There are absolutely loads of footballing families out there, with many sons following their fathers into the sport and becoming professionals themselves.
Sometimes the father’s star shone so brightly that their son was never able to quite have the same impact, but on other occasions the exact opposite was true, with bang average footballers fathering lads who went on to become superstars.
It happens in all walks of life, just look at John Fury and Tyson Fury.
We’ll have a look at some of the most well known examples in this article, at home and abroad, although we won’t cover Pele and Edinho as it doesn’t seem fair to compare the son of the greatest football player of all time to his father – even though he worked in goal at the other end of the pitch.
We will also have a think about why so many sons follow their fathers into football, and how much nepotism impacts a young player’s chances.
Footballers with Famous Fathers
Jordi and Johan Cruyff
Jordi was a decent player, but when your Dad is Johan Cruyff you’re going to have a tough time coming out from his shadow.
Johan Cruyff is an absolute legend of the game. He won the Ballon d’Or 3 times in 4 years during the 70s, and was voted European Player of the Century in 1999. He had a huge impact on modern game by helping to popularise the concept of Total Football that brought Ajax so much glory, and went on to help Barcelona win their first La Liga in 13 years.
As a manager he was arguably even more successful, helping Ajax to 2 KNVB Cups and a European Cup Winners Cup, then heading to Barcelona (just like he did as a player) and bagging 4 La Ligas in a row, a European Cup, a European Cup Winners Cup, and European Super Cup among other trophies.
Jordi started well, as a youth at Ajax just like his father, before playing for him at Barcelona and being one of the top scorers during his brief time there.
He moved to Man Utd in 1996 and again started well, but got very unlucky with injuries and his career stalled before turning downwards. A few transfers fell through, to West Ham and Bolton where he failed a medical, added to his string of bad luck.
Nevertheless he was a good player, and scored some important goals for his clubs, including an 89th minute finish which kept Alaves in the UEFA Cup Final against Liverpool – although they ultimately lost in extra time.
Kasper and Peter Schmeichel
To be fair this one belongs in a category of its own, because Kaspar is by no means playing second fiddle to his Dad.
Ok, Peter Schmeichel was a key part of Man Utd’s legendary treble winning side in 1999 and has a shelf full of medals, but Kaspar has a very respectable list of successes too.
Peter spent almost a decade as an unknown outside of Denmark, until bursting onto the scene with United in 1991 and being voted the world’s best keeper just a year later. He spent 8 seasons as the Red Devil’s number 1, before leaving (probably too soon) for Sporting CP, then doing a year at Aston Villa before, controversially, ending his career at Man City.
There’s a hilarious video of Gary Neville refusing to shake his hand in the tunnel before a United/City clash. Anyway…
He earned 129 caps for Denmark in that time too, winning the UEFA European Championship in 1992.
Kaspar had an equally slow start to his career, coming through the ranks at Man City but struggling for starts and spending years bouncing around on loan to 5 different clubs.
He eventually settled at Leicester where he spent 11 happy years as a permanent fixture between the posts and eventually became the team captain. He played for his country over 90 times and was the first choice keeper well into his mid 30s, but never quite topped his father’s tally, and never won an international competition either.
So Peter did have a more successful career, with five Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, a Champions League trophy and more under his belt; but Kaspar was part of Leicester City’s awe inspiring 15/16 Premier League winning team, won the FA Cup in 2021, and won Danish Football Player of the year 4 times too.
He never scored a goal though – his dad got ten, including one in the Premier League and even one for his country!
Shaun, Bradley and Ian Wright (-Phillips)
Few players are as well known for their character as for their playing skills, but Ian Wright is one of them.
Affectionately known to the nation as ‘Wrighty’, he was plucked from non-league football by Crystal Palace in 1985 and quite literally climbed the English football tiers right the way up to the Premier League.
It’s a bit of a fairy tale story really.
He became most famous during his time at Arsenal, a 7 year period during which he won the League Cup, the Premier League, and the FA Cup twice; he also made 33 appearances and scored 9 goals for England.
His adopted son Shaun Wright-Phillips actually had a brilliant career, spending 16 years in the Premier League with Man City, Chelsea, Man City again, and QPR, before joining his brother, Bradley, in the MLS to wind up his career. He actually earned 3 more caps for England than his Dad but only scored 6 times, although as a winger rather than a striker that’s still an achievement and a half.
He never quite achieved the same level of fame that his father did, but still won the Premier League once and the FA Cup twice.
Wright’s second son, Bradley Wright-Phillips, was a striker like his Dad, and although he started out at Man City like Shaun, he wasn’t there long. He spent a few seasons at a time at clubs in the Championship and the First Division, before setting off to join the New York Red Bulls where he became a bit of a hero and also their all time top goal scorer.
He never played for England as an adult, but had a decent career nonetheless and became a staff member at the Red Bulls.
Charlie and Teddy Sheringham
While many of those on the list have at least had decent careers, Charlie Sheringham can’t say the same.
His father had one of the best footballing brains the country has ever seen, was extremely versatile at the front being able to shoot accurately and create opportunities for others, he is widely regarded as one of the best forwards of his generation.
Well liked by seemingly everyone except Andy Cole, he put in long stints at Millwall, then Tottenham, before making a huge impact in his 4 years at Manchester United including winning the treble and 3 league titles in a row, then heading back to Tottenham and finishing off at West Ham for 3 seasons.
Not to mention a decade long international career with 51 caps and 11 goals, plus a few celebrity relationships…
Charlie is a striker like his dad, but unfortunately, despite getting a similar start in the academy at Millwall, he just wasn’t good enough to play professional football.
Numerous loan spells at lower league clubs never came to anything, although he found form in non-league football where he has had a few successful but short stays at Dartford. It seems though that he just never had the ability to play league football.
Needless to say, Charlie has never won anything.
Footballers with Famous Sons
Frank Snr and Frank Lampard
As a key member of the England squad and the Chelsea team throughout the noughties up until around 2015, Frank Lampard was a household name for over a decade.
His father, Frank Snr, was a key member of his team during his time as a player too, but that team was West Ham, and he was only capped for England twice. He may have been a household name, but only in East London.
While Frank Snr won a few FA Cups and is still a legend for the Hammers, few outside of the Claret and Blues would remember him these days if it wasn’t for his son.
Frank Jnr, on the other hand, has 3 Premier League winners medals, 4 FA Cups, 2 League Cup wins, a UEFA Europa League, and a Champions League win under his belt, all with Chelsea. Not to mention an Inter Toto Cup win with West Ham during his earlier years. He has countless personal honours, is in the top 10 most capped England players of all time, and was inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2021.
Most people would be happy with a career like Frank Snr’s, who was a one club man for his 20 year career apart from a final season at Southend, but there is no hiding the fact that Frank Jnr has outshone him.
These days Frank Snr is retired but he did work as an assistant manager, again back at West Ham, under his brother in law Harry Redknapp, and while his son was playing there too. Frank Jnr has gone into management too, with spells at Derby, Chelsea, and Everton, although he was a much better player than he has been a manager to date.
Harry and Jamie Redknapp
Harry is probably more famous than Jamie these days, what with his managerial career and celebrity appearances on reality TV shows, but in terms of playing careers, we reckon Jamie wins.
Harry came through Tottenham’s youth scheme in the late 50s and early 60s, but it was at Division 1 side West Ham that he got his professional debut, and remained with them in midfield for 7 years.
He then played at Division 3 side Bournemouth with a regular spot for 4 seasons, before spending 4 years in America as a player/coach for the Seattle Sounders. This began his career in management.
He never represented his country or won anything as a player, despite a full and respectable career, while his son, Jamie, managed a League Cup, a Charity Shield, and UEFA Super Cup, all with Liverpool. He played for England on 17 occasions too, scoring once.
Also a midfielder, Jamie would probably have achieved much more on the pitch had it not been for injury problems. He was respected for his ability to create space and pass the ball with impressive skill, but was also termed a ‘spice boy’ since he was frequently used in commercials and marketing thanks to his good looks.
Ultimately, plagued by injuries, his career was stifled and then ended on the advice of his medical team.
He too is something of a celebrity nowadays, and a regular pundit, but didn’t follow his father into management, where Harry has gained a reputation for managing middle of the table teams with a no nonsense attitude, as well as bagging a few honours such as an FA Cup with Portsmouth in 2008.
Interestingly, Jamie is cousins with Frank Lampard via his mother, Sandra, who is the twin of Lampard’s mother, Patricia.
Mark Chamberlain and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain
Defenders never get the same sort of glory as those who score and create goals, but their playing positions are not the only things separating this father and son.
Mark made a good career for himself, starting off down in the Fourth Division with Port Vale (where he played with his brother, Neville, and would swap shirts at half time to confuse the opposition), before being sold to First Division side Stoke City, then hopping across to Sheffield Wednesday to play top flight football again after Stoke were relegated in 1985.
Spells at Portsmouth, Brighton and Exeter followed in the second half of his career where he played in the Second and Third Division, but wherever he ended up Mark never struggled for first team football, becoming a regular fixture wherever he went.
He never won anything, but was capped for England 8 times and even scored once, being busiest during the Euro ’84 campaign.
Mark has two sons, the youngest of which, Christian, has struggled to find a permanent home sadly, and plays non-league football.
His oldest though, Alex, is going great guns.
Getting his professional debut at just 16 with Southampton, not only is he the youngest player to score in UEFA Champions League history, but by the age of 23 he had won 3 FA Cups and 3 Charity Shields with Arsenal, being a regular in midfield for them since he was 18.
A big move to Liverpool in 2017 went well, but towards the end of the season a devastating knee injury put him out of action for the whole of the 2018/19 campaign, as well as ruling him out for the 2018 World Cup.
He has still represented England 35 times from 2012 – 2019 though, scoring 7 goals, and added a Premier League win, an EFL Cup, a UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, and a Champions League winners medal to his tally while at Liverpool.
Periko and Xabi Alonso
One from the continent now.
Miguel Angel ‘Periko’ Alonso made his name playing as a midfielder, most notably for Real Sociedad and Barcelona, but starting at San Sebastian and finishing at Sabadell.
His best years were those at Real Sociedad, during which he was a firm fixture and won La Liga twice in 5 seasons at the club. This was also when his international career was in full swing, although it only lasted 2 years, with ‘Periko’ playing 20 times and scoring once.
He won La Liga again with Barcelona in 1985 but only played 54 times during his 3 years there, going into low level management once his playing days were over, finishing off back at Real Sociedad before he retired.
Not bad, you might think. But look at his son, Xabi. You might have heard of him.
A World Cup winner in 2010 and a two time UEFA European Championship winner in 2008 and 2012, Xabi is in the top 10 most capped players for Spain with 114 appearances and 16 goals.
He was given his professional debut at Real Sociedad where his… Dad… had had so much success. He was also there for the brief period of time that Periko was in charge.
Nepotism or not, he excelled at Real long after his father retired, attracting Rafa Benitez to sign him for Liverpool in 2005, where he was part of the transformation of the club. He won the FA Cup and the Champions League there amongst other trophies, in a 5 year stint that only ended when Real Madrid opened their cheque book.
Back in Spain he won La Liga and another Champions League trophy plus 2 Copa del Reys, and after 6 seasons Bayern Munich were willing to pay to take the defensive midfielder to Germany, despite him being 33 years old.
Most people slow down as they get older but Xabi 3 more good seasons in him, winning the Bundesliga in every one of them, as well as a DFB-Pokal and a DFL-Supercup.
He retired from playing in 2017.
Why do Sons Follow Their Fathers into Football?
Actually, this isn’t specific to football.
Young boys have been following in their father’s footsteps for time immemorial, ever since the natural way of things was to take over the family farm, or blacksmith, or fletcher, or whatever it was, when the old man got too… well, old.
How many businesses are there that are called things like “Johnson and Son: General Contractor”, or “Phillips and Sons Plastering”? You’ll start noticing it all the time now you’ve read this.
Part of it is to do with tradition, part of it is to do with kids wanting to emulate their fathers, and part of it is to do with early influences.
Having a father who is a footballer means the child will grow up around football, will probably play from a very early age and with top notch coaching too, and will have access to what goes on behind the scenes of the game.
This sort of thing will obviously have an impact on them.
There is also the psychology aspect.
Their fathers have done well by following the football route, and they have shown that it is possible too, so it feels safe and achievable.
This career path might actually be pushed by the father as well, who perhaps thinks that without football they would have been much worse off, and with the money available to even league 2 players these days (the average is about £1,000 a week), it’s a way to earn £50k+ for 20 years or so without needing to get a degree.
Sticking to what we know is typical human behaviour, it’s why we take the same routes when travelling and shop in the same places – it’s how we survived back when we were still living in caves.
Following Dad into the family business is another example of that.
How Much Nepotism is Involved?
There are a great many footballers whose fathers are ex professionals. Yet, less than 1% of young boys who join academies at the age of 9 end up being a professional, at any level – that’s just 1 in every 200 boys. It’s undeniable then that having a footballing super star as your dad must help if you want to go down the same path.
It’s hard to imagine Real Madrid slamming the door in Ronaldo’s face, for instance, if he asked them to take a look at his lad. If I gave them a ring and asked them to consider my son for a trial they might well hang up though.
Also, who’s going to have to stones to call Ronaldo and tell him that they are dropping his son from the under 16’s?
As a case in point, at one stage, Zinedine Zidane had all FOUR of his sons in the youth teams while he was manager of Real Madrid. You can’t tell us that they all just happened to be the kind of young players Real were looking for at the time.
So nepotism is alive and well in football for sure, but the player in question still has to have ability. Having a famous father is not going to be much help if you weigh 16 stone at 18 years old and can’t run to save your life.
The level of ability is an interesting talking point though.
We aren’t picking on Ronaldo’s kid here, we have no idea if he can play or not, but using him as an imaginary example; if he played to the exact same standard as little Miguel whose father was a market stall vendor in rural Spain, do you think one would have more success in professional football than the other?
We think Ronaldo’s kid would have much more chance of being signed, and then of being played too. At least initially.
Fathers who go into management consistently sign their offspring for the club they are managing too. Steve Bruce singed his son Alex for Birmingham, and then later for Hull; Gary Johnson signed his son Lee on a free transfer for Yeovil Town, then took him to Bristol City 8 months after he left; even Fergie, the greatest manager of all time, wasn’t immune to it, bringing his son Darren through the youth ranks at Man Utd and giving him his debut. The list goes on.
All in all, it seems fair to say that nepotism can get you through the door and maybe even give you a slight advantage in the early to middle stages of your career, but if you want to be a real success then you will need much more than paternal connections.
Fathers and Sons in Footballs: Facts and Trivia
Similarly to our piece about footballing brothers, we thought we would help you out with the pub quiz by throwing together a few fun little factoids about fathers and sons in football.
If pub quizzes aren’t your thing, then you can use them to dazzle your mates next time you get together to watch a game, or to bore your girlfriend with next time you feel like annoying her.
Here you go then:
- Father and Son Playing in Same Game – This has happened a number of times actually, but the best story is that of Alexei Eremenko Senior, who played with his son Junior at Finnish club HJK Helsinki, but then moved to FC Jaro where he played with his other son, Roman. Even better, the brothers then played together for a Russian club called Rubin Kazan as well as the Finnish national team.
- Father and Son in Same National Team – While they didn’t technically play together, Eidur Gudjohnsen replaced his father, Arnor, while both representing Iceland in a friendly against Estonia in 1996. It was Eidur’s international debut too.
- Father and Son Referees – Remarkably, in 2009 Clive Oliver and his son, Michael, both ended up at Wembley on consecutive days, overseeing two playoff finals; Shrewsbury vs Gillingham (League 2), and Scunthorpe vs Millwall (League 1).
- Funny Fathers Name – This is really crowbarred in, and you probably already know about it, but Gary and Phil Neville of Manchester United’s Class of ’92 fame, were sired by a man named Neville. Neville Neville – that was his real name!
That was fun wasn’t it?
Now go an show off and pretend you’ve known this stuff for ages because you are a walking Encyclopaedia of football knowledge.