Every world-class team has a world-class captain to lead it. Here are some of the best to ever don the armband in the history of the game.

By 90Min
January 22, 2018

Every world-class team, be it at club or international level, needs a world-class captain to lead it. An individual who can not only perform themselves, but inspire those around them to do the same.

Over the years, we've seen some truly heroic leaders take to the pitch, and some of the biggest teams in world football would never have achieved what they did without these iconic players at the forefront.

And so without further ado, here's a look at 10 of the best best football captains of all time.


Francesco Totti

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A true one-club man, Francesco Totti wore Roma's captain's armband with distinction for 19 long years after first being awarded the role shortly after his 22nd birthday in October 1998.

That made Totti the youngest captain in Serie A history, and he lifted only Roma's third ever league title a little over two years later. Back-to-back Coppa Italia success followed in 2007 and 2008, while he also scooped the European Golden Shoe as the continent's leading goalscorer in 2007.


Carles Puyol

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Carles Puyol was the most senior of the incredible home-grown generation of players that won the 2011 Champions League for Barcelona, with seven of the players that started the final a product of the club's famed La Masia academy. Puyol himself appeared from the bench.

He was already a two-time Champions League winning captain by that time after inheriting the captaincy in 2004, and the Barcelona legend played for no other club during his career.


Steven Gerrard

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Without Steven Gerrard, Liverpool would never have won the Champions League in 2005 or the FA Cup in 2006, such was the captain's inspirational role in each of those momentous successes. He almost single handedly drove the club forward for years.

Gerrard scored in the Champions League final against Milan, but it was his dramatic late goal in the final group game that actually put the Reds into the knockout rounds. Only his spectacular late screamer in the FA Cup final against West Ham gave Liverpool the chance to win.


Franz Beckenbauer

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Nicknamed 'Der Kaiser', Franz Beckenbauer lifted three consecutive European Cups for Bayern Munich as captain in the 1970s, as well as a World Cup for West Germany.

Beckenbauer is famed for having invented the role of the sweeper - or libero - that became popular in the decades that followed, and he remains one of the all-time great players.


Francisco 'Paco' Gento

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Having already played over 300 games for Real Madrid and having won six La Liga titles and five successive European Cups, Paco Gento inherited the club captaincy in 1962 and proceeded to lead Los Blancos to even more success over the the next nine years.

He lifted six more La Liga trophies as captain, as well a sixth European Cup in 1966. By the time he retired aged 38 in 1971, the evergreen winger had played over 600 times for Real.


Patrick Vieira

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It says a lot about Patrick Vieira's Arsenal career, latterly as captain, that the club did not win a single major trophy for nine whole years following his 2005 departure to Juventus.

The Frenchman had characterized the Gunners' bite, even before taking over the armband from Tony Adams, and drove the club's epic domestic rivalry with Manchester United. Not only was he a fearsome leader, but a skilled, world class footballer.


Diego Maradona

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After being aggressively silenced in the 1982 World Cup after an infamous clash with eventual champions Italy, Diego Maradona returned to the global stage as Argentina captain four years later and inspired his country to victory with his sensational individual brilliance.

At club level, he famously captained Napoli to the only two Serie A titles in their history in 1987 and 1990, as well as their only ever European title in the shape of the UEFA Cup in 1989. Few characters quite like Maradona have ever graced the world of football.


Roy Keane

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Roy Keane missed much of his first season as Manchester United captain as a result of injury, but his demand for nothing less than 100% effort and utter perfection saw the club complete a historic treble the following campaign in 1998/99.

The tenacious midfielder was famously suspended for the 1999 Champions League final after he picked up a yellow card during the semifinal against Juventus. But knowing he would miss the final if United made it didn't stop him from playing the game of his life to send his club through.


Paolo Maldini

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Paolo Maldini was the consummate professional for a quarter of a century during a professional career spent entirely with boyhood club AC Milan.

Having already won 10 major honors, including three European Cups/Champions League titles, Maldini was named Rossoneri captain in 1997 and remains one of the greatest defenders of all time. He also captained Italy for eight years between 1994 and 2002.


Bobby Moore

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Few iconic figures in football have ever exuded as much class as the great Bobby Moore, England's only World Cup winning captain. At the time of England's triumph in 1966 he was the World Cup's youngest ever winning captain.

Once named by Brazilian legend Pele as the greatest defender he had ever faced, Moore was only 22 when he captained his country for the first time. He also led West Ham for more than a decade, even lifting the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1965, the club's only European title.

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