Manchester City need a new captain as Vincent Kompany brings to a close 11 memorable years with the club.
There is no shortage of internal candidates given the number of players who have worn the armband during the defender’s recent injury woes, but finding one whose credentials stand out above all the others is not so easy.
Here, Press Association Sport looks at who might get a new spot in the training ground car park next season.
The old guard
Two players stand out among Pep Guardiola’s existing dressing room leadership group – David Silva and Fernandinho. Silva is elevated to the status of City’s longest-serving player following Kompany’s departure and, as the vice-captain, could be a natural fit to become skipper as he goes into his 10th season at the Etihad. Fernandinho was so often the man to get the armband when Kompany was sidelined with injury and would have another strong claim. The problem both men face is that time is against them. Silva is 33 and Fernandinho 34, with both seeing their playing time wane this season and likely to fall further again next time around.
The other names in that leadership unit – Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero – have a little more time on their side, particularly the 27-year-old De Bruyne. Could it be one Belgian for another? The playmaker has had a season ravaged by injury this year but assuming he can stay fit next campaign would surely be one of the first names of Guardiola’s teamsheet and a popular choice both with fans and team-mates alike. An online poll by the Manchester Evening News found that De Bruyne would be the first choice of 48 per cent of fans.
Next in line
Raheem Sterling, who continues to impress on and off the field, finished the 7-0 Champions League win over Schalke with the armband after Silva was substituted, while centre-back John Stones would be another candidate assuming he can re-establish himself as a regular with Kompany gone. The outgoing skipper has himself pointed to Bernardo Silva as future captaincy material if he can find the right balance between his emerging role as a leader and his status as one of the dressing-room jokers.
City are expected to look to the transfer market for new centre-halves with Kompany gone and Nicolas Otamendi linked with a move away. City would face a fight to land Matthijs De Ligt but should they get him, they would have a player who has captained Ajax to the Eredivisie title and the Champions League semi-finals at the age of 19. Leicester’s Harry Maguire, another player to be linked, has been tipped as a future England captain.