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6 of the best midfield bodyguards who protected their brilliant midfield partner

Every creative midfielder needs someone to protect him and make sure he can't get kicked all over the shop

Football is a contact sport.

Not everything can be roulette turns and 40-yard passes, which is why the following players were so important to their respective sides.

They mastered the dark arts and got down to the ugly side of the game, allowing their more creative midfield partners to flourish.


Not everyone can master the dark arts

Getty Images - Getty
Not everyone can master the dark arts

Paul Scholes & Roy Keane

It seems harsh to call Keane simply a bodyguard, given his game was worth so much more to Man United.

But kick Scholes, who was no stranger to a mistimed tackle himself, and you could be sure that Keane had marked your card.

His ability to physically intimidate the opposition out of games bordered on psychopathic at times- just ask Alf-Inge Haland.

However his battles with Patrick Vieira will go down in Premier League folklore, and Scholes was a much better player for having Keane beside him.

Scholes was the only man allowed to touch Keane’s bald head

AP:Associated Press
Scholes was the only man allowed to touch Keane’s bald head

Zinedine Zidane & Claude Makelele

‘Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?’

Zidane’s comments on Makelele perfectly summed up the pair’s two year spell in the heart of Real Madrid’s midfield.

While the Galacticos earned the plaudits, behind closed doors the Galacticos were all rushing to thank Makelele for his ability to make them shine.

Zizou and Claude only played together at club level between 2001 and 2003, but it was enough to win a league title, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and an Intercontinental Cup.

Claude was always last in line at Madrid

Claude was always last in line at Madrid

Andrea Pirlo & Gennaro Gattuso

The bodyguard to rule all bodyguards.

As with all good doormen Gattuso trained his abilities in Glasgow, before gracing the San Siro with AC Milan.

His playing style was in complete contrast with Pirlo’s, but it was for that reason the duo worked so well.

Gattuso’s duties didn’t stop inside the pitch though. Just ask Joe Jordan who, at the age of 59, went head to head with Gattuso when Spurs played Milan.

Sorry lads, you’ve had too much to drink and you’re just not coming in

Sorry lads, you’ve had too much to drink and you’re just not coming in

Juan Roman Riquelme & Marcos Senna

Riquelme was one of the last great no.10s, and as such needed a steady hand in midfield to keep him safe.

Enter Senna, whose 11-year spell at Villarreal coincided with Riquelme’s best years in football.

Everything Senna did screamed class, especially his ability to step into the role of playmaker when Riquelme was being marked out of a game.

Sir Alex Ferguson was left to regret not bringing the Spain international to Old Trafford for a mere £4million in 2006.

You’ve been Senna’d

You’ve been Senna’d

Xavi & Sergio Busquets

Busquets is the bodyguard that stops any nonsense with a calming word and a knowing look rather than heavy hands.

His combination with Xavi, and Andres Iniesta, was one of the most beautiful sights in football when Barcelona were in full flow.

Busquets ability to find Xavi no matter how small the pocket of space, and then drop in to the exact area where the counter-attack would normally break, was near telepathic.

A criminally underrated player.

Keep your eyes on the ball Michael

Keep your eyes on the ball Michael

Steven Gerrard & Javier Mascherano

Mascherano’s defensive capabilities were so good that not only did he keep Gerrard safe, he also made sure Xabi Alonso had enough room to fulfil his quarterback role during Liverpool’s 2008/09 season.

While he didn’t reinvent the wheel, Mascherano did carry out his duties to an elite standard.

He went through his entire Liverpool career scoring just two goals- the sign of a truly dedicated defensive midfielder.

How many other players can you name that tore their anus in the line of duty?

If the first one doesn’t get you…

If the first one doesn’t get you…

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