Football hipsters turn away now.
We are celebrating the best midfield partnerships ever to grace the hallowed turf of the Champions League.
From the mercurial passers and tempo masters to the centre circle enforcers, let us take you on a journey of the holy grail of European midfields.
It is a tough one to choose and *this list is in no order* so just sit back and enjoy the quality on show.
Andrea Pirlo & Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan)
Let’s start with one of the most iconic beauty and the beast combinations.
Pirlo created the serene magic for the strikers while Gattuso was the ultimate midfield dog cleaning up in the background.
This Italian Yin and Yang provided the perfect platform for Milan to reach the final in 2003 and 2005 (yes, that night Liverpool fans) and clinch the trophy in 2007.
When Pirlo retired recently Gattuso modestly said talking about the two in the same breath was like ‘confusing Nutella with s***’.
Andres Iniesta & Xavi (Barcelona)
Cream of the crop.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the best central midfield pairing in Champions League history.
Dubbed the ‘midfield carousel’ by none other than Sir Alex Ferguson, the Barcelona academy products led their own era in European football.
Their brand of tiki-taka brought the Champions League cup to the Nou Camp in 2009, 2011 and 2015 and created a dynasty of footballing ideology you still see today, bravo.
An honourable mention has to go to Sergio Busquets who was the perfect antidote to Xavi and Iniesta’s metronome passing, protecting the back four while the creative juices flowed.
These two pass masters deserve their place at the top of the pantheon.
Zanetti & Cambiasso (Inter)
If Iniesta and Xavi were the finest creators on the pitch, Zanetti and Cambiasso were top notch destroyers.
Rolling out for Jose Mourinho’s ultra-catenaccio Inter side, these boys had one job and one job only, do not concede.
Inter won a treble in 2010, including Serie A, the Italian cup and the Champions League on a healthy diet of 1-0 wins.
The Argentines were at their brick wall best in the 2010 Champions League, downing one of the great Barcelona sides in the semis and committing a robbery in the final – beating Bayern Munich 2-0 with 35% possession.
Jose’s ‘anti-football’ came easy to these two.
Claude Makelele & Zinedine Zidane (Real Madrid)
Another midfield pair that defined their era.
Zidane was the king of bringing midfield into attack, while Makelele has had a position named after him.
Zizou received the man-of-the-match award in the successful 2002 Champions League final after scoring one of the most memorable European goals ever and that season can be known from now on as the Zidane show.
Makelele didn’t get the plaudits but that didn’t matter for him, all he wanted in life was to break up the play in midfield.
Makelele gave the world peak-form Zidane because of his destructive midfield play and we should thank him for it.
Toni Kroos & Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
They are too similar, they said.
Undoubtedly Kroos and Modric have been the best two midfielders over the last three years and show no sign of waning.
Combining unrivalled technique with dribbling ability and seemingly slowing down the time-space continuum when they’re on the ball, this pairing play on a different planet.
As part of the first team to win back-to-back Champions leagues they are bona fide midfield stars.
Real Madrid’s BBC would be nothing without Modric and Kroos bossing the midfield. Fact.
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- Heard the one about the Irishman who played for Inter Milan?
- Looking at Serie A’s defenders in 2001 will make you feel all types of nostalgic
Clarence Seedorf & Edgar Davids (Ajax)
These two were the beating heart of Louis Van Gaal’s Total Football Ajax side which won the Champions League in 1995.
Seedorf and Davids (and Patrick Kluivert) were part of ‘De Kabel’, a group of Afro-Dutch footballers of Surinamese descent.
Seedorf was one of the best passers in the world and had an amazing shot on him *pictures his 40-yard goal*, Davids or ‘The Pitbull’ as he was nicknamed was a ball of energy and big tackles.
Davids aggression and his protective goggles served him well when he fancied a spell in England’s League Two.
Seedorf went on to win Europe’s top competition FOUR times. Say no more.
Paul Scholes and Roy Keane (Manchester United)
No Champions League list would be complete without the ginger maestro and his terrifying Irish partner.
During the 1999 campaign Scholes and Keane controlled United’s midfield on the way to an unheralded treble of Premier League, Fa Cup and Champions League medals.
Scholes has been consistently regarded as one of the best passers of a ball to have lived while Keane tore through the midfield in a flurry of anger and knee-high tackles, both of them loved a challenge.
So much so they were both suspended for the 1999 Champions League final, leaving Nicky Butt and David Beckham to bring the cup home.