10 of the Best Duos in World Football's Recent History
There are some combinations that almost become inseparable as individuals for spells in their career, with two players' successes intertwined on the pitch for either club or country.
Whether in direct partnership as a central defensive pair or strike partnership, or instead operating as a pair of full-backs or wingers on opposite sides of the pitch, there are some players who were seemingly destined to play together.
So, of the last 20 years, which are the 10 partnerships that stick in the mind as being truly at home in each others' company on a football pitch?
Dwight Yorke & Andy Cole
"When we started playing together, it was like meeting a special woman and falling in love. Everything felt right. Whatever he did, I did the opposite."
Cole's comments to Fox Sports Asia about his link up with Yorke say it all about the magical strike partnership, whose 53 goals in the 1998-99 season fired Manchester United to their famous treble win.
The link up play between the pair was exceptional from the word go. It is not often that two instinctive finishers can strike up such a bond, but the pair's movement and understanding was complementary throughout.
So good was the pair's understanding that, once their time at Manchester United was done, they resumed the partnership at Blackburn. Their reign at the top with United may not have lasted as long as it could have, but the duo's contribution is ingrained deep in the club's history.
Cafu & Roberto Carlos
Possibly the finest pair of full-backs in world football history, Cafu and Roberto Carlos' patrolling of wide areas were the basis behind Brazil reaching successive World Cup finals in 1998 and 2002—winning the latter.
Cafu, who also won the competition in 1994, was famed for his incredible stamina on the right flank, overlapping continuously for the duration of the 90 minutes until well into his fourth decade.
On the other hand, Roberto Carlos may not have overlapped quite as much, but brought an amazing amount of impetus to the attack each time he crossed the halfway line. His tremendous power, both when running with the ball and when shooting, became the hallmark of his game.
The duo, undoubtedly, were a major factor behind Brazil's successes in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Paolo Maldini & Alessandro Costacurta
They didn't always play at centre-back together, with Maldini spending much of his career at left-back, but the contribution of Maldini and Costacurta to Milan over many seasons often saw them grouped together.
The duo, who both played until around or over their 40th birthday, were sensational for nearly two decades, spanning the eras of both Franco Baresi and Alessandro Nesta with the Rossoneri.
With five European Cup or Champions League triumphs and seven Serie A wins apiece, there are few more decorated defenders in world football.
With both leaving the club in the space of two years between 2007 and 2009, Milan have never adequately replaced their previously sensational defensive unit.
Bebeto & Romario
"It was a perfect partnership and Romario was a great partner. It was truly a great experience to play together and score so many goals and win trophies for the national side. It was a pleasure to partner Romario up front."
Brazil's attacking stars of the 1994 World Cup, Bebeto and Romario formed a terrific double act in the early 90s that was only broken up by the emergence of a phenomenon—Ronaldo.
Bebeto's words above, per the Times of India, show the warmth that he feels about the partnership, with the pair's intelligent movement perfectly in tune with each other throughout the 1994 campaign.
Even now, long after their retirement, the duo happen to walk in the same circles, with both taking on differing political roles that occasionally see the two come head-to-head in their views on Brazil's footballing authorities.
Thierry Henry & David Trezeguet
A partnership that blossomed at Monaco and almost crossed paths at Juventus before fully blooming with the French national side, Henry and Trezeguet was one of the most feared striker pairings in European tournaments when at their prime.
The 2000 European Championship was probably the pinnacle of the pair's combination play, with France sweeping to victory as Henry claimed three Man of the Match awards, and Trezeguet scored the tournament-clinching goal in the final.
Of Argentine descent, Trezeguet was the typical No. 9 of the pair, while Henry's electric pace and intelligence made him a significant threat running from deeper positions.
With the likes of Robert Pires and Zinedine Zidane in support, the duo were a tremendous attacking threat for several years—both top-scoring in their respective leagues heading into the 2002 World Cup.
Xavi & Iniesta
The great midfield partnership of recent years, the Spanish duo of Xavi and Iniesta have been central figures in numerous trophy wins for both club and country.
Both products of the famed La Masia academy, the duo are slightly different in style but perfectly aware of the other's intentions. Xavi is the more static figure, glueing the side together, while Iniesta has the stunning technique required to unlock even the most stubborn defence.
Whether the partnership is now in decline or not, the duo have enjoyed half a decade as the most revered midfield combination in World Football.
Next summer, in Brazil, they will look to add a second World Cup to the two Champions League and two European Championships that they have both won together at the heart of Spain and Barcelona midfields.
Raul & Fernando Morientes
Between 1997 and 2002, the Raul and Morientes partnership in attack fired Real Madrid to two league titles and three Champions Leagues, scoring a combined total of 224 goals in five seasons.
With Raul one of the world's leading players in his second striker role and Morientes a fine No. 9, the duo were virtually unstoppable when supported with a star-studded midfield that was the envy of every club in Europe.
To this day, Raul remains the top-scorer in Champions League history, while Morientes also chipped in with a fair number of goals—before subsequently firing Monaco to a final whilst on loan.
Raul and Morientes' double act came to the fore at Madrid but had its origins in 1996 at the European Under-21 Championship, a competition in which Spain finished second on penalties to Italy.
Alessandro Del Piero & Filippo Inzaghi
Just one Serie A title and a Champions League runner-up medal does not do justice to the standard of football achieved by strike-duo Del Piero and Inzaghi at Juventus between 1997 and 2001.
Del Piero, the withdrawn trequartista, was the creator who helped link the team in attacking areas, while Inzaghi is one of the great goalscorers of the modern era.
In four seasons, one of which Del Piero missed the majority of through injury, the duo contributed nigh-on 150 goals across all competitions and several magical moments to boot.
Inzaghi would move on to achieve great success at AC Milan, but the duo's intuitive combination work was missed at Juventus—despite the successes of David Trezeguet.
Nemanja Vidic & Rio Ferdinand
The rock on which Sir Alex Ferguson built his greatest ever United side between 2007 and 2011, Vidic and Ferdinand was the best central defensive combination in Europe.
Still going to this day, the duo are no longer at their prime, but during that four year period, the Red Devils won three titles, one Champions League and, but for the majestic Barcelona, could have added two more—reaching the final on both occasions.
Ferdinand was the ball-playing defender of the pair, looking to carry the ball forward at every opportunity, while Vidic proved to be one of the best headers of a ball in world football—as well as a fine tackler.
Their skills proved complementary, and it is no surprise that, with excellent support from full-back, the pair saw United to numerous titles when at their peak.
Emmanuel Petit & Patrick Vieira
A simply phenomenal midfield combination, Petit and Vieira may have only won one Premier League title together during the former's three-year spell at Arsenal, but their joint contribution in the Gunners' development lives long in hearts and minds in North London.
Add in success at the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship, and it is clear that the combination was one of the most successful of the modern era.
Upon rejoining Wenger at Arsenal in 1997, Wenger dropped Petit deeper into a defensive midfield position alongside the box-to-box powerhouse that was Vieira. In his first season at the club, Arsenal won a famous double.
While the young Vieira was not first-choice for France at the 1998 World Cup under Aime Jacquet, he still provided an assist for his teammate as a substitute in the final. Come 2000, though, and the pairing was in full flow as France claimed a memorable follow-up success in Rotterdam.
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