Real Madrid are arguably the most successful football club on the planet and when scanning a list of their captains in the modern era it’s not hard to see why.
Since 1993, Madrid have won 10 La Liga titles alongside eight Champions League trophies, cementing their status as one of the leading clubs in the game.
Nacho Fernandez has been announced as the club’s latest skipper, continuing a long-running tradition in which the club’s longest-serving player wears the armband. Luka Modric, Dani Carvajal and Toni Kroos will serve as Carlo Ancelotti’s vice captains.
We’ve taken a look at the last seven captains that came before Nacho and ranked them in order of worst to best.
Marcelo had been at Madrid for 14 seasons before being appointed the club’s first non-Spanish captain in 2021.
And, while the Brazil international left the club after a single season of armband-wearing, he guided the team to a La Liga and Champions League double in 2021-22.
While Marca claimed that Marcelo was Madrid’s ‘fifth-choice left-back’, his experience as a figure in the dressing room – if not the pitch – was still useful in the club’s achievements last term.
6. Karim Benzema
Benzema is deservedly the current Ballon d’Or holder after his heroic exploits in 2021-22. But since being named club captain, he struggled with injury knocks and didn’t quite maintain the talismanic levels.
Ancelotti’s side faltered last season, having mounted a limp title defence while ending up well-beaten by Manchester City in the Champions League. Benzema did at least lift the Copa del Rey trophy while wearing the armband, at least.
The Frenchman has since departed to take one final giant payday out in Saudi Arabia. His legacy as one of Real Madrid’s all-time greats is unquestionable, but his one season as club captain will go down as one of the club’s more forgettable campaigns.
5. Fernando Hierro
Hierro, when he wasn’t acting as Yogi Bear’s body double, was an excellent defender with the happy habit of scoring goals on a regular basis.
Seasoned Premier League viewers may remember him best for his spell with Sam Allardyce’s Bolton but Hierro spent 14 happy years at Madrid, winning La Liga five times alongside three European Cups.
While the centre-back only wore the Madrid armband for his final two seasons at the Bernabeu, he did guide his team to five major trophies including a victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the 2002 Champions League final.
His time at Madrid ended abruptly; Hierro locked horns with Florentino Perez on a number of occasions and the Madrid president let Hierro leave without a fight in the summer of 2003.
A club legend, we were surprised to learn Hierro wasn’t club captain for longer.
4. Iker Casillas
After the departure of the two captains Raul and Guti in 2010, Casillas was their natural successor; the goalkeeper had just won the World Cup with Spain and was regarded as one of the best players around.
And Casillas did lead Madrid to La Decima in 2014, ending a club obsession for their 10th European crown that lasted over a decade.
But Saint Iker was on the decline during his five-year spell as club captain. While many sympathised when Jose Mourinho marginalised him in favour of Diego Lopez, Ancelotti only used him in the cup competitions too.
Casillas left for Porto in 2015 but he remains one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time.
Often regarded as one of the best Spanish footballers of all time, it’s hard to imagine a more quintessential Blanco than Raul.
With 741 appearances and 325 goals, the striker is easily one of the greatest ever to wear the Madrid shirt and served as captain for seven seasons between 2003 and 2010.
While his captaincy coincided with Madrid’s European drought, Sir Alex Ferguson’s favourite footballer still led his side to two league titles and two Spanish Super Cups.
“Raul is synonymous with Madrid: the face of the club for the last 25 years,” Jorge Valdano once said.
“If you wrote a list of Raul’s qualities, it would be a list of the values of Real Madrid. He is the Di Stefano of our time. Quantity above quality, absolute commitment and endeavour above all else.
“Utter professionalism. Every. Single. Day. Of. His. Life.”
Pretty good captain material then.
2. Sergio Ramos
Ramos personified modern-day Real Madrid; ruthless, cunning, brilliant and successful.
Three consecutive Champions League trophies, an unprecedented achievement in the modern game, is enough to lift the Andalucian into the pantheon of great captains.
1. Manuel Sanchis
Younger readers may not recognise the name, but Sanchis is widely considered to be the most successful captain in the history of Real Madrid.
Part of the famous ‘Quinta del Buitre’ core of homegrown talent, Sanchis was an accomplished defender and inspirational leader that spent his entire career at the Bernabeu.
Sanchis wore the armband between 1993 and 2001, coinciding with Madrid’s rebirth as a modern-day juggernaut. The defender led his team to a whopping 19 titles under his captaincy (two UEFA Champions League titles, an Intercontinental Cup, five La Liga titles, two Spanish Cups, five Spanish Super Cups, and a UEFA Super Cup).
He retired in 2001 at the age of 36, his final act as captain being to lift his La Liga trophy. It was hard to conceive of a more fitting ending for a true Madrid hero.