Italian sports paper, Gazzetta dello Sport, this week ran a story claiming that Manchester United are preparing a bid for Enzo Zidane, the 16 year-old son of France legend, Zinedine Zidane Jr. is a midfielder, like his dad, and apparently would welcome a move to Old Trafford in order to nurture his talent under the great Sir Alex Ferguson. The youngster currently plays for Real Madrid’s youth team along with his younger brothers, Luca and Theo. All three have incredibly large shoes to fill as their father is not only one of the most decorated footballers of all time, but also considered one of the most talented ever.
Reports on Enzo describe a potentially promising future ahead, but for now we will have to wait and see. In the meantime, I have been thinking about famous footballing fathers and sons, wondering whether having a footballing dad helps a youngster achieve what he wants, or whether the pressure to succeed and perform to a similar standard is too much to handle.
Cesare and Paolo Maldini:
Possibly the most famous father and son footballers, Paolo actually lifted the Champions League trophy in 2003 as captain of AC Milan exactly 40 years from the day his father captained the Rossoneri to a European Cup triumph. Paolo played his entire 24-year career at the San Siro before retiring in 2009 having won 5 European Cups and 7 Serie A titles. He played 126 times for his country and actually captained Italy at the 1998 World Cup whilst Cesare was manager.
Arnor and Eidur Gudjohnsen:
The most interesting feature of this Icelandic father and son duo is that Eidur replaced his father, Arnor, during Iceland’s 3-0 friendly win against Estonia in 1996. Eidur is the more recognisable of the two having featured prominently in the Premier League for Bolton and Chelsea and won the Champions League with Barcelona. Arnor attained over 70 International caps and is currently Eidur’s agent.
Frank Lampard Sr. and Frank Lampard Jr.:
Lampard Jr. followed his father by playing for West Ham, but Lampard Sr. played over 500 times for the Hammers over an eighteen year period when he won two FA Cups, whereas Lampard Jr. made a move across London to Chelsea in 2001. Since his switch, Lampard Jr. has won three Premier League titles and three FA Cups and featured 85 times for England.
Miguel and Xabi Alonso:
Miguel was a widely respected midfielder plying his trade at Real Sociedad during the late 1970s and early 1980s where he won two La Liga titles before switching to Barcelona after the 1982 World Cup. His son, Xabi, also had a successful development at Sociedad before joining Liverpool in 2004, winning the Champions League and FA Cup during a five-year spell at Anfield. Younger Alonso now plays for Spanish giants, Real Madrid and was an integral member of Spain’s victorious World Cup squad in 2010.
Not every son of a footballer has been able to emulate their father’s talent and here are the unlucky few who made it as a professional but struggled to achieve the heights of their fathers…
Johan and Jordi Cruyff:
Johan is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time and was the most famous exponent of ‘Total Football,’ a philosophy adopted by Ajax and the Dutch national team in the 1970s. He won three Ballon d’Ors and three European Cups during immensely successful spells with Ajax, Barcelona and Feyenord. His son, Jordi, looked destined for similar stardom having started his career under his father at Barcelona before moving to Manchester United after playing for Holland at Euro ’96. Jordi struggled with injuries during his four-year tenure at Old Trafford and ended his career in unspectacular fashion playing for Valletta in Malta.
Kenny and Paul Dalglish:
Kenny Dalglish enjoyed a trophy-filled glittering career as both a player and a manger with Liverpool and Celtic. He guided Blackburn to Premier League supremacy in 1996 and is now back at Anfield hoping to guide his beloved Liverpool back to the top of the English game. Kenny signed his son Paul for Newcastle but he failed to follow in his father’s footsteps, instead embarking on a career as a lower-level journeyman. Paul has turned out for Norwich City, Blackpool, Hibernian, Kilmarnock and Houston Dynamo, amongst others, and is now the director of football at the Texas-based club.
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Steve and Alex Bruce:
The elder Bruce captained Manchester United during their decade of domination in the 1990s and eventually retired with an impressive haul of honours. He turned his hand to management, guiding Birmingham City to Premiership promotion and has established a respected reputation in the game. He promoted his son, Alex, to the first-team during his spell in charge of the St Andrew’s club but was forced to sell him after accusations of nepotism were brought against the current Sunderland boss. Alex has never come close to reaching the same heights as his famous father, and has mostly played on loan at a number of Football League clubs. Now aged 26, it is unlikely he will ever get the chance to emulate his dad.
All football fans will be excited to follow the progress of Zidane Jr. and hope he can deliver even half of what his father achieved. However, history suggests that a genetic hand-down of talent isn’t always guaranteed, although a number of sons have been able to out-perform their famous fathers. If this was the case, I’d recommend keeping a close eye on two year-old Benjamin Aguero, whose father, Sergio, is currently one of the hottest striking properties in Europe, and whose grandfather, Diego Maradona, is considered the greatest player to ever grace a football pitch.