Who Should Be Barcelona's New Captain and Why?
Barcelona have traditionally had four captains in the first-team squad, who are normally the longest-serving players.
However, with the departures of Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes, and the potential downscaling of Xavi Hernandez's importance within the side, Luis Enrique needs to choose new leaders.
Per an interview with Barca TV, reported by AS via Dermot Corrigan of ESPN, Enrique actually wants to try something a little different.
The new manager said:
A captain is not whoever lifts the cup or shakes hands with the referee, it is much more. The captains should be the reference points for the players, they should be voted for and that's it. I know the personalities of the Barca players and those who can be captains.
We will have fluid communication. I do not want captains who are the most handsome, the most veteran, the nicest guys or those who sign the most autographs. I am aware of how it is at Barca.
I know the personality of those who can be Barca captains, who are more than ready. They are great protagonists and should feel they like it here. We are working on that.
So with that in mind, who are the runners and riders that could be voted in to be the next to wear the armband?
Let's take a look.
Andres Iniesta would appear to be the best placed to succeed Carles Puyol.
Although the "pecking order" last season left Iniesta as third vice-captain, there can be no logical reason why he can't assume the main responsibility during the forthcoming campaign.
The "quiet man" does his talking on the pitch week-in, week-out and responsibility sits well on his shoulders.
Importantly, he already garners the attention and respect of all of those around him. Jonathan Stevenson of BBC Sport noted:
I gathered around as a group of Spanish journalists questioned Iniesta. Wearing jeans and a plain white T-shirt, he immediately stood out from the rest of his team-mates. He also spoke so softly even the guys at the front were straining to hear him.
But the most interesting thing was that Xavi, standing about three feet away from Iniesta, stopped talking twice to his interviewers so he could hear what his 'tiki-taki' twin was saying.
He might not say much but when he does people listen.
You're already half way to having your team-mates eating out of the palm of your hand if they believe in the message that you wish to convey.
The gospel that Andres Iniesta preaches will continue to make churchgoers of them all.
You often associate the captain's role with one of your central defenders.
A position on the pitch from where you can see everything developing in front of you and act accordingly. With the captain's role comes huge responsibility, of course.
Carles Puyol was adept at organising, cajoling, haranguing, arguing. Gerard Pique is not that type of defender or captain. But should that make him any less of a candidate? Perhaps the added responsibility would do him some good.
Ben Hayward of Goal.com reminded us back in November of 2013 that Pique was indeed being earmarked as a future Barca captain, but the influence of girlfriend Shakira had taken his eye off of the ball.
With Luis Enrique likely to adopt a shape-up-or-ship-out mantra to his squad, Pique's attitude may well define whether the armband heads in his direction or not.
Captain for his country, why not for his club too?
Lionel Messi has been leading by example at Barcelona for years. Occasionally handed the armband when circumstances have dictated the same, the Argentine's appearances as leader of the team have been few and far between.
But if we are looking for an example, a reference in the team, surely there are none bigger than Messi.
We're not just talking about goals here either.
He is amongst the hardest workers in the side, and it is rare to find that his contribution is anything less than exemplary.
Messi already has the blanket respect of his team-mates so it seems a logical choice. Doesn't it?
With the loss of Puyol and also Valdes, Xavi Hernandez should really be the first in line for the captaincy, given the service he has provided to the club.
Enrique's directive concerning seniority was fairly clear, however, so Xavi may feel a little put out that he is not automatically selected.
Given that rumours of his departure, including this one from Anne-Marie Bojan of the Daily Mirror, still won't go away, one has to wonder if there will even be any future at Barca for arguably the best midfielder of his generation.
Should he stay in-situ then his role in the team may become more peripheral as the season goes on, given his age.
That too isn't really the best starting point in the role of captain.
Although the notion of having a captain in the side with just a handful of games under his belt is a little fanciful, it shouldn't be discounted altogether.
Luis Enrique has seen at first hand over the course of last season just what it is that Rafinha Alcantara brings to the party. He will have liked what he saw.
With the manager already suggesting that he "knows" who is capable of being a captain at Camp Nou, was that a nod in the direction of Thiago's younger sibling?
A physical box-to-box type midfielder who, despite his young age, shows maturity on the football field, Rafinha's leadership qualities have been evident at Celta.
Being captain at Barca is a big step up in responsibility, of course, but don't bet against it.
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