Socceroos leadership shortage exposed by Mile Jedinak's international retirement

Mile Jedinak
Once upon a time the green and gold team was flushed with that is not the case

Mark Viduka captained Australia at the 2006 World Cup and there was arguably five other players in the squad that could immediately step into the role: Lucas Neill, Craig Moore, Mark Schwarzer, Tony Popovic and Vince Grella.

The team was oozing with leaders and experience - no doubt one of contributing reasons to their success at football's showpiece international tournament.

But with Mile Jedinak's international retirement on Monday, it's a worrying exercise to examine the Socceroos' captaincy options and leadership contenders.

While his appointment as skipper in 2014 was originally contentious, Jedinak proved to be an exemplary leader through his four-year tenure and left behind an incredible legacy.

From helping guide a young Socceroos outfit at the 2014 World Cup, to leading the team to Asian Cup glory on home soil, to playing such an important role in qualification for Russia and scoring twice during the tournament: Jedinak will go down as one of Australia's finest captains.

But a huge leadership vacuum has been created by his departure, and is magnified by the recent retirement of Tim Cahill - who often took it often himself to mentor younger Socceroos players such as Daniel Arzani.

With a new captain needing to be appointed by new coach Graham Arnold before October 15's friendly against Kuwait in Kuwait City, which Socceroos players are in contention for the role and other leadership positions?

It's a thin list of only three players.

Trent Sainsbury (PSV Eindhoven)

Trent Sainsbury is the outstanding candidate to be captain, and it would be a huge surprise if Arnold didn't select him as Jedinak's replacement.

The former Central Coast Mariners centre-half is the son-in-law of Arnold after marrying his daughter Elissa late last year - leading some critics to suggest there is a conflict of interest.

But Sainsbury's claim to be next captain was strengthened significantly by the decision from Socceroos World Cup coach Bert van Marwijk to hand him the arm band for the pre-tournament friendly match against Czech Republic.

The 26-year-old defender recently secured a move to Eredivisie giants PSV and scored a goal on his starting debut in the Dutch Cup.

Trent Sainsbury Socceroos

Mark Milligan (Hibernian)

Having captained Australia in Jedinak's absence, Mark Milligan is a leader within the group and must be considered as an option for the vacant captaincy.

All reports suggested Milliigan was going to retire from international football after the World Cup, but decided to stay on at least through January's Asian Cup after his move to Scottish side Hibernian.

You can bet your bottom dollar Arnold was praying Milligan stayed within the national team setup because of the lack of other leaders emerging.

While Milligan could be a temporary option as captan, his international career is drawng to a close and it's debatable he will be a first choice selection going forward.

Mark Milligan Australia World Cup qualifying

Mathew Ryan (Brighton)

Mat Ryan has been quietly emerging as one of the Premier League's best goalkeepers over the last 12 months - after an exceptional season battering away shots at Brighton and Hove Albion.

Another facet of his game that has developed considerably is his leadership - which can be seen on the field marshalling defence at both club and national level and also off the park with his brilliant community work.

There is a hesitancy for teams to appoint a goalkeeper as captain but many have done the role successfully including Iker Casilias, Manuel Neuer and Hugo Lloris.

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Jedinak's retirement may come a little early for Ryan to be a skipper contender but he will certainly be in the mix for a vice captain role in the near future.

Mathew Ryan Socceroos

Who do you think should be the next captain of the Socceroos? Is there other players you believe are emerging leaders? Let us know at the Goal Australia Twitter account.