The leaders in waiting - five candidates for Real Madrid captaincy should Jose Mourinho replace Iker Casillas

Media reports suggest that Mourinho is contemplating the appointment of a new on-pitch skipper, and assesses who the Portuguese will consider for the role
By Paul Macdonald

Reports emanating from the Spanish capital on Monday suggested a bold, revolutionary move could be in the offing at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Madrid-based publication Marca hinted that coach Jose Mourinho is considering replacing Iker Casillas with an outfield player as his captain for the 2011-12 season, with the line of thought that the Portuguese would prefer an individual who can be a representative in discussions with the referee in all areas of the pitch.

Mourinho has often chosen defenders to skipper his sides. At Porto, centre-back Jorge Costa was his leader, an uncompromising but utterly committed stopper. At Chelsea, John Terry was given the armband, and Mourinho was prompted to brand the Englishman a "perfect captain" during his time at Stamford Bridge - a remark that could hold significant weight in this situation.

Finally, the infinite experience and respect of Javier Zanetti was his choice as his on-field eyes and ears at Inter. All three men led the Special One's teams to glory, and his desire to bestow responsibility on one of his most reliable outfield players hints that the somewhat unprecedented nature of the alteration may indeed be a legitimate point of contemplation for the decorated coach.

Casillas, it is alleged, would retain the title as club captain, and so would only relinquish his duties on the pitch, in order to ensure the Spaniard does not feel marginalised by the regime change. It remains, however, a proposal fraught with danger; the unwritten rule at the capital giants is that the most senior or longest-serving player is given the honour of the captaincy; a shift in focus would require an alternative who can instantly exert his presence in the role, as well as receive the blessing of Casillas.

With that in mind, has assessed five possible players who could be at the forefront of Mourinho's thoughts.


Read more on Alonso
Age: 29

Position: Midfielder

10-11 apps: 52 (1 goal)

Pros: Respected, experienced figure

Joined Real Madrid:

Per cent chance of becoming captain:

Cons: Not a 'voice' in the true leadership sense

One of the elder statesman in an increasingly youthful Real Madrid side, Alonso has the experience and the collection of medals to demand the respect of his colleagues. His is the role of midfield facilitator, spreading the ball to the team's attacking talent from deep-lying areas, putting him in prime position to conduct the bidding of his boss. A poll conducted in Marca saw the World Cup winner emerge as the overwhelming favourite among the fans. However, Mourinho most certainly leans towards defenders for his captains, and Alonso's failure to step up in the quartet of Clasicos, when he was truly required to be a leader amongst men, may push the coach in another direction.


Read more on Carvalho
Age: 33

Position: Defender

10-11 apps: 48 (3 goals)

Pros: Reliable,

Joined Real Madrid:

Per cent chance of becoming captain:

Cons: Ageing, previously overlooked

An unquestionable favourite of Mourinho, Carvalho has obeyed his boss at Porto, Chelsea, and now at Madrid. He was the first capture of the new era last summer, and was one of the club's most consistent performers across the season. He is strong, reads the game superbly, and is reliable - attributes that Mourinho's other choices exuded in spades. However, he has been overlooked twice before by the Portuguese, and given his advancing years, it is unlikely that Carvalho corresponds with the youthful vision the club is attempting to exhibit going forward.


Read more on Pepe
Age: 28

Position: Defender

10-11 apps: 38 (1 goal)

Pros: Imposing, influential, powerful

Joined Real Madrid:

Per cent chance of becoming captain:

Cons: Temperamental, volatile

Pepe emerged as the significant tactical benefit from the Clasico fixtures against Barcelona; a holding midfielder was born, a dynamic, all-action, aggressive machine who threw his considerable frame into the Catalan side's passing triangles, destructing them in the process. Mourinho has uncovered a new dimension in the Portuguese, who has operated for much of his club career in the centre of defence. His position, and imposing demeanour, draw comparisons with Mourinho's previous leaders. However, his temperament remains a concern - can someone as volatile as Pepe has proven to be in the past operate as a succinct communicator with officials?


Read more on Ramos
Age: 25

Position: Defender

10-11 apps: 46 (4 goals)

Pros: Regarded as future leader

Joined Real Madrid:

Per cent chance of becoming captain:

Cons: Lack of maturity, definition of defensive role

The current vice-captain, and regarded as a future leader almost since the day he arrived from Sevilla, Ramos appears the obvious choice as a potential replacement for Casillas. The Camas-born stopper has developed into a true Madridista as he enters into his sixth season in the capital, and is, in many ways, a natural progression from Casillas, given his rapport with the fans, and his rousing, inspiring displays in Madrid's back four. Question marks remain regarding his overall defensive capability as well as his maturity, and the current insecurity regarding Mourinho's favoured back line next season is a minor drawback, but it would appear that Ramos may be ready to step into the role he was purchased to fulfil.


Read more on Ronaldo
Age: 26

Position: Attacker

10-11 apps: 54 (53 goals)

Pros: Portugal captain, used to responsibility

Joined Real Madrid:

Per cent chance of becoming captain:

Cons: Plays in an advanced role

The superstar of the Santiago Bernabeu has been the driving force behind Real Madrid in his two seasons in Spain, and his astonishing goal record is testament to his indispensable nature. Indeed, it can be argued that the only player after Casillas who cannot be deemed to be expendable is Ronaldo. He has taken on the responsibility of leading Portugal into major tournaments since taking the national captaincy in 2007, meaning he is well-versed on the demands of the role, and the former Manchester United man mirrors the thirst for success of his coach. However, his advanced position on the field may count against him in the eyes of Mourinho who, as previously mentioned, has a penchant for his leaders to form a key part of his defensive unit.

Follow Paul Macdonald on