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Five of the great master & apprentice combinations in world football

Young stars often need an experienced head to guide them through and allow them to blossom - here are five of the best master/apprentice combinations we've seen

When a starlet is breaking through they normally need an old hand of the game to pass on the knowledge and guide them through their early years.

Over the decades we have seen it time and again where a master of the game takes on an apprentice and helps to develop them into out and out world beaters.

This goes beyond a managers’ instructions, it is a connection which the veteran and youngster make on the pitch and one which propels the novice to stardom.


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Yoda (L) Luke Skywalker (R)

AP:Associated Press
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Yoda (L) Luke Skywalker (R)

All the nuances of the game, the little tricks to gain an advantage over the opponent are passed on.

Here are five of the greatest master & apprentice combinations we have seen in Europe…

Carles Puyol & Gerard Pique (Barcelona)

They don’t look like two world class defenders here, but they are trust me

Reuters
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They don’t look like two world class defenders here, but they are trust me

Carles Puyol taught Gerard Pique everything there is to know about the art of defending.

By the time Pique returned from his time at Man United aged 20, Puyol (29) had been marshalling Barca’s defence for nine years.

The shaggy-haired centre back was a bona fide club legend and had led the Blaugrana to two La Liga titles and the Champions League in 2005-06.

But together these two would go on to win a shed load more league titles as well as the first treble in Spanish history.

Puyol had an inherent ability to read the game and anticipate attacking moves – a skill he instilled in Pique during their six years at the heart of the Barca defence.

Andrea Pirlo & Paul Pogba (Juventus)

Possibly the most perfect combination of skills for midfield

Reuters
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Possibly the most perfect combination of skills for midfield

Now we come to one of the midfield greats of our time crafting what would become the world’s most expensive player at the time.

Paul Pogba was a raw talent when Man United sold him to Juventus in 2012, he had all the attributes but needed finessing.

And there was no better man for the job than Andrea Pirlo – one of the finest footballers on the planet and the classiest operator we’ve seen this side of the year 2000.

Unfortunately, Pirlo didn’t pass on any fashion advice

Getty - Contributor
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Unfortunately, Pirlo didn’t pass on any fashion advice

With Pirlo in a deep-lying quarterback role and Pogba marauding through the centre, Juve stormed to three consecutive Scudettos as well as a Champions League final against Barcelona.

Pirlo went to wind down at New York City at the age of 36 in 2015 but his work was done.

Pogba was sold back to Manchester United for a then world record fee of £89million.

Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

The original Barca no.10 with the new pretender

AFP - Getty
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The original Barca no.10 with the new pretender

If you ever wondered where Lionel Messi might have been inspired to play the game with the joy we see today, look no further than Ronaldinho.

The true Brazilian magician brought unprecedented levels of enjoyment and trickery to the game and Messi looked up to him as a mentor.

Leo was just 16 when he came into the Barca dressing room full of stars but he says Ronaldinho took him under his wing and in his own words “learned a lot by his side.”

These two were best mates too

PA:Press Association
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These two were best mates too

The pair set La Liga alight as they tore teams apart from either wing through the mid-2000s, culminating in a Champions League win in 2006.

Ronaldinho was eight years older than Messi and left Barca in 2008 for a spell at Milan before going to play more samba on a tour of the Brazilian league.

Messi obviously became Messi and the rest was history.

400 appearances, 365 goals, five Ballon d’Or trophies if you must know.

Dennis Bergkamp & Thierry Henry (Arsenal)

Back when Arsenal used to win stuff

EPA
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Back when Arsenal used to win stuff

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When Arsene Wenger brought Thierry Henry’s French sophistication to English football he was a relatively unknown quantity.

However, after playing with Dennis Bergkamp for seven years, he left as one of the deadliest strikers in the world.

Prior to Henry’s arrival the Dutchman hit double figures in the league every season he was at Arsenal.

But the baton was firmly passed on when the former Monaco and Juventus man came.

Bergkamp slowed down to single figures while Henry set new heights for goals at Arsenal – scoring 30 goals or more for five season in a row.

Has the Premier League seen a better strike partnership than these two?


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Bobby Robson & Jose Mourinho

Jose you should always respect other managers, got it?

Reuters
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Jose you should always respect other managers, got it?

Ok these two aren’t strictly speaking players but they are undoubtedly one of the most famous master and apprentice combinations ever seen in world football.

When Bobby Robson carried the torch for English managers in Europe taking the reigns at Barcelona back in 1996, Jose Mourinho was hired as the great man’s interpreter having worked with him at Porto earlier in the decade.

This relationship spawned one of the most successful future coaching careers of the post-2000 era.

The connection began at Porto

PA:Press Association
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The connection began at Porto

Robson had been in football since he turned professional at Fulham in 1950, and during his time with Jose in the nineties he clearly passed on a huge amount of that knowledge.

Since going solo at Benfica in 2000 Mourinho has won eight league titles, 12 domestic cups, two Champions Leagues and the Europa League.

It’s fair to say the apprentice surpassed the master on this one.