).
It’s pretty wide open from this distance and no doubt much thought will be put into the decision, but the longer Terry plays, the better for Chelsea.
It’s refreshing to know that a club who just lost a legend like Drogba and must also contemplate losing a stalwart like Terry in the future at least has a handful of veteran players to look to to try to fill his shoes.
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11