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YIN AND YANG

5 iconic partnerships that shaped my experience of football

Who doesn't love a two-for-the-price-of-one?

Some team-mates forge relationships that are stronger than marriages.

Football is a team game, played by individuals, but every now and then players pair off to create something special.

There are so many double acts to choose from but I’ve whittled it down to five who have shaped my experience of football.

Roberto Carlos and Cafu

Up and down, up and down

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Up and down, up and down

When I was young the Brazilians had a magical mystique to them.

They seemed to be able to do things other couldn’t and no two players were more symbolic of this allure than their full-backs.

I say full-backs, they were more like suppressed wingers who stood about in defence at the start of the game as a courtesy to the traditionalists before bombing forward at the first opportunity.

Even as a kid who didn’t understand the nuances of the game, Cafu and Roberto Carlos were superheroes.

Sir Alex Ferguson once queried whether Cafu had two hearts, such was his stamina.

While Carlos’ left foot rivalled Thor’s hammer for destructiveness.

You only have to look at the role of full-backs these days to understand how influential these two are, and how ahead of their time the were during their peaks.

Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry

Invincible

EPA
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Invincible

Seldom have strike partners been so perfectly made for each other.

Whereas Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole gelled because of their similarities, Bergkamp and Henry harmonised because of their differences.

The former was the personification of elegance and poise, a technician who needn’t break sweat to bring the game under his control.

The latter was fast as lightning, a shot of adrenaline, a postmodern phenomenon.

Both considered it a cardinal sin to shoot if the other was in a better position and together they achieved alchemy.

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric

To me, to you

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To me, to you

These two are still refining their legacies but have already done enough to warrant elite recognition.

Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and of course Cristiano Ronaldo were instrumental in Real Madrid’s Champions League hat-trick but time and time again I was left in awe of Modric and Kroos in midfield.

Masters of subtlety, their decision-making and technical ability has given Real the edge in so many key knockout ties in recent times.

Whenever the opposition attempt to build momentum, one of Modric or Kroos knows exactly how to diffuse it.

Putting your foot on the ball, getting it down, playing a pass, showing for the return… it sounds simple, but to do it as well as these two takes supreme understanding of the game.

Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic

From strength to strength

News Group Newspapers Ltd
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From strength to strength

Every truly great team relies on a world-class centre-back partnership.

The Man United side of the last 2000s was as good as the Premier League has ever hosted and one of the main reasons was that they had a formidable defence to match their fearsome attack.

Ferdinand, while physically imposing, was an oasis of composure.

He understood striker’s instincts better than they did and snuffed out the glowing embers of danger before they could even be considered a threat.

Whereas Vidic was battering ram.

Sure, Fernando Torres may have got the better of him on a couple of occasions but the Serbian international bullied pretty much every other opponent he came up against.

In 2009, he asked Sir Alex Ferguson to release him so he could join Serbian forces in their war against Kosovo.

With such a mentality, no wonder he ate forwards for breakfast.

Xavi and Andres Iniesta

Two halves of the same soul.

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Two halves of the same soul.

This list is not in any particular order but if it were these two would be top.

Two academy products who matured into legends.

The beating heart of arguably the best club side ever and one of the most dominant international teams in history.

Yes, the passes, obviously the passes, but it was their fearless commitment to a philosophy that made them so great.

Total football, tika-taka, whatever you want to call it, unless you have players capable of implementing it on the pitch, it’s just a nice idea.

Receive, pass, offer. Receive, pass, offer.

Xavi and Iniesta inflicted death by a thousand cuts upon some truly great teams.

Remember that United team I mentioned earlier? Xavi and Iniesta practically made them beg for mercy in the second half of the 2011 Champions League final.

Lorenzo Buenaventura, Guardiola’s assistant for years, was quoted in Iniesta’s biography saying: “Together always.

“People said they couldn’t play together, but that’s not true. They shouldn’t play apart.”

As good as it gets

AFP
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As good as it gets

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