Football Features

What happened next? 10 players stripped of the captain’s armband

By William Eldridge

Published: 18:34, 9 March 2021

It is considered one of the highest honours when your manager deems you worthy of leading your respective team onto the football pitch as captain.

Taking on the leadership responsibilities on behalf of the squad is no small matter, with your attitude towards your team and your choices determining whether you are remembered as a hero or a villain.

When you think back, you can probably think of certain individuals who come to mind as fulfilling the promise of becoming a recognised and well-respected leader of a football team.

However, not everyone leaves the armband by their own accord and is instead stripped of their responsibility.

Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho famously took away the vice-captaincy from Paul Pogba, which signalled the beginning of a tailspin for the Portuguese, who was out of the Old Trafford door just a few months later.

That episode generated widespread attention, but Pogba was only second in command in the dressing room. Here are some examples of footballers who lost the captain’s armband, the reasons why they did and what happened to them next.

John Terry (England)

Most likely one of the first examples to come to mind is Mr John Terry.

Terry is highly recognised as one of the most talented centre-backs both England and the Premier League has ever seen, with his performances for both Chelsea and the Three Lions consistently influential throughout his career.

However, in 2010 he was stripped of the England captaincy following allegations he had an affair with a team-mate’s ex-girlfriend.

After regaining the armband for his country, Terry lost the armband once again in 2012 following an incident that resulted in him facing racial abuse allegations.

The decision prompted former England boss Fabio Capello to retire and Terry was never given the chance to captain his country again.

Barry Ferguson (Rangers)

Those who remember Ferguson will recall his dedicated attitude on the pitch and he certainly spent the majority of his career showcasing his leadership qualities from the middle of the park.

Ferguson was a regular in the Scotland set-up and was captain for Rangers but his behaviour off the pitch while on international duty wasn’t deemed acceptable by both sides.

Late-night drinking and irresponsible behaviour on the Scotland bench led to Ferguson losing his place in the Scottish squad as well as the armband for Rangers after former club boss Paul Le Guen relieved him of his duties.

He was subsequently fined for his actions.

Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)

The electrifying striker is considered as one of the greatest attackers of his generation, with his goal-scoring exploits laden throughout his career across different clubs and countries.

The 40-year-old scored 56 goals for his nation and helped them to two African Cup of Nations triumphs and an Olympic Gold medal.

However, following a poor World Cup campaign at the 2014 competition in Brazil, Eto’o was replaced by Stephane M’Bia as skipper which prompted Eto’o to immediately announce his retirement from international football.

It is a shame Eto’o’s international career ended in such a fashion.

Neymar (Brazil)

Controversy seems to constantly follow the PSG forward around and the 2019 Copa America proved to be no exception.

Despite being named skipper just eight months earlier, the 29-year-old was snubbed in favour of Dani Alves as a result of several off-field issues.

Brazil have come to rely on Neymar’s performances in recent years — with the PSG man breaking Ronaldo’s record as the nation’s second-highest goalscorer last year — but they coped just fine without his leadership skills and secured the title with a 3-1 victory over Peru in the final.

Everton, Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison were all on the scoresheet.

William Gallas (Arsenal)

The talented Frenchman made his way around London more times than the Piccadilly line, playing for three of the city’s biggest clubs.

Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham all saw the versatile defender pull on their shirt and play the beautiful game in impressive style.

It was while he was with the Gunners that his armband was snatched from him. In 2008, Gallas spoke to the media about tensions in the Arsenal squad while hitting out at some of the younger members of the squad.

The club were understandably unimpressed by Gallas’ behaviour and after fining him, dropping him and taking away the captaincy, Gallas was eventually pushed out the door.

Surprisingly, Spurs was his next location but after initially impressing under the guidance of Harry Redknapp, he was eventually released.

Christopher Samba (Blackburn Rovers)

A giant at the heart of the Blackburn Rovers defence, Samba was once considered one of the most solid defenders in the Premier League for a number of successful Premier League seasons with the Lancashire side.

The Congo international soon found his playing time cut to a minimum after Sam Allardyce left the position as Blackburn manager and Steve Kean took over the reins.

With Blackburn turning down various offers for the centre-back over the years with little fuss from Samba, he finally decided to get the ball rolling and handed in his transfer request.

The club turned it down, he lost the captaincy, and his reputation at Blackburn was tarnished somewhat. He eventually left but failed to ever truly recapture the form he produced for Blackburn.

Joey Barton (Queens Park Rangers)

We couldn’t have a list that involved controversy without mentioning Barton, could we?

The midfielder is considered by most as more famous for his lack of discipline than his ability on the football pitch, which, on his day was actually quite good.

However, in the middle of Manchester City’s famous title-winning match against QPR in 2012, Barton was sent off after elbowing Carlos Tevez. He then kicked Sergio Aguero before aiming an ambitious headbutt at Vincent Kompany.

It is safe to say that the club were not impressed by his behaviour on the pitch and alongside taking away the captaincy, he was shipped off to France on loan for the season to play for Marseille, where his famous French accent was born.

Branislav Ivanovic (Serbia)

A man Chelsea fans will know only too well. The tough-tackling Serbia international spent several years with the Blues, where he won three Premier League titles, the Champions League, the Europa League, three FA Cups and the EFL Cup throughout his time in west London.

But it was on the international stage where his captaincy was rescinded. Captain of his country since 2012, it was in 2018 prior to the World Cup when Ivanovic lost his armband to former Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov.

Coach Mladen Krstajic said (via the Daily Mail): “We have made a decision which remains an internal matter but I want to make it clear there is no misunderstanding with Ivanovic, who remains part of the team.”

Ultimately, Serbia didn’t progress beyond the group stages in 2018 but Ivanovic became the most-capped Serbian of all-time with 105 appearances for his country; proving that not everybody throws their toys out of the pram when they lose the armband.

At 37, Ivanovic is now back in the Premier League with West Brom.

Mauro Icardi (Inter Milan)

Mauro Icardi’s relationship with Inter Milan and their supporters can be described as love-hate. The serial marksman drew the ire of the club’s ultras following a controversial entry in his 2016 autobiography with them calling for his removal as Nerazzurri capitan.

That episode soon fell by the wayside and he once again became Inter’s darling. However, in the middle of the 2018/19 season, Icardi had to cede the armband due to a dispute over a new contract. This, naturally, led to fan fury and speculation about the striker’s future.

He finally said goodbye to the San Siro when he joined PSG on loan during last’s summer transfer window, which was made permanent in May.

Granit Xhaka (Arsenal)

It hasn’t quite been plain sailing for Xhaka in north London since completing a mega move from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016.

His first two campaigns coincided with Arsene Wenger’s final years at the club, and at the start of 2019/20, the Frenchman’s successor, Unai Emery, handed Xhaka the armband following the departure of Laurent Koscielny.

However, just a month into his reign as skipper his relationship with match-going Gooners reached boiling point in a now-infamous confrontation at the Emirates.

In a match against Crystal Palace in October last year, the fourth official’s board signalled Xhaka’s number to be withdrawn, which was met by a chorus of cheers from a large portion of the home section, and subsequent jeers when the midfielder walked to the touchline.

He responded by sarcastically raising his arms, cupping his ear and taking off the Arsenal shirt as he headed straight down the tunnel.

In the aftermath, Emery described his conduct as “wrong” and his captaincy was ultimately rescinded, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang taking on the responsibility.

It was thought that Xhaka’s Arsenal career would be over from that point, but he has since found a stable home in the heart of Mikel Arteta’s midfield.

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