Man City have wildcard candidate to be newest member of captain’s group – Joe Bray

Kevin De Bruyne was Gundogan&aposs vice captain last season, and captained the side in his absence. With De Bruyne injured, &aposthird&apos captain Kyle Walker has taken the armband and lifted the trophy as City won the Super Cup last month.

Making up the group of five captains last season were Ruben Dias and Rodri, with the remaining four members of the captaincy group expecting to be re-elected when the squad vote.

While all eyes will be on who becomes the next City captain – likely a contest between De Bruyne and Walker – there is also a decision to be made on who becomes the new &aposfifth&apos captain in the squad. There are plenty of good options, but no standout candidate.

If longevity is a qualifying factor, then John Stones is the second longest-serving player in the dressing room. At 29, he is respected among teammates, and his new midfield brief puts him in the centre of the action. At this stage of his career, a step up into a leadership role could be a natural next step.

Then there is Bernardo Silva, equally in tune with Guardiola&aposs system, likely to start the big games, and clearly popular in the dressing room. He has just signed a new contract until 2026 despite being open to leaving the club in recent summers, so could follow up his new commitment with a vote onto the captain&aposs group.

Other candidates for the fifth captain could be defensive pair Nathan Ake and Manu Akanji. Ake has been at City for three years and been praised by Guardiola for his attitude and application even when not playing. As someone who could represent fringe players and maintain standards, there are worse choices, and he was picked to captain Bournemouth in his final three league games for the Cherries.

Akanji has only been at the Etihad for 12 months, yet has slotted in perfectly and can play in multiple positions. His versatility has seen him selected in the biggest games, while he twice captained Borussia Dortmund in the absence of others. With 51 international caps, he is a calming, consistent performer who looks like a leader-in-waiting.

But even with these players, none stand out as an obvious choice like Rodri did last year when a fifth member of the group needed picking. Stones and Bernardo appear to play a more light-hearted role in the dressing room, so may have to change their approach if elected as a captain, which may risk having an adverse effect on their performances.

So could there be a wildcard option in new signing Mateo Kovacic?

It would be odd to have a new signing come in and immediately join the leadership group, but Kovacic has plenty of experience to pass on to his new teammates. The only player in the squad who has experience of retaining a Champions League title, Kovacic has also played at the Club World Cup and can use that knowledge when the fixtures keep coming in the new few months.

Kovacic has adapted quickly to Guardiola&aposs system, helping Rodri in defensive midfield and also providing a number of probing balls forward to break lines and set up goals. Incredibly, he has only played three games as a captain – two for Chelsea, one for Croatia – but the list of clubs he has represented shows his reliability and high standards.