Given that the vast majority of young aspiring footballers never fulfil their dream of reaching the big time, it is unusual how many sets of brothers have played at the highest level at the same time over the years for some of the world’s biggest and best-known clubs.
It’s thought that talent – whether sporting or otherwise – can run in a family, and this will be borne out as we look at some of the most famous brothers to have played football, both together and against each other.
From England’s famous Charlton brothers to twins such as the Dutch de Boers and in the modern-day game the Belgian trio of Hazards, there are a range of examples of footballing siblings.
Let’s have a closer look at some of the most famous ones.
15 Footballing Brothers
While we’re enlist 15 of the most famous footballing brothers, let’s begin by some honorable mentions:
- Taulant and Granit Xhaka
- Romelu and Jordan Lukaku
- Sergej and Vanja Milinkovic-Savic
- Lorenzo and Roberto Insigne
- Sven and Lars Bender
- Toni and Felix Kroos
- Sami and Rani Khedira
- Giovanni and Jonathan Dos Santos
- Anton and Aleksei Miranchuk
- Aleksei and Vasili Berezutski
- Giacomo and Giovanni Tedesco
1. Bobby and Jack Charlton
English legends Bobby and Jack Charlton are arguably the most famous example of footballing brothers, as they were the first siblings to win the World Cup together in England’s 1966 triumph.
However, they had a famously fractured relationship off the field and played against each other for two of English football’s biggest rivals – striker Bobby was a Manchester United legend while centre-half Jack spent his entire career at Leeds United during the club’s heyday.
2. Gary and Phil Neville
The Neville brothers were both members of Manchester United’s hugely successful ‘Class of 92’ batch of young players and won a raft of major honours playing alongside each other at Old Trafford up until 2005, when Phil left to join Everton.
At this point it was reported that the relationship between the pair turned sour, after the brothers were seen blanking each other when leading out their respective sides before a match between Everton and United.
3. Michael and Brian Laudrup
The Danish Laudrup brothers were both undoubtedly football superstars during the 1980s and 1990s; they played together 44 times for their national side, and older brother Michael has been voted Denmark’s greatest-ever player.
They both retired from international duty in 1998 after a World Cup quarter-final loss to Brazil, and played for some of the biggest names in European football. Michael is one of the few players to have turned out for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Brian played for the likes of Ajax and Chelsea, but the pair never played together for the same club.
4. Rafinha and Thiago Alcantara
The Alcantara brothers are a strange case of football siblings because although both came through the ranks at Barcelona as youngsters, they now play for different national sides, with Thiago representing Spain and Rafinha deciding to play for Brazil, the country of birth of their father, former Brazil international Mazinho.
Midfielder Thiago has enjoyed the more successful career, racking up four La Liga titles, seven Bundesliga titles, two Copas del Rey, two Spanish Super Cups, four DFB-Pokal trophies and two Champions League triumphs.
5. Yaya and Kolo Toure
The Toure brothers both had hugely successful careers, with Kolo part of the Arsenal ‘invincibles’ Premier League-winning squad in 2004, and they joined forces to help Manchester City win their first top-flight title in 44 years in 2012. They also won the African Cup of Nations together for Ivory Coast in 2015.
However, when Kolo moved from City to Liverpool the pair came face-to-face as opponents for the first time in March 2015, a 2-1 win for Liverpool at Anfield. Yaya got his revenge in the 2016 League Cup final, where both brothers played as the Citizens beat the Reds 3-1 in a penalty shootout, with Yaya netting the winning spot-kick.
6. Frank and Ronald de Boer
The de Boer twins are widely considered to be two of the best and most skillful footballers that the Netherlands has ever produced, and played for some of Europe’s top club sides and together for their country.
Defender Frank and forward Ronald both came through the Ajax youth academy and played together there for several trophy-laden years before finding further success at Barcelona, and then played together again for both Glasgow Rangers and Qatari sides.
7. Rio and Anton Ferdinand
Rio and his younger brother Anton both came through the ranks at West Ham, before the elder Ferdinand moved on to Leeds and then Manchester United for combined world-record fees for a defender of 38 million pounds and represented England 81 times.
Anton’s injury-hampered career was far less stellar, meaning the brothers played against each other several times while Anton was playing for the likes of West Ham, QPR and Sunderland, but the tight-knit brothers have joined forces to tackle racism in football over the years.
8. Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng
Like the Alcantara brothers, the Boateng half-brothers opted to represent different national sides, and became the only brothers to play against each other at a World Cup when Jerome’s Germany lost 1-0 to Kevin-Prince’s Ghana in 2010 in South Africa.
The brothers have an impressive trawl of trophies; Kevin-Prince has a Serie A title with AC Milan and a La Liga title with Barcelona. However, Jerome has been more successful, with seven Bundesliga titles, a Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup with Bayern Munich, and he won the World Cup with Germany in 2014.
9. Ronald and Erwin Koeman
Younger brother Ronald is the more well-known of the Koeman brothers, having won trophies with clubs like Barcelona and Ajax, but Erwin was a star player for Belgian side Mechelen when they won the European Cup Winners Cup and UEFA Super Cup in the late 1980s.
The brothers were also mainstays of the Dutch side that won the European Championships in 1988. However, they never played together at club level, but Erwin was Ronald’s assistant manager during spells in England with Southampton and Everton.
10. Eden and Thorgan Hazard
Eden Hazard is well-known to English football fans, having been integral to Chelsea’s success during his time at the club, while younger brother Thorgan has starred alongside him for the Belgian national side for many years. The pair have never faced each other professionally.
The Hazard family also includes two younger brothers who are both professional footballers – Ethan, the youngest, is currently with Royale Union Tubize-Braine in Belgium, while Kylian plays for Cercle Brugge in the Belgian top flight.
11. Fabio and Paolo Cannavaro
Older brother Fabio was by far the more successful, winning the Ballon d’Or, World Soccer Player of the Year, Serie A Footballer of the Year, Italian Footballer of the Year and Defender of the Year awards in 2006 as he helped Italy to a World Cup win.
The brothers started playing together at Parma, before Paolo moved on to Inter, Verona and then Napoli, where he won the Copa Italia in 2012. The Cannavaro brothers played on opposing sides more than the same side, and met ten times between 2001 and 2010, with Paolo winning four times and three wins for Fabio.
12. Diego and Gabriel Milito
Between 2005 and 2007, the Milito brothers were the toast of the town at Real Zaragoza. The slightly younger Gabriel was the club’s captain and defensive stalwart, while Diego was bagging goals upfront.
When Gabriel earned a high-profile switch to Barcelona, He became the more famous and successful of the two siblings, but the situation would dramatically change in the following campaigns.
Gabriel’s Catalan adventure was plagued with injuries which cut his career short, while Diego eventually made his way to José Mourinho’s Inter, leading the charge in the club’s historic treble-winning campaign where he scored twice in the Champions League final, cementing himself as a bona fide Nerazzurri legend.
13. Giuseppe and Franco Baresi
During the 1980s, Europe’s most glamorous derby witnessed a rare phenomenon. The great Franco Baresi was the captain of Milan, while his older brother Giuseppe was leading Inter to battle.
To this day, Franco Baresi is still considered one of the greatest defenders in the history of the game and arguably the most iconic figure amongst die-hard Rossoneri supporters. But astonishingly, a young Franco was rejected by Inter’s coaching staff who favored his older and more physically-imposing brother Giuseppe, unintentionally handing their crosstown rivals an invaluable gift.
14. Rafael and Fabio Da Silva
If there had ever been two identical twins that you truly can’t tell apart, then it has to be Rafael and Fabio Da Silva. The Brazilian siblings both joined Manchester United in 2008, and one has to wonder if Sir Alex Ferguson ever pulled off “twin magic” at halftime, gaining a free substitution in the process.
Luckily, Rafael plays at right-back while Fabio operated on the opposing flank, so the fans were able to recognize them based on their positions on the pitch.
While the two fullbacks weren’t able to emulate the Neville brothers’ success at Old Trafford, Rafael enjoyed a longer spell with the Red Devils before moving on to Lyon in 2015.
15. Filippo and Simone Inzaghi
The Inzaghi brothers were both strikers who rose through the ranks of Piacenza, but the amount of success they garnered throughout their careers is incomparable.
While the younger Simone spent the majority of his playing days serving as a loyal benchwarmer at Lazio, Filippo (better known as “Pippo”) cemented himself as one of the deadliest hitmen in his generation while representing Juventus and Milan, even scoring in the Champions League final.
But what makes this brotherly rivalry truly special is that it didn’t fade away by the end of their playing careers, but it was resurrected when the two managers met on the sidelines, with Simone coaching Lazio and Pippo at the helm of Bologna.
Unlike their days on the pitch, it’s Simone who has the upper hand nowadays.