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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

England's next captain: Cahill, Hart, Henderson, Kane could replace Rooney

Wayne Rooney's international career appears to be over after he was left out the England squad for their final two matches of the season.

He may be his country's record goalscorer and won more senior caps than any other outfield player, but the 31-year-old's omission from Gareth Southgate's squad could spell the end for the current Manchester United and England captain.

So, who could take the armband on a permanent basis? We asked some our club correspondents.


It might surprise you to learn that no player in Premier League history has won every major club trophy in a shorter timespan than Gary Cahill did after joining Chelsea from Bolton Wanderers in January 2012.

Within six months he was a Champions League and FA Cup winner; within 18 months he became a Europa League champion; by the summer of 2015, the England international had added Premier League and League Cup winners' medals to his collection.

In total, Cahill has won six major honours in five years at Stamford Bridge -- a winning pedigree unrivalled by any other player available to England manager Gareth Southgate -- and has continued to improve his game despite remaining curiously underrated, even by many Chelsea supporters.

This season he emerged as an inspirational captain for the eventual Premier League champions, scoring a career-best six goals -- many of them crucial -- as well as adapting impressively to an unfamiliar role on the left of a back three in Antonio Conte's spectacularly successful 3-4-3 system.

At 31, Cahill is the prime age to assume the armband full-time for club and country, where he would be a safe choice for Southgate while younger members of England's core like Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson continue to mature. -- Liam Twomey


Recent injury history aside, Jordan Henderson would be a fine choice as England captain. Not necessarily a better one than the obvious stand out candidate, Harry Kane, but certainly worth considering.

The case for Henderson is a strong one. Having initially been given the Liverpool captaincy almost by default due to there being no one else, he has grown into the role and has won the respect of everybody at the club.

He's experienced, yet still relatively young, and has his best football ahead of him. He's a popular figure with teammates and sets a fine example with his exemplary professionalism and an attitude that puts the team first. There's also zero chance of him embarrassing his country with off-the-field scandals in the way some previous captains have.

It's also important that your captain is a first-choice player, and when fit Henderson is England's best central midfielder and virtually an automatic choice. Kane is now England's star player and vice-captain for high-flying Spurs, but not every coach is comfortable about giving the armband to a striker. If Southgate wants an alternative to Kane, then Henderson should be his man, but if he's happy with the Spurs striker then he should look no further than Henderson for the position of second skipper. -- David Usher

England may soon be looking for a new permanent captain of Wayne Rooney cannot resurrect his international career.


There is no more senior figure than Joe Hart in the England dressing room. With 71 appearances, he has been capped more than any other player in Southgate's most recent squad and, at 30, is the oldest player to be a regular starter with the exception of Cahill.

Hart has the most tournament experience, having been involved in two World Cups and two European Championships -- the last three as first-choice goalkeeper. And while those have always ended in huge disappointment, Hart has the leadership qualities to front up after those frustrations and was the first to speak after the humiliating defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016.

He also has vast European experience -- with City in the Champions League, where they reached the semifinals last year, and then on a season-long loan to Torino.

The one big stumbling block to announcing Hart as the England captain is his current poor form and the fact his starting place is under threat more than at any other time in the past seven years. He has been criticised for recent blunders -- particularly after the goals in Saturday's 2-2 draw to Scotland -- but Southgate insists he is No. 1. Hart has clearly been England's top keeper over the last five years and has the ability to bounce back and rediscover his best form. -- Jonathan Smith


Harry Kane passed his audition with flying colours, rescuing England with a stoppage-time equaliser against Scotland on Saturday, and he is the obvious choice to take the armband permanently. Although he is not Tottenham Hotspur's club captain -- that's goalkeeper Hugo Lloris -- he acts as Spurs' outfield leader and the club's unofficial spokesman via Twitter and the media.

Win, lose or draw, Kane is always ready to front up to reporters after matches and he is a press officer's dream, never putting a foot wrong. He straight-bats controversy with ease and always remains on message, while willingly standing up for teammates or criticising the team when necessary.

In character, Kane is never likely to be embroiled in off-field controversy. He is a family man, whose hobbies are golf, walking his dogs and watching football or the NFL, and he is the ultimate professional, fiercely committed to self-improvement and silencing his critics. He is willing to speak openly in front of his teammates at club and international level, despite his relative inexperience for England.

On the pitch, he is a superb goal scorer, whose position as England's central striker is all but assured, and he leads by example, working hard and refusing to be wound-up by opponents. Kane never loses his head, even when all those around him are losing theirs and, crucially, he is one of the few players who consistently ranks his experiences for England above those for his club. -- Dan Kilpatrick

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