Taking on the mantle of captain is always a prestigious position, especially on the international stage – that is exactly what France and PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe has achieved after he was announced as the new L’Equipe skipper.
The 24-year old joins an illustrious club of young captains that have shown the necessary character on and off the pitch to lead their respective teams and nations.
We are taking a look at some of the huge names in world football down the years who have been named captain of their side at a young age.
Martin Odegaard – 23 Years Old
Martin Odegaard was labelled as the next big thing at Real Madrid just a few years ago, but after struggling to make an impact under the Spanish Giants the Norwegian enjoyed time playing for Real Sociedad before making a move to Arsenal in 2022.
After just one full season at Arsenal, Odegaard was named as the Gunners’ new skipper ahead of the 2022/23 season where he began to show signs of just how good he really is.
This season Odegaard has really come into his own and he has led Arsenal to an ideal position going into the last 10 games of the season, with his side in pole position to win their first Premier League in nearly 20 years.
Tyler Adams – 23 Years Old
Tyler Adams was the youngest captain at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, as the 23-year old wore the armband for the USMNT in their first World Cup in eight years.
Adams was one of only two captains under the age of 30 at the World Cup which shows the trust that USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter had in his Leeds United superstar.
USA were unfortunate to not make it past the round of 16, as the Netherlands came out 3-1 winners in Qatar sending Adams and the USMNT home early.
Steven Gerrard – 23 Years Old
After exploding on the scene as a fiery teenager, Steven Gerrard’s legacy as arguably Liverpool’s greatest ever captain started in 2003 as he took the armband for the first time.
When he was first appointed as captain of Liverpool Gerrard was just 23 years old with the world at his feet, but he certainly didn’t struggle to lead his team on the biggest stage.
Just one year later, the future England captain led the Reds to a breathtaking Champions League comeback against AC Milan, scoring a crucial goal to help his side overturn a three goal deficit.
Gerrard would remain captain of Liverpool until he eventually retired in 2015 after a long and successful career with the Reds and he will no doubt go down in history as a Liverpool hero and one of the all time greats at the club.
Neymar – 21 Years Old
Neymar broke onto the football scene very early on in his career and the exciting Brazilian star was named as the Brazil national captain in 2014 after Thiago Silva was ruled out of the Copa America through injury.
It came as no surprise that Neymar became Brazil’s captain at such a young age, as by just 22 he had scored 40 goals in 58 internationals, and had become the fifth highest goalscorer for his national team.
Neymar’s career for Brazil has been very underwhelming so far and having renounced the captaincy after his 2016 Olympics win, the superstar is still yet to win a major trophy for the Selecao.
Cesc Fabregas – 21 Years Old
The second Arsenal player to feature on our Sportslens youngest captains list is Spanish Maestro Cesc Fabregas, who was named as captain of the North London side by Arsene Wenger during the 2008-09 season.
The Spaniard quickly established himself as one of the finest midfielders in the league as manager Arsene Wenger eased him into the starting XI aged 17.
The season prior to being handed the captaincy, the then-20-year-old amassed a whole host of personal honours, collecting PFA Young Player of the Year, Arsenal’s Player of the Year as well as being named in the PFA Team of the Season.
Tony Adams – 21 Years Old
One of the biggest legends on our list is Arsenal icon Tony Adams, who was named as the youngest ever captain of Arsenal (at the time) in 1987, with the player becoming ‘Mr Arsenal’ in the following years to come.
Adams was one of the original ‘one club players’ and the defender was loved by fans all around the world through his glittering career that lasted 14 years in North London.
The 21-year old went on to captain Arsenal to a title-winning team in three different decades alongside winning three FA Cups, two League Cups, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and two Community Shields.
He famously said “play for the name on the front of the shirt and they will remember the name on the back.”
Francesco Totti – 21 Years Old
October 1998 saw the “eighth King of Rome” , as he is now affectionately known, take the armband for the first time becoming the youngest ever Serie A skipper in the process.
Francesco Totti is widely regarded as one of the most loyal footballers Europe has ever witnessed, and remained as Roma’s leader for 19 years.
During that time, he received numerous offers from the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United, but chose to remain in the Italian capital and is quoted as saying “Roma comes before anything else”. He won a Serie A title and two Coppa Italia titles on his way to becoming the second-highest scorer of all time in Serie A history with 250 goals.
Aaron Ramsey – 20 Years Old
Aaron Ramsey was recently named the Wales captain as Gareth Bale announced his retirement from football, however this isn’t the first time the 32-year old will captain Cymru.
The late Gary Speed saw potential in Ramsey at a young age, as the Wales manager at the time named the 20-year old midfielder captain of his side.
Although Ramsey was succeeded in the captaincy role by Ashley Williams in 2012, the veteran has stayed part of the senior leadership group within the Wales set-up ever since so being named captain is nothing new to him.
Fernando Torres – 19 Years Old
The first teenage captain on our list, Fernando Torres was Mr Atletico Madrid when he broke on the scene as he helped lift the club up from the Segunda Division in 2001.
By the 2003-04 season, “El Niño” had taken the armband despite the presence of many other senior players in the squad including current manager Diego Simeone.
Six years, 82 goals and 214 appearances later, he made the switch to Liverpool in 2007, but his love for Atletico saw him return in 2015 and he is now in charge of the the club’s Juvenil A youth side.
Jude Bellingham – 19 Years Old
Jude Bellingham made history towards the end of 2022 as the 19-year old became the youngest Bundesliga captain ever when he wore the armband against Cologne in October.
The youngster is one of the hottest properties in the world right now and it really is no surprise with the midfielder’s leadership qualities on display.
Bellingham has also captained Dortmund in two Champions League fixtures this season, against both Sevilla in the group stage and Chelsea at home in the first leg of the round of 16.
Patrick Vieira – 19 Years Old
While widely renowned for captaining Arsenal during the club’s Premier League winning Invincible season, Patrick Vieira was in fact a captain before arriving on English shores.
He made his first professional appearance at French club Cannes aged 17, where he would later be named captain aged just 19 before AC Milan swooped in to acquire his services in the summer of 2005.
Vieira went on to play 406 games for Arsenal and became a legend at the club in the process, while picking up three Premier League’s and four FA Cups amongst a handful of other awards
Ruben Neves – 18 Years Old
Long before cementing his place as a mainstay in Wolves’ midfield, long-range specialist Ruben Neves captained boyhood club Porto in the Champions League aged just 18 back in 2015.
In the process, Neves became the youngest player to start as captain in the Champions League, surpassing previous record holder Rafael van der Vaart.
Neves was handed the Wolves armband at the beginning of this season as Conor Coady remained on the bench, with the Portuguese midfielder announced as the new permanent captain when Coady departed for Everton on loan.
Matthijs De Ligt – 18 Years Old
After securing a big-money move to Bayern Munich at the beginning of the season, Matthijs De Ligt has now featured for three European heavyweights aged just 23.
His leadership qualities were clear to see from a young age, earning him the armband at boyhood club Ajax aged just 18 following an injury to previous captain Joel Veltman.
De Ligt holds the record for the youngest captain in a Champions League knockout fixture, leading his side to a memorable two-legged win over Real Madrid in 2019 as Ajax reached the final four.
Mamadou Sakho – 17 Years Old
And so, we reach the youngest player on our list.
Incredibly, Mamadou Sakho was named captain on his first league appearance for PSG. Prior to the club’s monumental Saudi takeover, the Parisians were struggling to impose themselves in Ligue 1, and in an attempt to galvanise some of the more experienced members of the squad, manager Paul Le Guen handed the then-17-year-old Sakho the armband.
Despite sporadically captaining in subsequent years, he was named full captain at the Parc de Princes aged 21.