Wed 20 January 2021 | 8:30

Best Duos in Football History

As a team sport football has had many great partnerships in its history so let’s see who are some of the best duos in football history?

Although individual brilliance is what excites many football fans and is the topic of most conversations surrounding the sport, at its heart Football is all about teamwork. No team has ever won a trophy without a solid foundation that is based on great teamwork and team chemistry. Even the aforementioned individual brilliance of certain players is genuinely enhanced when there is a great team surrounding that player.

So as a result when two players that are great on their own come together to form a partnership, whether in defense, midfield or attack, they elevate each other’s performances to such an extent that their partnership becomes one of the 

best duos in football history

. So we have decided to introduce to you some of these players to shed light on their achievements as a unit. Let’s see who are these dynamic duos?!

Best Football Duos Ever

in choosing the best football duos ever, we have obviously chosen players from different positions and eras of football and decided not to rank any of these pairings, as is only right, so let’s see who they are:

Franz Beckenbauer and Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck (Bayern Munich & West Germany)

For anyone that played with him, it’s hard to not to get lost in the shadow of the great Franz Beckenbauer but in the case of Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, his performances were so magnificent and their partnership in the back line of both Bayern Munich and West Germany in the 60s and 70s were so strong that the pairing of der Kaiser and Schwarzenbeck is always referred to as one of the

best soccer duos of all time


The unsung hero of both Bayern and West Germany in the late 60s and 70s, Schwarzenbeck was the player who worked tirelessly in defense as a destroyer, a role which usually doesn’t get credited enough in football, and Beckenbauer took care of the rest as he took the ball and bossed the game from the back. Together they were so solid defensively that with the addition of the attacking prowess of players like Gerd Muller,

Bayern Munich

and West Germany became unstoppable forces that tore teams down.

The two helped Bayern Munich to 6 Bundesliga titles, 3 DFB Pokals, 1 European Cup Winners’ Cup and an incredible 3 consecutive European Cups (now known as the Champions League). Just when you think that the duo could not get better you realize that they also helped Germany to a World Cup victory in 1974 as well as 2 Euro finals in 1972 and 1976, the latter of which they won.

Beckenbauer has long been considered as the best ever defender in football history but when you take a closer look, it’s apparent that he couldn’t have been that successful without his partner in crime beside him. The two are one of the best duos in football history and will remain as two of Germany’s best ever in the years to come.

Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique (Barcelona)

You can throw in as many flair players in a team as you want but in modern football if a team does not have a strong backline and a great leadership, it would falter in matches that are truly important. Thanks to this duo though, Spain and


never did falter as Carles Puyol, who is genuinely one of the best central defenders ever, teamed up with his protégé Gerrard Pique and the duo produced some of the most balanced defensive performances and led Barcelona and Spain to a Golden Age that they hadn’t experienced before.

Puyol’s great leadership skills, excellent defensive skills and great winning mentality alongside,


’s adeptness in playing the game from the back, which was essential to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona back when the duo were playing together, as well as Pique’s hunger in helping the attack and even scoring, with him being great in the air, the duo formed a partnership that were barely lacking in any department.

Together the two made history in their first season together as Barcelona won an impressive tally of 6 trophies, basically everything they could win in a single season. And the two would later help Barcelona to 3 more La Liga titles as well as 2 Copa del Reys. The two proved themselves as one of the best duos in football history where they helped Spain on international level too, when they won the 2010 World Cup with some of the best defensive performances in World Cup history.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Manchester United has had many great duos in its history, with the likes of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole or Scholes and Keane, but back in the late 2000s when United were just transitioning out of the Class of 92 players’ era, the partnership pf Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney just came at the right time and took United to even more glory. The two are now considered as two of the best of their generation, with Ronaldo being considered as one of the best players ever, but when their partnership started no one expected the heights these two would climb to.

With Ronaldo’s power, pace and technique and


’s all round great attacking abilities, the duo provided

Manchester United

with a lot of chances and scored on many occasions. Whether they had van Nistelrooy, Tevez or Dmitar Berbatov in front of them, Rooney and Ronaldo were the driving force in Manchester United’s attack and were comfortable playing in several positions. With


usually operating on the flanks and Rooney playing the role of support striker or even the lone striker when Ryan Giggs was playing on the left hand side.

After both Ronaldo and Rooney went through a similar development process at United under the management of the great Sir Alex Ferguson, they both emerged as two of the best players of their generation and their partnership blossomed into being one of the best duos in football history. They helped Manchester United 3 consecutive Premier League titles as well as 2 League Cups and 2 Champions League final appearances, one of which they won. Since then they have become known as one of the best partnerships Manchester United has ever known, only standing behind the Charlton, Best, Law trio!

Ronaldo, Rivaldo (Brazil)

In 2002, Brazil’s golden boy as Ronaldo was not having a great time at the club level and was coming back from a horrible series of injuries that had plagued his time at Inter Milan. His addition to Brazil’s 2002 World Cup squad was not a surprise but many criticized the decision as they felt that he was not fit to play. And then there was Rivaldo who had just joined AC Milan on a free transfer after spending several great years in Spain at Malaga and Barcelona. What followed in the 2002 World Cup as these two players came together could not be predicted by anyone as these two soon added their names to the best striker duos in football history.

The 2002 Brazil team was dubbed by many to be ‘the last team that played Joga bonito’. Fiercely attack minded and beautiful to watch, they rolled over every opponent with ease and did so while playing beautiful football. Rivaldo and Ronaldo were at the heart of their attacks. With Ronaldinho playing the part of the playmaker. The chances created by him would always find either of these two player and they in turn entertained the viewers and at the same time achieved a team objective, which was to win games.

Ronaldo ended the tournament as the top scorer by scoring 8 but Rivaldo wasn’t far behind him as he scored 5 goals and provided a couple of assists. The duo scored 13 of Brazil’s 18 goals in the World Cup and led Brazil to their 5th ever World Cup title. Consequently, they, alongside Ronaldinho, were named in the World Cup team of the tournament.

Despite the short period that Rivaldo and Ronaldo had together, the way they played and brought the street football beauty to the biggest stage of football, which is a rare occurrence these days, has made them one of the

best duos in football history

and they will remain as one of the most prominent examples of why football is called ‘the Beautiful Game’!

Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan & Italy)

On paper and on the pitch Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo could not be more different than each other, despite both being central midfield players who like to operate in deep positions and yet the combination of the two proved to be one of the most balanced midfield duos ever as well as being

best duos in world football history

. Pirlo and Gattuso developed this partnership at


but they took it to Italy’s national team as well and ended up bringing much glory to both teams.

Although Gattuso was a highly talented midfielder and was quite a complete player, the word ‘Destroyer’ comes to mind when most football fans think of him. He was in fact the best player in that role in the history of the game and seemed to revel in it, regarding every challenge on the pitch with the utmost intensity and ferocity. He is then severely contrasted by one of football’s most elegant players, Andrea Pirlo, who at times seemed to dance and glide on the pitch, delivering inch perfect passes.

So the Pitbull would take away the ball from the oppositions and hand it over to the Swan who in turn would boss the midfield and create chances for Shevchenko, Crespo or Kaka to score. This resulted in the duo winning 2 Serie A titles as well as 2 Champions League trophies and a FIFA World Cup.

They became two of the greatest AC Milan players and part of a great generation of Italian players who went on to win the 2006 World Cup in Germany, with both Gattuso and Pirlo playing an integral part in the winning team. And so it was that they became one of the best duos in football history and only the second midfield duo to appear on our list.

Xavi, Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)

When it comes to midfield pairings and partnerships, you’d be hard pressed to find a partnership more effective and creative than the partnership of the two La Masia graduates which propelled Barcelona and Spain to a Golden Age they didn’t even dream of a decade before. Considering that the great Lionel Messi was in front of them and yet Xavi and Iniesta took the spotlight away from him on so many occasions shows why they are considered to be one of the

best duos in soccer history


Although Xavi and Iniesta shared similar traits when it came to their playing style, the two were different enough that they complimented each other perfectly. In the height of their powers, it was difficult to pinpoint a single playmaker in Barcelona’s attack but Xavi has a bit of traditional number 6 and also number 8s, as he contributed to the defense as well as help massively in attack, opening up defenses with his pinpoint passes.

Iniesta on the other hand played more of a number 10 role as he unlocked defenses with his almost street football-esque technique as he dribbled past defenders like they weren’t even there. Together the duo was able to produce some of the most outrageous combination plays and assists that La Liga or even Champions League has ever seen. Although it didn’t hurt when they had a player like Lionel Messi in front of them that could finish off almost any chance that he was given.

Xavi and Iniesta together became two of the most powerful partnerships in the history of football and led both Barcelona and Spain’s national team to unprecedented glory. With Barcelona together they won 7 La Liga titles, 3 Copa del Reys, 2 FIFA Club World Cup and to top it all off, 4 Champions League titles. With Spain the duo won 2 Euros in 2008 and 2012 as well as a World Cup in between which was won by Iniesta’s last minute goal in the extra time. As one of the best duos in football history the duo are the two most decorated players in Spanish history and it’s doubtful anyone will reach their levels of success!

Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)

It’s hard to find any other duo in football history that played beautiful football as much as Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry did together in the early 2000s. both Henry and Bergkamp seemed magicians with the ball at their feet and in attack their almost telepathic connection sent shivers down defenders’ spines. They are certainly one of the

best striker duos in football history

and the reason Arsenal were so dominant and experienced such success in the years they played for the club.

While Bergkamp was well and truly well established as a football superstar when Henry came to Highbury as a 21-year-old, the pair soon developed a connection that would prove lethal to any defense. Bergkamp is simply the greatest support striker in football history, who played a ‘9 and a half’ role where he contributed with both goals and assists.

Thierry Henry on the other hand, had everything a striker should. In fact, his style of playing became a blueprint for many young strikers that followed him. He was unbelievably quick and yet could samba like the best Brazilian players out there, weaving his way past the defenders and being exactly where he should when Bergkamp’s passes found him, which led to the duo often helping each other score. Their combination plays worked like a one-two punch and if that was not enough there was always Robert Pires behind them who would help in scoring as well!

Together, Thierry Henry and Denis Bergkamp experienced one of the most fruitful partnership in recent history and won 2 Premier League titles and 3 Fa Cups together. Although their partnership had a bittersweet ending where the two lost in the Champions League final against Barcelona, their greatest achievement however would be the 2003-04 season, where they went the whole Premier League campaign unbeaten and won the title. As one of the best duos in football history, the duo have both now statues outside Emirates Stadium which tells you of their legendary status!

Pele, Garrincha (Brazil)

Pele and Garrincha are easily one of the best pairings in football history. They were part of the legendary Brazil’s 1958 and 1962 World Cup squads, who are considered to be two of the greatest ever teams. If there ever was a Mount Olympus for football, that Brazil team would be up there. They were so lethal and scintillating to watch that they became the blueprint for many attacking partnerships that came after and are still adored to this day.

The duo played 40 games for Brazil together and Brazil lost none of those matches, with Garrincha going as far as only losing once in his whole international career. The pair played Joga Bonito at its finest, turning tricks into goals and producing something out of nothing. Pele and Garrincha first started playing together in the 1958 World Cup where Pele was a 17-year-old kid and didn’t feature until Brazil’s last group game.

After a couple of not so satisfying matches, Brazil’s manager Vicente Feola decided to change the lineup and the The change to the line-up came with the duo’s first appearance together accompanied by the legendary Vava in front of the attack. The pair went from strength to strength after that. With Garrincha providing the assists and Vava and Pele scoring the goals. Pele and Vava turned Garrincha’s assists into 11 goals and helped Brazil be champions after beating the hosts, Sweden, 5-2 in one of the highest scoring World Cups ever.

By the time 1962 World Cup came around Pele, who was already the best player in the world by many accounts, got injured in the second match and was set to lose the rest of the tournament, only scoring once in the first match. the Joy of the People, Garrincha, stepped up and took the tournament by storm and eventually became its best player and best goal scorer, albeit sharing the latter with 5 other player including Vava. Nonetheless, the duo once again helped Brazil establish themselves as World Cup giants by contributing massively in the nation’s first 2 trophies and thus became one of the

best football duos ever


Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas (Real Madrid)

When talking about legendary players who defined the role of a striker, Ferenc Puskas and to a lesser extent Alfredo Di Stefano’s name is heard often. The two formed possibly the most dangerous duo in European football history that made

Real Madrid

, the European Giants they are today. The success that these two players achieved together could not even be overtaken by players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, which is proof enough of the impact they had on football in general.

The legendary Ferenc Puskas joined Real Madrid in 1958 and by that time they were already 3 times European Champions. With the great Alfredo Di Stefano and Paco Gento also there to help them, Real Madrid continued their European dominance. Reaching multiple European Cup finals. The partnership of Di Stefano and Puskas was perfect as the two complimented each other perfectly, with Puskas happy for Di Stefano to take the spotlight as he scored bags of goals.

The duo’s partnership lasted 6 years, which saw them win 4 La Liga titles as well as 2 European Cups. Perhaps the best example of their great partnership would be the 1960 European Cup final in which Puskas scored 4 goals and Di Stefano another 3 that led to Real Madrid winning the match 7-3 over Eintracht Frankfurt.

Although Di Stefano departed Real in 1964, Puskas continued to play for Real Madrid and ended up winning the European Cup again in 1966. The duo are now known in football as almost mythic figures not in small parts thanks to the partnership they had which was and still is as one of the

best duos in football history


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