Modern day footballers are elite athletes, with mesmerizing fitness levels and astonishing physical abilities. Many of the top footballers in the world currently are casually termed as being naturally gifted, while some, like Cristiano Ronaldo, are a result of pure hard work and dedication. There is a third category in this list as well, the one which has players who have football in their blood, hereditary talent.
While the failures of many second-generation footballers are often well documented, there are still a few top footballers who have actually outshone their own fathers in this profession. While football may be in their bloodline, it is their hard work and talent, which has enabled such players to get out of their father’s shadow and truly carve a niche for themselves in this sport. While it can be argued that having a professional footballer as a father is beneficial for a player’s chances of being selected in teams, without hard work a lot of these star kids disappear into anonymity.
Let’s take a look at some of the successful second-generation footballers who had better playing careers than their fathers.
15. Eidur Gudjohnsen
One of the most iconic father-son duos in world football, particularly because it was the first time ever that a player was substituted for his own son in an international match. This incident happened in 1996 during Iceland’s friendly against Estonia, when 34-year-old Arnor Gudjohnsen was substituted and his replacement was his 17-year-old son Eidur Gudjohnsen, who was making his debut. Just like his father, Eidur was also a striker, renowned for his positioning skills as well as his general gameplay.
While Ardor enjoyed relative success at club level with the likes of Anderlecht and Brodeaux, his son went a step ahead and went on to play a crucial role for two of Europe’s biggest clubs i.e. Chelsea and Barcelona, winning league titles at both the clubs. Eidur is also Iceland’s all time leading scorer, and even made a final appearance in the 2016 European Championships, at the grand old age of 38.
14. Juan Sebastian Veron
The Verons were a prominent football family from Argentina, with Juan Ramon and his son Juan Sebastian both nicknamed ‘La Bruja’ (The Witch) and ‘La Brujita’ (Little Witch) respectively.
Juan Ramon Veron was a highly acclaimed forward in the 60s, and is considered a legend at Estudiantes, where he scored over 120 goals in a career spanning a decade. Despite his exploits at club level, he could never really establish himself at the international stage, playing only four matches for Argentina.
His son, however, was a key figure in Argentinian football in the early 2000s. Juan Sebastian Veron was one of the most sought after midfielders in the world after some dominating performances in the Serie A for Sampdoria, Parma and Lazio. Just like his father, he started his career at Estudiantes, before establishing himself in the Italian Serie A. Though his career bombed after his failed transfer to the English Premier League, Veron had achieved enough in his career to be listed as one of the 125 greatest living footballers, a list created by Pele as part of FIFA’s centenary celebrations in 2004.
Thiago Alcantara is one of the premium central midfielders in the world today, with his range of passing universally appreciated. His father is former Brazilian defensive midfielder Mazinho, who was a member of the squad, which won the FIFA World Cup in 1994 as well as the Copa America in 1989. Despite this, Mazinho never played for a top club, with Valencia being the most high profile club of his career.
In contrast, his son Thiago, who is just 25, has already played for two out of the three biggest football clubs in the world i.e. Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Thiago opted for Spanish citizenship in his youth, and has turned out for Spain at every youth level, as well as made 17 appearances for the senior team. He has won 7 league titles in Spain and Germany already, and has also won the Champions League twice with Barcelona. With his best years still ahead of him, Thiago will surely be one of the modern midfield greats in his prime.
12. Diego Forlan
One of the most lethal forwards of the previous decade, Diego Forlan had a brilliant career in Europe, particularly in the Spanish La Liga, where he won the Pichichi award (Golden Boot) twice, for Villarreal in 2004, and for Atletico Madrid in 2009. For his country, Forland was capped 112 times, behind only Maxi Pereira, and scored 36 goals. His crowning moment came towards the end of his career at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as he saved the best for the last. Forlan was tied with Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder and David Villa for scoring the most goals in the tournament, and he was also awarded the Golden Ball for being the best player of the tournament, as Uruguay finished 3rd.
His father, Pablo Forlan, was also a professional footballer who never ventured outside South America during his career. He won 7 Uruguayan League titles along with a Cope Libertadores title in the 1960s. Unlike his more illustrious son, he was a defender who played for his country just 17 times.
11. Miroslav Klose
Josef Klose was a relatively popular Polish forward back in his day. He prominently featured for French club Auxerre and helped them achieve promotion to Ligue 1 as well. He joined Auxerre in 1978, the same year his wife gave birth to a boy who would go on to become one of the greatest goal scorers in International Football. Miroslav Klose was born in Poland, before his family migrated to Germany, where he grew up and took up football professionally. Despite being a late bloomer at club level, Klose really enhanced his performances each time he represented his country. He is Germany’s all time record goal scorer, with 71 goals, and the team has actually never lost a game in which he had scored.
His biggest achievement is being recognized as the player with the highest number of goals in FIFA World Cup history, as he broke Ronaldo Lima’s record of 15 goals when he scored at the 2014 World Cup.
10. Ignazio Abate
Ignazio Abaté is one of the fastest footballers on the planet. The Milan vice-captain is a former winger, who was converted to a right back due to his brilliant man-marking skills. His marauding runs down the right flank are a source of several goals that Milan score every season. The Italian wingback has played 22 times for his country, scoring solitary goal against Germany in a friendly. He has played over 250 matches for Milan, and was instrumental in the 2011 league triumph, providing countless assists from the edge of the box as well as putting in solid defensive performances. His work rate is his biggest asset after his speed and he always gives it his all in every match, a trait which has made him a fan favorite at San Siro.
Unlike Ignazio, his father was a goalkeeper who played for several clubs in the Serie A. Beniamino Abate played for Udinese, Cagliari and even Inter eventually, racking up around 260 league appearances. However, he never made it to the national team, and is currently working as a youth coach for his son’s club i.e. Milan.
9. Christian Vieri
Vieri was another lethal Italian striker who had the distinction of playing for all three of Italy’s biggest clubs i.e. Juventus, Milan and Inter. He played for a total of nine different Italian clubs, with his most successful stint being at Inter Milan, where he scored 103 league goals in 143 matches. He also enjoyed a prolific season at Atletico Madrid, scoring 24-league goals enroute to winning the Pichichi trophy in 1998. In total, the forward scored 236 goals in 476 matches at a rate of almost a goal every other game. He also had a solid international career, scoring 23 goals in 49 appearances between 1997 and 2005. Pelé named him as one of the 125 greatest footballers in the world in 2005.
Christian’s father, Roberto Vieri also had a nomadic career in Italian football, playing for six different clubs in Italy. After enjoying relative success at Sampdoria, he was snapped up by Juventus for a then record fee. However, his career was short lived and he couldn’t recreate the magic he produced at Sampdoria again. Eventually, in 1983, Roberto Vieri shifted to Australia and moved into management.
8. Sergio Busquets
Sergio Busquets is the son of Carles Busquets, who was a former goalkeeper for FC Barcelona. Carles was never effectively the first choice keeper for The Blaugrana, but still went on to make over a 100 appearances for the club. After retiring, Carles joined FC Barcelona again, this time as a goalkeeping coach, and is still on their wage bill as of 2017.
Meanwhile, Sergio Busquets is a firm regular in the Barcelona setup, as an anchor man behind all their fluid attacking football. Widely rated as the best defensive midfielder in the world today, Busquets’ passing and tackling ability in midfield is second to none. Despite being only 28 years old, Busquets has racked up more than 400 appearances for Barcelona and is also nearing 100 caps for Spain, for whom he was extremely pivotal in the successful 2010 FIFA World Cup campaign as well as the Euro 2012 title.
7. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Pierre Aubameyang spent almost his entire career playing in France, with a stint at Toulouse particularly appreciated. He was one of the most celebrated Gabonese footballers of his time, and went on to make 80 appearances for Gabon.
His son, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang carried forward his legacy and his now the captain of Gabon. Pierre-Emerik is one of the most dynamic attacking players in the world today, with is blistering pace a sight to behold. Borussia Dortmund’s star striker has been in impeccable form in recent seasons, and every year the top clubs in the world circulate around him like vultures waiting to snap. The striker scored 39 goals last season, which resulted in him being named as the Bundesliga Player Of The year. This year, he has again been on fire, with 16 league goals in just 15 matches so far. Pierre-Emerik has truly outshone his own father, and big things lie ahead for the Gabonese speedster.
6. Geoff Hurst
Geoff Hurst is one of the most celebrated figures in English Football history. The West Ham United legend scored 299 goals across his career spanning 17 years, with most of them coming at Upton Park. However, Hurst will always be remembered primarily for his stunning hat trick in the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final against West Germany, as England went on to win their maiden title with a 4-2 victory. He permanently etched his name into English Football folklore with that performance, as that remains, till date, the nation’s only ever major International honor. After his playing career, Hurst entered the managerial scene, and even managed Chelsea temporarily before retiring from all forms of the game, and eventually becoming one of the very few players who were knighted.
Geoff’s father, Charlie Hurst, was also a professional footballer but his career was greatly affected by World War 2, and he could never make an international appearance for England. Unlike his son, Charlie Hurst was a center back who enjoyed relative success at Bristol Rovers and Oldham among others, before retiring and taking up a job as a tool maker.
5. Gonzalo Higuain
Gonzalo Higuain is currently one of the biggest names in world football. The much sought after Argentinian striker was recently purchased in a record breaking $105 million deal by Juventus from Napoli, where he had lit the Serie A on fire with his prolific exploits. Higuain started his European career at Real Madrid, scoring over a hundred league goals in six seasons before being shipped off to Napoli, where he established himself as one of the deadliest strikers in the game. A stunning record of 91 goals in just three seasons at Napoli saw him earn a big transfer to Juventus, where he is well on course to win the league title this season, to add to his 3 league titles at Real Madrid. He has scored 31 goals in 67 matches for Argentina, as he continues to start ahead of world class talents such as Sergio Aguero. Still only 29, Higuain has got a lot of goals left in him and big things are expected from El Pipita, a nickname he derived from his father, also a professional footballer.
Jorgé Higuain was an Argentinian fullback who was renowned for scoring plenty of goals, despite being a defender. Though he enjoyed spells at the biggest Argentinian clubs such as Boca Juniors, River Plate etc, he could never make an appearance for his national team.
4. Radamel Falcao
Radamel Falcao is a second generation Colombian footballer as well, with his father Radamel Garcia a professional footballer as well, plying his trade in Colombia as well as Venezeuela in the 70s. Radamel Garcia was a no-nonsese defender, famous for his distinctive mullet hairstyle. However, he could never make name for himself in Colombian football.
In contrast, Radamel Falcao is regarded as one of the all time greatest Colombian Footballers. The versatile striker was one of the most lethal forwards in the game before an anterior cruciate injury threatened to end his career in 2014. Falcao scored 142 goals in just 178 matches for FC Porto and Atletico Madrid between 2009 and 2013. He is also the joint highest scorer for the Colombian National Team, justifying his idol worship by Colombians everywhere. One of his biggest achievements was scoring a stunning hat trick against European Champions Chelsea to win the UEFA Super Cup for Atletico Madrid. Despite his average height, Falcao is considered as one of the best headers of the ball in the game.
3. Xabi Alonso
Miguel Alonso was a relatively successful Spanish footballer in the late 70s and early 80s, enjoying quite a bit of success with Real Sociedad, where he won 2 consecutive La Liga titles, and then with FC Barcelona, where he added a 3rd title. He played a total of 273 league games, scoring 42 goals and also appearing for the national team 20 times.
His son, however, went on to play for three of the biggest clubs in the world and has been a mainstay of a supremely talented Spanish squad in recent years. Just like his father, Xabi Alonso also started his career with Real Sociedad, before being snapped up by English giants Liverpool in 2004. It was in the Premier League that he truly established himself as one of the finest passers in the world, and also scored a couple of brilliant goals from before the half line. A big transfer to Real Madrid soon followed, and alongside club football, he also crossed the 100 matches milestone for Spain, winning the World Cup in 2010 along with Euro 2008 and 2012 respectively. Currently playing for Bayern Munich, Alonso exudes pure class on the pitch and is highly respected in world football.
2. Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard Jr. is a true legend of the modern game. Chelsea’s all time highest goal scorer definitely carved a niche for himself as a modern day box to box midfielder, and will always be regarded as one of the best players to have ever played for England. 913 matches and a staggering 273 goals later, it would be safe to say that Lampard is a hugely respected ex footballer. The midfielder won 3 Premier League titles, several Domestic Cup Trophies, 1 UEFA Champions League title as well as one 1 Europa League title during his stint at Chelsea, where the Stamford Bridge faithful worship him. However, before Chelsea, Lampard started his career a few miles away at West Ham, a club where is father is still revered as a legend.
Frank Lampard Sr, amassed over 600 appearances for The Hammers, mainly in the 70’s, and played a vital role in 2 FA Cup titles. However, he was very under appreciated and couldn’t cement a place in the international squad. It would be safe to say that his son went on to achieve everything that he couldn’t, and completely outshone him as a professional footballer.
1. Paolo Maldini
The epitome of a one-club man, Paolo Maldini will go down in history as probably the greatest defender to have ever played the beautiful game. In a career spanning 25 years, the former Italian captain won a staggering 26 trophies, including five Champions League titles, more than any other player in the modern era. He also won the Serie A title seven times and holds several longevity-based records such as making the highest appearances in the Serie A and playing the most minutes in FIFA World Cup history. On 28th May 2003, Maldini captained Milan on their way to Champions League glory, defeating Juventus on penalties. In an amazing coincidence, exactly 40 years ago, on the exact same date, his father Cesare Maldini also lifted the European Cup as Milan’s captain, in a final also played in England.
Just like his son, Cesare Maldini was also the captain of both Milan and Italy, during the early 60s. He won four league titles and one Champions League with Milan, before moving to Torino in 1966. He is considered as a Milan legend as well, but his son went on to truly outshine him eventually and be considered an all time legend of the game.
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