Football Brothers

The age-old nature versus nurture debate is not necessarily helped by looking at brothers in sport because, of course, they typically have the same genes and the same upbringing. However, what we do know for sure is that, one way or another, there have been plenty of brothers who have both played football at a very high level. In this article we take a look at some of the best and also the most well-known footballing brothers.

World Cup-Winners Jack and Bobby Charlton Lead the Way

Jack and Bobby Charlton

There have been other World Cup-winning brothers but the most famous ones, certainly as far as English fans are concerned, are of course the Charltons. England have won the World Cup but once, in 1966, and Jack and Bobby Charlton were part of the starting XI that beat West Germany at Wembley.

Though they were brothers they were very different physically, emotionally and in football terms. Bobby was a ball-playing, attacking midfielder, with a cannonball shot with both feet, who was England and Manchester United’s leading goalscorer until Wayne Rooney broke both records. Generally a quiet man, he let his feet do the talking and did not like to be the centre of attention.

Jack was almost half a foot taller and was an aggressive, no-nonsense centre back. Excellent in the air, he was a commanding presence at the back and in terms of personality was unlike his brother, loving the spotlight and being around people.

Both had very long and successful club careers and, fittingly given how different they were, they spent much of them playing for rival clubs. Jack played 762 times for Leeds United, whilst Bobby played 758 times for their cross-Pennine rivals, Man United. But most English fans will remember the times they played together for England, especially during that glorious, triumphant summer of ‘66.

Could the Bellinghams be England’s Future?

It is early days yet for the Bellingham brothers, in particular Jobe, who is just over two years younger than Jude, but even so, could they play together for England? They were together at Birmingham but never played in the same senior team but given their many similarities it is not impossible they could play together for either England or a big club.

Jude has enjoyed an absolutely stellar first season at Real Madrid, writing a script for himself that would have been too outlandish for fiction. Injury time winners against Barcelona in both Clasicos, a Liga title and a Champions League crown to boot.

Jobe can’t match that but he has impressed with Sunderland in the Championship and has played for England through the age groups, up to the U19 team. His physique and playing style are very similar to Jude’s and if he matures and improves as his brother has, the two of them could be a frightening duo in England’s midfield.

Neville, Neville

Gary and Phil Neville both played for England, whilst father Neville Neville (yes, really) was a director with local side Bury. The Nevilles, which is to say Gary and Phil, not Nev himself, were certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but much of that may have been down to the fact they played for a Man United team that dominated so much.

Phil went on to have a great career with Everton and his leadership on the pitch and the high standards he brought in training were highly prized by David Moyes. Gary was a one-club man, who spent his whole career with the Red Devils and won it all, including two Champions Leagues, eight Premier Leagues and the FA Cup three times. Mind you, Phil also picked up the UCL, six league titles and the same trio of FA Cups!

They are England’s most decorated brothers in terms of club success, with a staggering haul of silverware. Gary played 85 times for England, whilst Phil earned 59 caps, their total of 144 meaning they also collected more England caps combined than the Charltons (106 for Bobby and 35 for Jack). They didn’t, of course, win any silverware with the Three Lions though.

Walters: The Original World Cup Bros

Relatively few England fans will have heard of Ottmar and Fritz Walter but the German brothers played together for both Kaiserslautern and the national side. Back in 1954, when the Charltons were still in short pants, they became the first brothers ever to win the World Cup.

Ottmar was a striker who bagged four goals at the tournament, in Switzerland, whilst Fritz was the team’s captain and played in an attacking midfield role. He got three goals at the World Cup and both brothers scored in the semi final. In all, Fritz scored 33 times in 61 games for his country, with Ottmar bagging 10 in 20.

Toure de Force

Yaya and Kolo Toure
Yaya and Kolo Toure
Image Credits: Puma, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Ailura, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT, via Wikimedia Commons

Brothers Yaya and Kolo Toure are among the best footballers to have played in the Premier League. Kolo was a centre back who played for Arsenal, Man City and Liverpool – not a bad CV. He also won 120 caps for Ivory Coast which also doesn’t look too shabby on the curriculum vitae!

Yaya was more stoutly built and was a phenomenal midfielder, who was part Rodri, part Roy Keane and part Patrick Vieira, perhaps with a bit of Jude Bellingham’s attacking prowess thrown in. Man City signed him from Barca and he was a key part of their early success, scoring 24 goals in 2013/14. He boasts a mere 101 Ivory Coast caps, whilst between them they collected a dizzying array of silverware, including five Premier League titles, three FA Cups, two League Cups, the Champions League and the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.

Other Notable Mentions

Looking back through the history of the game, and not even digging that deep, there have been a number of brothers who both made it to the very top. The following is a selection of them, with apologies to those we have missed out!

  • Eden and Thorgan Hazard – both played for a Belgium side that topped the FIFA world rankings.
  • Ronald and Erwin Koeman – Dutch brothers represented Netherlands during their golden era in the 1980s and 1990s, lifting the European Championship together in 1988.
  • Brian and Michael Laudrup – Michael is the best player Denmark has ever produced and played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona. Brian was no slouch either and he was part of the Denmark team that won the Euros in 1992, his brother foolhardily refusing to take part!
  • Lucas and Theo Hernandez – at the time of writing Lucas boasts 37 France caps and Theo 25, with the former part of the group that won the 2018 World Cup and both in the squad that made the final four years later. They have both won a huge number of club honours as well.
  • Frank and Ronald de Boer – the only twins on our list, the De Boers collected 179 Dutch caps between them and played together more times than any of the brothers discussed. They spent several seasons together with Ajax, but also reunited at Rangers in Scotland, Barcelona and two Qatari clubs whose names we could tell you but that really don’t matter too much!

By cf378