Captaincy is earned and the Chelsea armband should not be used as bait

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Chelsea FC and AFC Ajax at Stamford Bridge on November 05, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 05: Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League group H match between Chelsea FC and AFC Ajax at Stamford Bridge on November 05, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

There are reports that Thiago Silva will be made Chelsea captain. The armband is earned and his signing should not be predicated on captaincy.

Unconfirmed reports have broken out that Thiago Silva is to be handed the captain armband upon completing his Chelsea signature. While Silva is many fans definition of who a leader is, that is simply not how the captaincy works, especially not at Chelsea.

It is not surprising that many fans think Cesar Azpilicueta is not a leader. They don’t see him yelling at his teammates and all the traditional superficial things they think captains are supposed to do. John Terry was a very old school type defender, in an era that players took personal responsibility for the football and results on the pitch. John Terry’s Chelsea had a lot of leaders in the team. Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Nicholas Anelka and Ashley Cole were only few strong characters in the dressing room. A team with strong characters like that meant that they needed a very particular type of captain.

Terry was respected, feared and obeyed when he was at Chelsea. Terry first wore the captain armband at 21, he subsequently was named vice-captain in the 2003/04 season due to his performance. He was appointed captain by Jose Mourinho at the beginning of the 2004/05 Premier League season.

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Gary Cahill served as make-shift captain when Terry was indisposed and couldn’t play in the 2016/17 season. He was officially appointed captain when Terry left in 2017. Cesar Azpilicueta was named vice-captain to Cahill in 2017 after he played every single minute of the 2016/17 league winning campaign.

There’s a pattern to this, and it is not loudness on the pitch. It is performance. Terry was appointed vice-captain to Marcel Desailly by Claudio Ranieri due to his performance. Cahill captained Chelsea in Terry’s absence due to performance. Same with Azpilicueta. The vice-captains have gone on to become captain at Chelsea when the captain has left the club. Note: Left the club.

Chelsea fans crave physical aggressiveness on the pitch and all the things they saw Terry do, because that is what they’re used to. What many fans did not notice was that Chelsea has historically always had leaders in the dressing room, and that translated to the pitch. The Chelsea that Terry captained had Anelka, Lampard, Drogba, Cole and Cech, amongst others. Terry was a rare breed though. Terry was such an influence that he beat the then Manchester United centerback and captain, Rio Ferdinand, to the England captaincy. Manchester United had more reputation than Chelsea, always has, but Terry was appointed England captain.

Cahill was appointed captain and many would have seen him as vocal on the pitch, only that so were many other Chelsea players at the time. Cahill captained a Chelsea team that had Diego Costa, David Luiz, Willian, Mikel Obi, Thibaut Courtois, Cesc Fabregas, Asmir Begovic, Branislav Ivanovic, Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic. You think Cahill was appointed captain because he was more vocal on the pitch than the rest? You really think anybody can be louder than Costa? Cahill was appointed as captain due to his performance, consistency and time at the club. So was Terry, and of course Cesar Azpilicueta.

Azpilicueta has been at Chelsea for eight years. He has made 386 appearances for the Blues. His performance has been nothing short of exemplary and consistent over those eight years. Most importantly, as it has been with past captains, he has put the club before himself. He has given everything for the club. He is on record saying he would be willing to help Reece James transition into the first team. That is a player that thinks about the big picture. The very thought that Azpilicueta could be stripped of the captaincy is disrespectful, at the very least.

Captaincy is earned. Terry earned his, Cahill earned his and Azpilicueta has earned his. Even Silva had to earn his armband at AC Milan. There are standards at Chelsea and any other player that wears that armband has to earn it too, not handed because of excitement. Silva is touted as a leader that could organize the Chelsea defense.  That may be true, but it’s ignorant to think he has to be the Chelsea captain to do that. Virgil van Dijk joined Liverpool and they challenged for the title a half season after. They have since won the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup.

Many football fans and pundits alike unanimously agree that Van Dijk transformed Liverpool’s fortunes. He is very clearly a leader too, but even he has not been appointed captain at Liverpool, talk less of a player who has not played a single minute or won a single trophy with the club. The club captain is more than who starts the most games, or who plays to most minutes. It’s more than who scolds his teammate when they play badly, anyone can do that. Leadership is on the pitch is not any one person’s job.

Azpilicueta is the player he has always been. Dedicated. Passionate. Exemplary. Selfless. Azpilicueta has never been the most vocal player on the pitch, he has always led by example, then and now. Lampard knew this when he appointed him captain. The fans knew this when Azpilicueta was appointed captain. To strip him of the captaincy now because he isn’t “vocal” enough is foolish. Disrespectful. Disgraceful even.

Gary Cahill barely made appearances for Chelsea in his last season for the club two years ago. He was sidelined for a whole season save for a few cup games. Azpilicueta wore the armband on the pitch, but Cahill was still the club captain. The captaincy is an administrative position, the club captain represents the club, not just on the pitch.

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Lampard knew all this when he handed the armband to the Spain international. He never viewed Azpilicueta like a Terry. He appointed Azpilicueta captain because he knows the culture and he knows what that armband means. It doesn’t matter who is contemplating switching the captaincy, it’s not a topic that should come up in the first place. The fact that it has is already a bad look on the club. Lampard, of all people, should know that the captaincy is not something that is given out and withdrawn based on feelings. Azpilicueta, should under no circumstance, be stripped of the captaincy without an infringement, he’s the only one that has earned it on the Chelsea roster.