Why Are Defenders Captains

4 Reasons Why Defenders Are Usually Captains (Explained)

Last updated on March 17th, 2022

It is almost standard practice to see a defender wear the captain’s armband on the football pitch. You may have seen quite a number of teams name a defender as their captain.

Players like Sergio Ramos, John Terry, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro and a host of defenders were captains at some point in their careers. 

Here is a guide to explain why defenders are usually named captains in football.

Why are defenders usually captains in football?

A leadership role, such as captaincy, is regarded with the highest level of respect and responsibility. Therefore, it is a role that requires the application of a lot of life skills and football skills.

There are several factors that a coach or manager considers before appointing a captain, and defenders usually have many of these factors. Here are some reasons why managers prefer defenders as captains:

  1. Ability to coach on the pitch
  2. Ability to reason with a cool head
  3. Ability to lead by example
  4. Longevity in the team

Ability to coach on the pitch

The manager or coach is unable to join the players on the pitch during games. Therefore, the captain is saddled with the responsibilities of coaching his teammates on the pitch.

Since the manager does not have full control over what’s happening on the pitch, they may use gum as a method of reducing their stress.

This duty is best suited to the defenders because of their position as the rearguard. They have a perfect view of the entire pitch, and they get to see as the game unfolds. 

There are 2 types of defenders: centre backs and full-backs, and you can view their differences here.

They are always in the best position to give directions to their teammates, and they also instruct them on where to go at a given time, how to move, and what to do.

For this quality, managers usually prefer the sternest defenders as they can literally pull their teammates by the scruff of their necks and dish out instructions on the pitch. 

Ability to reason with a cool head

Defenders always have to think calmly and coolly so that they do not get into trouble. They will need to have a cool head when they move the ball, when they pass, and even when they tackle or intercept.

Being calm in decision making is one of the most outstanding qualities of a defender. Hence, they become an excellent option for captaincy. In feisty games where everything is heated up, and opponents are nibbling at each other, the captain is always expected to remain cool-headed to calm things down. 

Having a defender as a captain automatically translates to having one of the calmest members of the team as a leader. This helps to prevent issues both on and off the pitch.

According to modern rules of engagement, the captain is the only player permitted to talk to the referee. Thus, they must remain calm when provoked to avoid escalating issues

This is especially when the players start to argue with the referee’s decision.

Ability to lead by example

Unlike strikers, defenders do not have the burden of scoring goals to show their impacts in games. Instead, all they have to do is show up and defend their team, making it easier for them to lead by example and inspire their teammates.

For instance, captains like Lewis Dunk and Gary Cahill put their bodies on the line to prevent opposition players from scoring. This automatically sends motivation to their teammates to perform at a similar level. 

Longevity in the team

Defenders are able to become captains because they are usually allowed to stay in a team for long periods, allowing them to grow and mature in the team.

This is unlike strikers, who may be bought by another team after they perform well for a season. 

Many teams look at the amount of experience and how long a player has stayed before giving the player the captain’s band.

John Terry and Sergio Ramos are examples of defenders who stayed with their clubs for a long time. Terry was with Chelsea from 1995 to 2017, where he joined the club as a 14-year-old.

He made his senior debut in 1998 and was made the captain in the 2004/05 season.

Also, Ramos joined Real Madrid in 2005 and left in 2021, captaining the side from 2015 until his departure for Paris Saint-Germain.

Therefore, being a reliable defender allows a player to remain at a club for long periods without changing clubs frequently, allowing them to earn the captaincy at their clubs.

Famous Examples

Here are some examples of defenders who are captains:

#1 John Terry

John Terry was one of the best defenders of his generation. He captained Chelsea from 2005 until he left the club in 2017 and is remembered as one of the greatest captains in Premier League history. His teammates attested to his excellent leadership qualities on and off the pitch.

#2 Vincent Kompany

Without a shred of doubt, Vincent Kompany is a Manchester City legend in every sense of the word. He is regarded as the greatest captain in the club’s history, and he led the club to its first Premier League title in 2011.

Moreover, Kompany captained Manchester City through the greatest period in its history before leaving in 2018.

#3 Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos will be fondly remembered for his leadership skills as a captain. He was one of the best at leading by example, and he played with his heart on his sleeve. As a result, Ramos captained Real Madrid to three consecutive UEFA Champions League titles, scoring many crucial goals for the side along the way. 

The Spaniard has also captained the Spain national team in his career with great success. He is adept at popping up from his position in defence to act as a leader and score some crucial goals for his team in decisive moments.

#4 Carles Puyol

Carles Puyol is arguably FC Barcelona’s greatest captain ever. He was simply one of the best when it came to leading his team. The Spaniard was also an accomplished defender and is a legend in Catalunya.

Puyol was known for his professionalism and leadership qualities throughout his career. 

A memorable instance when Puyol showed his leadership skills was when Thiago Alcantara danced with Dani Alves after scoring a goal, only for Puyol to run across and pull both players back to the pitch.

Puyol led Barcelona to a treble as captain and led the club from 2004 until his retirement in 2014.

Fabio Cannavaro

Cannavaro remains the last defender to win the Ballon d’Or, which he did in 2006. The Italian defender captained his country to glory in the 2006 FIFA World Cup with a series of stellar performances for the Azzurri in the competition. 

The central defender was known for his impeccable leadership qualities and level-headedness. He also enjoyed a successful career in the Italian Serie A and Real Madrid.

Other notable defenders who have been captains include:


Any player on the team can be a captain, including goalkeepers, defenders or even strikers.

Defenders have become accustomed to leading their teams from the back. This is because their leadership qualities are usually essential in helping their teams achieve their goals. Here is a summary of why defenders are usually made captains:

Factors that make
defenders captains
Coaching on the pitch
Calmness and cool-headedness
in decision-making 
Leading by example
Longevity on the team
Famous examples of
defenders that are captains
John Terry
Sergio Ramos
Carles Puyol
Vincent Kompany
Fabio Cannavaro

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