They say that talents can run in the family, and when it comes to football that has certainly been the case with the players on this list.
It is surprisingly common for siblings to go on the same journey to becoming professionals, although it is usually the case that one brother stands out more than the other – that must be awkward at Christmas dinner…
Why does this happen though? Is it actually a case of good genes, or is it more about who you know? After all, a club who is already working with a youngster will be much more likely to hear about/give a chance to that youngster’s other siblings, but that sibling still has to prove themselves.
We will have a quick look at this idea in time, but first, let’s have a look at some of the most famous footballing brothers the world has ever known.
Famous Footballers Who Are Brothers
Bobby and Jack Charlton
Possibly the most well known footballing brothers of all.
Bobby and Jack famously won the World Cup for England in 1966, with Bobby scoring 2 goals in the final.
Jack, a veteran of the Royal Horse Guards, was known as a tough defender, playing for Leeds for his whole career before moving onto management and achieving great things with the Republic of Ireland over a decade long tenure.
Bobby became a Manchester United legend, spending 17 years there and amassing 106 England caps in the process, as well as become the National side’s all time top scorer with 49 goals, a title he held until 2015 when Wayne Rooney passed him.
He was also a survivor in the Munich air disaster of 1958.
Sadly, the brothers had a feud lasting 22 years over personal family matters. They never fully reconciled but did meet on civil terms a number of times as the years went on.
Both gained National Treasure status in their old age, with Jack passing away in 2020 aged 85.
Gary and Phil Neville
A great example of what hard work can achieve, the Neville brothers were perhaps not the most naturally gifted of footballers, but no one could question their work ethic.
Both defenders, they came up through the youth system at Manchester United, part of the famous Class of ’92 that went on to achieve such tremendous things including winning the treble in 1999; the FA Cup, the Premier League, and the Champions League.
Gary spent his entire career at Manchester United, amassing 605 appearances (the 5th highest of all time as of 2022), and winning 8 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, and 2 Champions League trophies amongst other smaller awards. He dabbled in management after retiring but settled as a pundit.
Phil was perhaps in the shadow of his older brother somewhat, but nevertheless bagged himself 6 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, and a Champions League winners medal amongst others. He left United for Everton after 11 seasons, playing for the Toffees from 2005/6 until he retired in 2013. He went into management, and built the England Women’s National team up to the point that they won the SheBelieves Cup in 2019, and the Euros in 2022 just a year after Neville left the post.
Frank and Ronald De Boer
The De Boer boys are actually twins, and in true twin fashion they stuck together through 5 different clubs as well as their National side, the Netherlands – so they looked really cute in their matching football kits. Awww.
They both came up through Ajax under Louis van Gaal, and then sort of followed each other around the football world from Barcelona, to Rangers, then on to a few Qatari teams until Frank retired in 2006, with Ronald doing the same in 2008.
Interestingly, they played together on the same team more than 400 times, and scored 13 goals apiece for their country, although Frank (Defender) had almost twice as many caps at 112 over Ronald’s (Winger) measly 67.
Frank went into management (back to Ajax and also taking the reins for his country) but Ronald settled as Ajax’s A1 manager and lives less in the spotlight these days.
Ottmar and Fritz Walter
These German brothers both represented their country at the highest level, and were both part of West Germany’s 1954 World Cup winning side, although the older of the two, Fritz, was the superstar.
They both got their start at FC Kaiserslautern, and their careers began and ended either side of the war years, so it was a tumultuous time and their footballing days were put on hold while they both served, Fritz in the army and Ottmar in the Navy.
Fritz was actually taken prisoner and was almost sent to the Soviet Gulags where he would probably have died, but a Hungarian prison guard had seen him play and stepped in to save him.
He went on to become of hero in Kaiserslautern where the stadium is named after him, and people still refer to bad weather as ‘Fritz Walter’s weather’ because he famously played better in the rain. He died peacefully in 2002 aged 81.
Ottmar had a much sadder story post football, since a business deal gone wrong lead him to attempt suicide in 1969. Gladly, he failed, and went on to live a full life, finally passing away naturally in 2013, 11 years after his older brother, aged 89.
Giuseppe and Franco Baresi
The Baresi brothers were the definition of sibling rivalry.
Giuseppe is the older of the pair by 2 years, and was working with the youth team at Inter Milan when his brother Franco became old enough for a trial.
Having his brother at the club was enough to get Franco through the door, but not enough to get him signed up. Inter decided he wasn’t big or strong enough, and sent him away.
This led him to rival club AC Milan, who did take a chance on the younger Baresi brother, and this marked the beginning of a lifelong career at the club. Franco would play as a defender in the first team for 20 years until his retirement in 1997.
Over at arch rivals Inter, Giuseppe was well established in central midfield, and he too would spend most of his career at a single club, playing for 16 seasons at Inter Milan before moving to Modena for his final 2 years before retirement.
They would meet each other many times on the pitch as rivals, but they did also play together for their country, although it was Franco who ended up the most famous of the two, bagging 81 appearances for Italy vs his brother’s 18.
What’s more, while they both won trophies, Franco won many more, and a number of individual honours too including being voted AC Milan’s player of the century, being the Ballon d’Or runner up in 1999, and being inducted into the Italian football hall of fame in 2013.
Socrates and Rai
Both Brazilian internationals and both playing in an attacking midfield role, there is actually an 11 year age gap between Socrates and his younger brother Rai.
Socrates was known as Dr Socrates, because he had earned a medical degree and was very politically aware. He played mainly in Brazil and Italy, but also randomly agreed to a 1 month contract as player manager of Garforth Town in West Yorkshire.
He played for them once in 2004, fifteen years after his official retirement in 1989.
Younger brother Rai was still playing professional football until 2000, spending much of it with Sao Paulo between 1987 to 1993, and 1998 to 2000. Between these two terms he played at Paris Saint Germain, gaining legendary status during his 5 years there, and winning 10 major titles between both clubs.
Socrates very sadly died in 2011 at the age of 57 after numerous health problems, and while Rai is very much still with us, he focuses on political activism and philanthropy these days, rather than football.
Michael and Brian Laudrup
One of these brothers would be voted Denmark’s greatest ever footballer… and it wasn’t Brian.
That’s not representative of his career though to be fair, both he and his older brother enjoyed superb careers, with trophies and awards from Spain, England, Scotland, Italy, Germany, and of course Denmark.
Michael was the youngest ever winner of Danish Player of the Year Award in 1982, and big teams came after him early on. Liverpool missed out to Juventus, where he was unable to play in the end because of rules regarding foreign players, so after a spell with Lazio where he played well, Johan Cruyff brought him to Barcelona.
Here he was part of the team that dominated Spanish football during the first half of the 90’s, winning four titles in a row as well as a European Cup.
Brian had a tough act to follow but did a decent job of it. He had a short but successful career at Bayern Munich, before a false start in Italy through no fault of his own. The Rangers took him to the Ibrox and everything fell into place.
Brian formed a brilliant partnership with Paul Gascoigne and won the league 3 years in a row, as well as being named Scottish player of the year twice and being inducted into the Scottish Football hall of fame.
Yaya and Kolo Toure
It’s a pretty sweet story behind the success of the Toure brothers.
An ex French international, Jean-Marc Guillou set up the JMG Football Academy in Abdijan, the capital city of the Ivory Coast, and a young Kolo Toure turned up to play.
He convinced Jean-Marc to also take his younger brother Yaya, who he said was already better than him.
Arsene Wenger was a friend of Jean-Marc which is how Kolo ended up playing for Arsenal – he reportedly two footed tackled Henry, Bergkamp, and even Wenger himself during his trial – and from there he joined Man City, then Liverpool, before winding up his career at Celtic.
Yaya bounced around at some big clubs in Europe including Barcelona, before joining his brother at Man City, where they played together for 3 years, even lifting the Premier League trophy together in the 2011/12 season. But that was just one of their many combined winners medals.
One of their joint proudest achievements was winning the African Nations Cup for the Ivory Coast, where they are both in the top 5 most capped players, with more than 100 appearances each.
Paulo and Fabio Cannavaro
Football fans in the UK will probably be aware of the famous Spanish centre back, Fabio Cannavaro, but they may be less well acquainted with his younger brother, Paulo.
They both came through the ranks at Napoli but while Fabio went on to become a double La Liga winner and even a World Cup winner in 2006, Paolo, playing in the same centre back position, would never be called up for international duty as an adult, and the only gong he took home was a Coppa Italia with Napoli in 2012.
Paolo has had a rough time in the press too, as well as with the law, even being accused of having links with the Camorra crime family.
Fabio seems to be better behaved, although he has been in trouble a few times including a short prison sentence for breaching a court order, but he also runs a charity which supplies cancer treatment in Naples.
After football he went into management, mostly in China, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia.
Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng
Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng made history when they faced each other in the 2010 World Cup on opposing sides; Jerome playing for Germany and Kevin-Prince for Ghana.
The match was already heated because Kevin-Prince had caused an ankle injury to Germany’s Michael Ballack during a Premier League fixture earlier in the year, effectively ending his international career.
How did this come to be?
Well, the eldest of the brothers, Kevin-Prince was initially going great guns for the Germany U21 team, even winning the U21 Championship in 2009. However, after a falling out with the German Footballing Association he switched to play for Ghana instead, where his father was from.
Jerome, on the other hand, made 76 appearances at centre back for Germany, the place he was born.
Kevin-Prince had a more fractured career than his brother, playing at 14 different clubs picking up a Serie A and La Liga winners medal along the way, beginning and ending his playing days at Hertha Berlin.
Jerome started at Hertha too, but spent the majority of his career at Bayern Munich, winning the Bundesliga 9 times and the World Cup in 2014.
Rafael and Fabio Da Silva
Manchester United seem to like siblings, and these two are twins so Fergie probably thought he was onto a winner when he signed them both in 2007.
The pair, both defenders, were just 17 at the time, so yet to prove themselves, and it’s probably fair to say that it didn’t really work out as well as expected.
Rafael fared better than his brother, playing at least semi-regularly in all 7 seasons he was with the club, but Fabio really struggled for starts partly due to injury problems, making just 56 appearances over 5 seasons, and even being loaned to QPR before departing for Cardiff in 2013.
Rafael stuck around for a few more seasons playing 170 times in all, but left for Lyon after falling out of favour when Alex Ferguson retired.
The two did win trophies with Manchester United, and had a few appearances each for their home country, Brazil, but they enjoyed relatively quiet yet consistent careers after their glory years at Old Trafford.
They wrote a book about
Hilariously, while still at United, Fabio was booked for a foul committed by Rafael, and the club had to appeal the decision to get the card transferred to the right brother.
Filippo and Simone Inzaghi
The two Italian strikers came through the ranks at Piacenza, a lower league club of their hometown in Northern Italy.
They both spent a few seasons in the first team there – although Filippo had left for Parma by the time Simone got his first start – but went on to have very different careers.
Simone bounced around on loan for a while before a good season at Brescello caught the eye of Lazio, with whom he would go on to play most of his career from 1999 to 2010.
Never exactly a prolific goal scorer, Simone nevertheless did well at the front for Lazio, winning Serie A once, winning 3 Coppa Italias, and a UEFA Super Cup. He only manged 3 international caps though, one of which would mark the only time he would share the pitch with his brother on the same team.
Filippo, on the other hand, found great form with Atalanta and then Juventus, before settling at AC Milan where he would remain until his playing days were over.
While there, he was scoring goals for fun in certain seasons, but he did experience droughts too. Nevertheless, he won a shed load of gongs with Milan including 2 Champions League Winners Medals, a Coppa Italia, a 2 Serie A winners medals to go with the one he won at Juventus. He also became the only player at the time to have scored 10 hat tricks in Serie A.
Internationally he became a hero, with a superb record of 25 goals in 57 games for Italy, and even became a world cup winner in 2006.
Both brothers went into management after retiring, but both have remained in Italy to do so.
Anton and Rio Ferdinand
Although they both came up through West Ham’s youth system, there is a 6 year gap between Rio and his younger brother, Anton, so they never got to work together there.
Rio became a solid fixture at the back in the first team but left for Leeds in 2001, and Anton didn’t make his first team debut until 2003.
Rio only spent a season and a half at Leeds before they went bankrupt (it wasn’t his fault), but it was a blessing in disguise for him because Manchester United came knocking, offering £30 million which was a record for a defender at the time, and marking the beginning of a hugely successful 12 year stint with the Red Devils.
He went on to win 6 Premier League titles as well as the Champions League amongst other trophies, not to mention playing 81 times for England, before retiring in 2015 after a single final season with QPR. He then went into business and punditry, and was awarded an OBE in 2022.
Anton’s career looks poor in comparison, but taken on its own he has done pretty well for himself. He’s never won anything or been called up to the England squad, but he had a good decade in the Premier League with West Ham, Sunderland and QPR, before playing his final six seasons in the lower leagues and in Scotland.
Eden, Kylian and Thorgan Hazard
You will have heard of Eden, you might have heard of Thorgan, but you probably won’t have heard of Kylian.
Most famous for his fantastic 7 season stay at Chelsea, Eden Hazard has won the Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup, and the Europa League, and that’s just his English honours.
Both of his brothers have actually been at Chelsea as well, and during Eden’s time there, but they never played together because both were part of the Blues ‘loan army’, so never actually appeared for the first team.
While Eden has over 120 caps for Belgium and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation, known for his creativity and vision, Thorgan has less than half that number, and Kylian has none.
Thorgan found plenty of first team football in the Bundesliga after his short time at Chelsea, first with Borussia Mönchengladbach and then with Borussia Dortmund, but Kylian has never really settled anywhere, club hopping every few years mostly in the first few tiers of Belgian football with a brief stay in Hungary.
Bradley and Shaun Wright-Phillips
A bit of a cheat perhaps since Shaun Wright Phillips is actually Bradley’s half brother (Ian Wright is his adoptive father), but they are going on the list anyway because I like them.
Let go as a 17 year old by Notts Forrest, Shaun was welcomed by Man City who were in the First division at the time, and with whom he became a firm fixture on the right wing. His dribbling ability was seen as a key asset and Chelsea moved in for him in 2005.
However, a slow start and a few managers later, he was unable to maintain a first team place and, despite a Premier League title and an FA Cup winners medal, he headed back to Man City, winning the FA Cup again in 2010.
He earned 36 caps for England between 2004 and 2010, but was the target of appalling racist abuse on several occasions, although he always handled it with class and professionalism.
Bradley had a more low key career in the UK, starting out at Man City like his brother, but then heading to Southampton, Plymouth and Charlton. As a striker he didn’t score very often in the top tiers, but had more luck in League 1.
It was in America though where Bradley found his best form, playing for the New York Red Bulls for 7 seasons and becoming their all time top scorer. Shaun joined him there at the end of his career, retiring in 2017, while Bradley did eventually move on to a few other MLS clubs but retired in 2021 and went back to New York to join their technical staff.
Rafinha and Thiago Alcantara
Despite both having youth careers with Barcelona in Spain, the Alcantara brothers are the sons of former Brazilian international and 1994 World Cup winner, Mazinho, and Spanish volleyball player, Valéria Alcântara.
What makes things more interesting is that Thiago chose to play for Spain and Rafinha opted to play for Brazil. That said, Thiago’s international career has been over a decade long with more than 55 caps, whereas Rafinha was called up just twice back in 2015.
Both midfielders with similar styles of play, Thiago is undoubtedly the more successful of the pair, having played for Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Liverpool, and taking home 4 La Liga medals, 7 from the Bundesliga, and an FA cup with Liverpool, not to mention 2 Champion’s League wins.
Rafinha did well with Barcelona taking 3 La Liga winners medals and a Champion’s League, plus a Ligue 1 win with Paris Saint-Germain, but he has often struggled to maintain a first team place and has been out on loan a lot.
Erwin and Ronald Koeman
Dutch defender Ronald Koeman gained fame and renown as part of the UEFA European Championship winning side of ’88, but his brother Erwin was there too, playing in midfield.
Despite being a year older, Erwin always lived in the shadow of his younger brother, and even in their lives after football as managers he would not achieve the same level of success. He even worked as assistant manager to his brother at Southampton and Everton for a time.
Nevertheless, Erwin’s career was a good one, playing mainly for Groningen and PSV and winning the Eredivisie twice as well as the European Cup Winners Cup, and also earning 31 international caps.
He then went into management where he would stick to Dutch teams for his first decade before moving on to smaller international sides like Oman and Beitar Jerusalem.
Ronald, on the other hand, took home copious trophies such as the Eredivisie 4 times with 2 clubs as a player, and another 3 as a manager; 4 La Liga winners medals in a row with Barcelona; and 2 European Cups, one with Barcelona and the other with PSV Eindhoven.
He has gone on to manage 5 of the 6 clubs he played for, including PSV, Barcelona, Feyenoord, Ajax and the Netherlands.
How Can Brothers Both be Professional Footballers?
So what’s the secret, is it simply genetics and DNA?
We know that parents can pass on things like facial features, build, and allergies etc, so is talent something that you are just born with? That seems a bit too simplistic.
If you have read all of the entries on the list above, you will notice that not only do a lot of professional footballing siblings start out at the same place, but they even end up moving together too sometimes.
In the case of Erwin and Ronald Koeman, one might even hire the other.
It’s clear then that, at least to some degree, family connections play a part in the success of footballers who come from established football families.
It’s not just brothers either, but professional footballing fathers are able to help their sons get up to standard, and can make the right phone calls to give them the exposure and chances that those from non-footballing families can’t access.
Of course, the footballer must still be at least half decent, no one can survive in football on contacts alone, but it certainly helps.
You have to wonder whether the likes of Kylian Hazard, for example, would have a career at all if it wasn’t for the famous brothers who went before him, as well as having an ex professional as a father. No offence or anything Kylian…
In all likelihood, a combination of having the right sort of mentors to help develop skills from an early age, having the right connections to get them through the door, and also an element of natural ability all play their part in creating footballing siblings.
Unknown Footballers with Super Successful Brothers
With that in mind, here are a few footballers that haven’t been mentioned yet with much more successful siblings:
- Joel Cantona – While Joel was knocking around in the lower leagues, getting relegated with Peterborough and struggling for starts with Stockport County, his older brother was setting the Premier League on fire with fancy footwork both on the pitch and, on one occasion against Crystal Palace, on the terraces too.
- Florentin and Mathias Pogba – These lads are actually twins, neither of whom have played for anyone particularly illustrious, mainly hanging around the 2nd and 3rd tiers in France, Turkey, Slovenia, and the UK. Meanwhile, their younger brother became the world’s most expensive player when he was sold to Manchester United for £89 million in 2016.
- Paul Terry – He won promotion to League 1 with Yeovil in 2005, and won the FA Trophy with Darlington in 2011; but with Chelsea, his brother won 5 FA Cups, 5 Premier League titles, and the champions league, soooo…
- John Rooney – Although John’s biggest footballing achievement was winning the National League and gaining promotion with Barrow in 2020, John never slept with a prostitute as far as we know, so he’s definitely doing better than his older brother in some ways.
- Stephen Jagielka – Dipping between professional and semi professional football, Stephen ran a plumbing business on the side, but he did also spend a season playing alongside his brother at Sheffield United, although he never made a first team appearance. His longest stint was at Shrewsbury between 1997 and 2003.
It must be hard to have a significantly more successful sibling like these poor fellas, but it would have been very easy for them to go and do something else instead of following their passions, knowing they would probably end up the butt of many jokes.
You have to give them credit for sticking to the game that they loved – despite not being very good at it.
Footballing Brothers: Facts and Trivia
For anyone who is perhaps putting together a pub quiz and wants a little help with questions for the sport round, the following might help:
- Most brothers in a single team – In the 1974 World Cup, the Haiti team fielded two sets of brothers; Guy and Roger Saint-Vil, plus Fritz and Marion Leandre.
- Most brothers to play on the same team in the UK – Rod, Ray and Danny Wallace are all brothers, and all turned out for a Southampton game in 1988.
- Most brothers to score for their country – Icelandic brothers Thordur, Bjarni, and Jóhannes Gudjónsson have all scored international goals, along with their half brother Björn Bergmann Sigurdarson.
- Most brothers to score in a single match – The 2012 Tahiti vs Samoa game saw Alvin, Lorenzo, and Johnathan Tehau find the back of the net in a 10-1 victory.
- One brother carded by another – Scottish footballer Brian McLean was once booked by his brother, referee Steven Mclean. It was during a reserve game but the two went on to become professionals in their respective fields. Similarly, Stuart Pearce’s brother was a linesman who officiated while Stuart was playing for Nottingham Forest in 1986.
So there you have it, as much information on footballing brothers as you could hope to find anywhere on the internet.
This turned into a really long post…