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Pochettino: Chelsea captain has to be able to speak English with referees


Chelsea v Nottingham Forest - Premier League - Stamford Bridge Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

Mauricio Pochettino has given one good reason why he’s named Reece James, Ben Chilwell, and Conor Gallagher his first-, second-, and third-choice captains — in that order — in this Chelsea squad. And it’s a pretty good reason: they all speak very good English!

They don’t have to be English, but they do have to speak it!

While that may not be necessary to be an excellent teammate or even an excellent team-leader, it is necessary to properly communicate with the referee, which is the captain’s only actual privilege compared to all his other teammates. By rule, only the captain is supposed to be able to talk to the referee (i.e. no surrounding of the ref!), and all the referees in the Premier League are English-speakers.

This sounds dangerously pragmatic, especially for a distinction that’s as much about politics and perception as it is about actual usefulness. (Case in point, all the hamfisted chat this week about Conor Gallagher wearing the armband last weekend and not Thiago Silva or Enzo Fernández or your mom.)

“I explain the truth like always. For me, it was nominating Reece, I think is the perfect captain of course and then an English player with experience is Chilly.

“And then I think Thiago is because of experience; today is his birthday, 39, and I think he is an experienced player that doesn’t need the armband and then I think it’s important to build something for the future. Not only the present but the future. He is there and captain is not only to put the armband on your arm. To clarify, I think maybe it was Thiago give to Enzo but Enzo is still struggling with his English.

“If we need to communicate with the referee and everything I think Conor can perfectly do the job and for me I prefer Conor than Enzo because I think Conor can speak normally, English. I think Enzo is still not ready to be a captain. It is not only because of character or personality or profile. It’s about you need to communicate with the people and if you don’t manage still the language properly you cannot be captain no? I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong but it’s my opinion.”

-Mauricio Pochettino; source: Football.London

So there you go. Conor, 23 ahead of Silva, 39 because of age and Conor ahead of Enzo because of language skills.

Pochettino also (correctly) seeing that the armband would have a lot more meaning for Gallagher in terms of his long-term association with Chelsea, both in the decade and a half since joining at the age of 8, and hopefully for just as long in the future, is also noteworthy.

“He was captain about Wimbledon also. It is not new. He is supposed to be captain, it is good to create history. It’s nice. It is normal if you see the starting XI versus Bournemouth, he was also captain against Wimbledon, it’s not a big thing to create a party. He can be a captain, he is from Chelsea, came through the academy and it is perfect for him to represent the team.”

-Mauricio Pochettino; source: Football.London

Chelsea teams of yore were full of national team captains. They remained influential at club-level just the same even without an official title. Thiago Silva can motivate, lead, and still set standards just the same, too.

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