El Centrocampista


When it comes to leaders at a football club, the team captain is normally the undisputed head-honcho both on and off the pitch.

Although you could make an argument that the role should belong to the coach, it is usually the man with the armband who is entrusted with the main responsibility of team morale and motivation of his team mates.

For Atletico Madrid however, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Antonio Lopez is currently the appointed leader at los rojiblancos, and for obvious reasons.

The Cantera product has made over 200 appearances for the club as a defender since his promotion to the senior squad from the B team in 2001. This season though, Lopez has played in just two La Liga games and one Europa League game, is this enough for the man in charge of the team?

Off the pitch, Lopez’s playing experience makes him a worthy captain and he undoubtedly has plenty to offer in terms of mentoring young defenders as they make the step into the first team.

On the pitch, his role is limited and if Gregorio Manzano continues to prefer the likes of Filipe and Silvio over Lopez, then perhaps the coach should look at giving the armband to someone who is playing more regularly.

After all, Lopez has featured in just 270 of Atletico’s 1,980 minutes this season.

If Lopez was to be dropped, who would be his replacement? In these circumstances you would usually turn to the vice-captain, which in Atletico’s case is Luis Perea.

The Colombian is another 200+ game veteran like Lopez, with a wealth of big game knowledge and experience. However, he is on the wrong side of 30 and will see his game time drop as the likes of Alvaro Dominguez, and his Argentine partner in crime, Diego Godin develop into first team regulars.

Centre back Dominguez can raise the strongest case. He is, like Lopez, a product of the youth Cantera and is featuring much more than the current captain during this campaign.

The youngster was also called up to the Spanish national squad earlier this year, an indication that big things are expected from him.

There are however, two main factors working against Dominguez. The first being his age, at 22-years-old, he is still in the early stages of his career and the burden of captaincy might not be what he needs right now.

Secondly, if Dominguez does reach the level his potential suggests he can, chances are the big spending clubs are going to come calling, just look at Torres, De Gea and Kun Aguero as examples of this.

On paper, Lopez is the ideal person for the captaincy role, but when you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, perhaps it’s time for a new leader as the club heads in a new direction.

After a summer of change in terms of squad and management, and with a new stadium on the cards, perhaps now is the time to hand the armband to someone who can guide the ship in the years to come.

Lopez has been a brilliant servant to Atletico Madrid in the past and deserves to play out his career at the Vicente Calderon but maybe not with the job of captain.


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