In the spirit of all things romantic for Valentine’s Day, online editor Nancy Frostick picks her top five footballing partnerships
In honour of Valentine’s Day and all things romantic, it would be rude to miss the opportunity to pay tribute to the best pairings football has seen – both defensive and attacking. Although it’s hard to think of Rooney and Ronaldo or Henry and Bergkamp sharing a candlelit dinner for two before a big match (did someone say Va Va Voom?), there’s no doubting that some of the football played by these pairings set the heart aflutter. Sadly I couldn’t think of a half-decent managerial couple worthy of pushing a playing duo off this list, and it was certainly a tricky task to get it down to just five. Honourable mentions go to Chelsea’s defensive dynamos John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, United’s telepathic two Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke, Blackburn’s deadly doublet Alan Shearer and Shane Sutton, and finally the little and large lotharios of many a Premier League club, Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe.
5) Vidic and Ferdinand
How United fans must long for the Vidic-Ferdinand pairing now. The defensive duo were a brick wall in front of the ever-brilliant Edwin van der Sar, shutting out the very best attacking talent the Premier League had to offer on their way to three back-to-back titles. Both were impeccable leaders who got the job done and organised those around them to set the team up right. Defensively astute both in the air and when players were coming at them, this partnership is a model for the modern centre back pairing.
4) Rivaldo and Ronaldo
This pair takes us all the way back to Brazil’s 2002 World Cup victory in South Korea and Japan. An attacking force that dreams are made of, “fat Ronaldo” and creative playmaker Rivaldo were devastating on the way to Brazil’s fifth title – scoring 13 goals between them in the space of seven matches. These two were all about natural talent and scoring when it counted. If we’re all honest, Brazil haven’t been close to this good since.
3) Rooney and Ronaldo
Just outpacing the “original Ronaldo” to third spot is CR7 and everyone’s favourite England and United villain, Wayne Rooney. From 2004 until Ronaldo made the switch to Real Madrid, this was one hell of a partnership. Whilst they might not have been on the best terms all the time (yes, I mean *that* wink), their attacking prowess was deadly. On their way to Premier League and Champions League success in the 2007/08 season, these two contributed a cool 60 goals in all competitions.
2) Puyol and Pique
The Puyol-Pique partnership has got to go down as one of the best centre-back unions in history. If Ferdinand and Vidic were good, the boys at Barcelona were another level. Their marshalling of the 18-yard box made life easy for Messi and co. to unleash their attacking arsenal without worrying about what was going on behind them. Pep Guardiola would surely bite your arm off for a couple of players with half as much defensive nouse now at Manchester City. As if their defensive displays weren’t impressive enough, Pique still chips in with the odd goal too.
1) Henry and Bergkamp
We have a winner! Step aside Beyonce and Jay Z, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and Jack and Vera Duckworth – Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp have won the crown for the most iconic (footballing) couple of all time. All bow down to two of the most naturally gifted and beautiful footballers of the modern era. The fact that this pair got to turn out for the same team week-in, week-out is quite frankly outrageous. Although not the most conventional pairing on paper, on the pitch the Iceman and Titi played football classy enough to make you weak at the knees – which is probably what happened to most defenders who were rendered useless when playing Arsenal. We are forever indebted to the footballing gods for giving us these star-crossed lovers in the Premier League era, which is probably why they are both enshrined as bronze statues outside the Emirates.