Barcelona surprised fans on Thursday when they revealed that the club will have four captains for the 2014-15 season.
Barca announced that Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets will all wear the armband following the retirement of long-term skipper Carles Puyol at the end of last season:
The four men will lead the Catalan giants as they look to regain the La Liga title after a trophy-less season in 2013-14, after the decision was confirmed by the club's Twitter account:
Barca's new skipper was decided following a vote amongst the players, a process insisted on by new manager Luis Enrique—the previous captain before Puyol—on his appointment back in May, per Dermot Corrigan on ESPN FC:
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.
Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and Busquets were all among potential candidates for the role, and the club found it easier to choose all four than to decide on one name.
Xavi was many people's favourite for the post after confirming he would stay on at the club despite rumours of a move. He is now the most senior player at the Camp Nou after the retirement of Puyol and departure of goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
With over 700 appearances in a Barcelona shirt he certainly has the pedigree, although at 34 years old, is unlikely to get as much playing time in the coming season.
Iniesta appeared another fine choice and another player with a wealth of experience at the club after coming through famed youth academy La Masia—like all the other candidates—and becoming Xavi's partner in central midfield.
The 30-year-old expressed his eagerness to claim the honour before any voting even took place, per Fox Soccer:
Andres Iniesta admits being named Barcelona captain would be the realization of a "lifelong dream." http://t.co/pHl9zJ9KJi— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 24, 2014
Busquets also has a positional advantage as a captain. Playing in defensive midfield he can control and communicate with all areas of the pitch at any one time, and will likely feature more regularly than Xavi.
A potentially natural successor to Puyol with his physicality and work-rate, he has already taken the former skipper's number:
Meanwhile, Messi's experience as captain of the Argentinian national team and status as arguably the best player in the squad made him an obvious name when considering the future of the captaincy.
His captaincy is somewhat unobtrusive, preferring to do his talking on the pitch, although he did feel criticism at the World Cup for his methods, per Sky Germany's Jan Aage Fjortoft:
How can Mascherano do the team-talk? And captain-Messi just walks away? Not a "captain's body-language" (Tv2.no) pic.twitter.com/O7SDhu19N8— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) July 14, 2014
The four stars have the serious job of reaffirming Barca as the top Spanish club having missed out on La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey triumphs last season, the two Madrid sides taking the spoils in the three competitions.
It is all change at the top, with Enrique and the four captains now established as the leading men. Barcelona have lacked inspiration and drive at times over the past 12 months, so the potential to make an impact awaits for the duo as we head into the 2014-15 campaign.