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There is a child in the world who’s father is Sergio Aguero; his Grandfather is Diego Maradona; and his Godfather is none other than Lionel Messi. No pressure there son. When Brooklyn Beckham was born, bookies were giving 1000-1 odds that he would play for England before he could even walk (down to 66-1 by the time he was 3). In 1992, crane driver Eddie Kirkland bet £100 that his then 11 year old son Chris would play for England one day, and that bet netted him £10,000 in 2006 when Chris came on as a sub in a friendly against Greece. The same happened for Harry Wilson‘s grandfather (an electrical contractor) after a 16 year old Harry made his debut for Wales in 2013, earning his grandfather a cool £125,000 from a £50 bet (2,500-1) that he made when Harry was a toddler back in 2000.
This poses the question – are footballers born or made? Can football and DNA be linked in this way? Is the child of a successful footballer destined to follow in his father’s footsteps? Do we give a sh*t? In this article, we will explore the possibility of whether we can realistically connect football ability to DNA and genealogy. We will look at players whose immediate ancestry have also succeeded in the football world, and compare some current players to their respective heritage and origins by looking at each in the context of the CM/FM World, in the hope that we will produce some interesting results and potentially a brand new save idea now that we are halfway through FM19.
Born and not made? 🔥
“It’s in his blood” … “Runs in the family” … “Takes after his old man” … “Gets it from his mother” – phrases all of us have probably heard at some point in our lives. Without getting overly scientific and into the biology of it all, we know that people naturally inherit certain traits, characteristics, habits and tendencies from their parents…and history would suggest that this also applies to talent and skill, particularly in football where we have seen many successful fathers, sons, siblings, relations etc all play and succeed at the highest levels within the game. This does not necessarily mean that the child of a successful player is guaranteed to be as talented or successful as their mother or father etc – but it would certainly seem that a combination of their genes and their early exposure & natural ability to take to the talent/sport of their parent at an early age does lead to a somewhat pre-destined path to success in that field, and later we will explore some examples of where this has clearly been evident/not so evident within the football/FM universe.
Before we proceed to test out our theories, I will first use two non-football examples of where I feel we see a clear contrast between the concepts of “Born” and “Made” talent – not that these will be specifically exclusive to each example, but research and general opinion seems to suggest that one of these is considered to be a natural “born” talent, while the other has reached the pinnacle of their sport by working towards it through endless hours of practice and lessons from the moment they were old enough to play, and therefore a more “made” talent based on that context.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is considered to be the most naturally gifted snooker player of all time, so much so that snooker legend Steve Davis once said that he has “never seen anybody who looks as at one with the table as Ronnie. It’s the epitome of someone born to play the game.” This is not to say that O’Sullivan hasn’t worked as hard as anyone else and doesn’t put in 6-8 hours of practice a day – but rather that his approach and natural talent and technique are clearly illustrated every time he comes to the table, and it is this natural talent that puts him at the top of his field ahead of the chasing pack. Years spent in snooker clubs with his dad (he had his first century aged 10) led him to becoming the youngest player to win the Masters (aged 19 and 69 days) and he has since broken records for the most maximum breaks in a competition (13) as well as holding the record for the fastest 147 ever.
But what is it that makes O’Sullivan so good and more so what distinguishes him as a natural born snooker player? O’Sullivan himself is quoted as saying “I think most people think I was born with a cue in my hand and that when I get on the table it’s all a piece of cake…but that’s not the reality. I have to work hard.” This is very true – any sportsman or athlete at the top of their game does have to work hard in order to reach the peak of their own discipline – however it is O’Sullivan’s natural ability and talent that have made him the best; in a sport where every player trains and practices for hours and players are starting younger and younger every year, O’Sullivan’s inherent instinctual ability is what differentiates him from the rest and the main reason why snooker commentators and enthusiasts alike constantly refer to him as a “born snooker player” and the most naturally talented to ever hold a queue. Even when not 100% on top of his form, O’Sullivan has shown the ability to literally switch it back on and play shots that few players have and will ever be able to pull off. So powerful is his natural talent and ability that, as his former manager Jason Francis acknowledges regarding O’Sullivan’s one year career break back in 2012 – “I can’t think of any other sport where a world champion can literally put his feet up for a year and come back and still win it” This is an absolute testament to the fact that O’Sullivan is the closest thing you can find to a naturally born talent.
Let’s not for a minute dispute that Rory McIlroy is not one of the greatest talents to ever embrace the game, nor that he hasn’t potentially inherited his undeniable skill and natural ability from his father who himself was a scratch golfer at one point. However, for the purposes of this comparison, I look at McIlroy as someone whose skill and ability developed at an incredibly young age through hours upon hours of practice, lessons, dedication and work rate (starting to sound more like FM now 😌). At the age of just 2 or 3 McIlroy was rarely seen without a miniature golf club in his hand, so much so that he was known to bring it to bed with him at night such was his love for the game at that age. For most kids this would usualy have been a phase or hobby however it ws clear that McIlroy clearly had an unmistakable aptitude and potential for the game – to the point where both his father and mother worked a number of extra jobs in order to fund Rory’s golf lessons, education and development. Rory started and continued golf lessons from a very young age and eventually left school at age 16 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional golfer.
McIlroy turned Pro at age 17 and the rest as we know is history – for the past 10 years McIlroy has won tournaments and trophies across the globe however it is clear that he continues to have to work extremely hard not just technically but also physically and mentally in order to maintain and improve his form. When Rory first embarked on the tour he was a short, skinny guy from the North of Ireland whose hair was the only thing bulky about him – however a rigorous and publicly shared training routine has seen a huge change in his physique and strength, thus enabling him to hit the ball further and compete with the biggest hitting players on the tour. Mentally, we have seen Rory go through a number of transitions in terms of his professional and personal life, whereby we have seen changes to his caddy and coaches at different times and this also has impacted his game. Technically, Rory was always considered to have one of the best swings on the tour however he has continually worked on changing and adapting his swing which again has seen divergences in his form and consistency.
All of the above in no way takes away from the fact that Rory is a rare and unique talent, however what we can see is that in order to get where he is today and to continue to meet his own goals and exceed expectations, he has had to put in a huge amount of work, practice and training and for that reason I see him as a slightly more “made” talent due to the hugely impressive amount of time and effort he has put in to become one of the world’s best golfers.
Enough non-football talk!
Apologies for going on a bit of a tangent there however I feel that the above examples give us a good base with which to think about how some individuals are born with certain talents and how others can become equally talented through dedication, perseverance and hard-work. This sets us up nicely to start thinking about Football DNA and consider how football ability and skill often appear to be passed from generation to generation; in order for us to analyse this and put it to the test, we will look at examples of where we have seen successful footballers whose fathers/sons also succeeded at the highest level, as well as look at cases where we can clearly see that football seems to “run in the family”.
Like Father, Like Son
We have seen a number of players emerge over the years whose fathers were also extremely successful within the game, and in this section we will analyse players who not only have footballing parentage but also have developed and succeeded in the exact same position.
Peter and Kasper Schmeichel
Arguably one of the more iconic father & son duos of the modern era, Peter and Kasper Schmeichel are the perfect example of what we are calling Football DNA and how the son of a successful footballer has not only followed exactly in his father’s footsteps by playing in the same position and league as his old man, but also a successful illustration of how to step out of your famous father’s shadow and completely earn your own right as one of the top keepers in the Premier League as well as your own country. While a common stereotype is that it can be very challenging to carry that name on the back of your shirt particularly when you play in the same position as your more successful father, Kasper rose above the early hype and pressure to become the #1 keeper for Denmark as well as being a key figure in Leicester’s remarkable Premier League winning side in 2016.
Interestingly, while Peter enjoyed most of his success at Manchester United, it was at Manchester City that Kasper kicked off his career, where he stayed for 5 years before successful stints at Notts County and Leeds led to his move to Leicester City in 2011 where he was signed for a third time by former England Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, and from then on has held the #1 jersey for both club and country.
How do they compare?
Obviously Peter was the more successful of the pair, however Kasper has more than held his own in proving himself to be a world class goalkeeper and is a prime example of how to deal with the hype and pressure that so many young players have to deal with in football, particularly those who have big shoes to fill and have had to develop in the shadow of such a successful parent.
Mazinho, Thiago and Rafinha
If any of you are asking “Who the f*ck is Mazinho?!” – you will most likely recognize him as the guy who along with Romario and Bebeto performed the now famous “Three Men and a Baby” goal celebration at USA 1994.
Not only did Mazinho win both a World Cup and a Copa America with Brazil during his 35 caps for his country, he is also the father of not one but two extremely talented players who currently ply their trade at Bayern Munich and Barcelona respectively. Thiago Alcantara, who moved from Barcelona to Bayern in 2015 for a fee of €25 million, and his brother Rafinha who is currently contracted to Barcelona and on loan at Inter Milan at present. Both brothers have had mixed fortunes on the field in the past few years; Thiago has undoubtedly been the more successful, his move to Bayern arising after new manager Pep Guardiola told the Bayern board “He is the only player that I want. It will be him or no one.“. Rafinha on the other hand has shown glimpses of brilliance however his career has been hampered by injury over the past few seasons.
What is interesting about this father and son(s) combination is that all three players are classified as Central Midfielders – Mazinho traditionally holding a more defensive role, Thiago a slightly more technical and creative playmaker and Rafinha operating in a more advanced attacking midfield role. Also interesting is that fact that all three are fully capped internationals however not for the same country!! While Mazinho (35 caps) and Rafinha (2 caps) have played for the Brazilian National Team, Thiago chose a different path and to date has 31 caps for Spain’s International side.
How do they compare?
On paper Thiago looks to be the stronger of the three, both in terms of attributes and honours won – I hadn’t realised what a good player Rafinha is however, and hopefully he can get past his injury woes and prove his quality. Being completely honest I didn’t even realise that both were (a) brothers and (b) sons of a Brazilian World Cup winner, so the initial evidence does suggest that Football DNA is a real concept.
Cesare and Paolo Maldini
In addition to being a highly successful manager at domestic and international level, Cesare Maldini also played at the highest level for both club and country. He spent 12 seasons at Milan from 1954 to 1966, winning 4 league titles, one European Cup and becoming club captain in 1961. The following year he became Italy national captain and earned 14 caps for his country, as well as being named in the 1962 FIFA World Cup Team of the Tournament. Maldini later managed both Milan and Italy at U-21 and Senior level, and is largely credited for developing players such as Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluigi Buffon and Francesco Totti with whom he won three consecutive European U-21 Championships – the same core players that eventually brought home the World Cup in 2006. Maldini retired from playing football in 1967, and a year later he and his wife celebrated the birth of their son Paolo.
Paolo Maldini needs no introduction. Arguably one of the best defenders of all time, his career spanned 25 seasons at AC Milan where he won 26 trophies and captained the side for over 10 years, as well as earning 126 international caps for Italy for whom he also became Captain following Franco Baresi’s retirement after World Cup 1994. He is one of the most decorated footballers of all time, winning 5 Champions League Trophies and 7 Serie A titles as well as being recognized as one of the most successful “One Club Man” players of all time along with the likes of Carles Puyol, Francesco Totti, Ryan Giggs, Tony Adams and Matt Le Tissier. He also captained Italy for more than 10 years, and despite never winning a trophy (finalists at World Cup 1994 and Euro 2000), he has repeatedly been named in various Teams of the Year and World Cup Dream teams etc.
Interestingly – the Maldini football lineage doesn’t end there. Paolo Maldini’s eldest son Christian was initially on the books at Milan, however never quite made it with the Serie A giants and now plays in the lower league of Italian football. However his younger son Daniel looks to be the real deal, and at the age of just 17 has already been grabbing the headlines after shining for both Milan’s U-17 and Primavera sides. Despite his father and grandfather becoming Italian football legends as defenders, Daniel Maldini largely plays as an Attacking Midfielder or Forward and most recently scored his first goal for the Milan Primavera side in February 2019.
The Apple doesnt fall far from the tree
While the above section looks at players who followed their father’s footsteps and also played and succeeded in the same position – there are many cases where we have seen the offspring of football legends also emulate their parent’s success with a completely different footballing style and playing position – again another interesting factor as we delve into the concept of Football DNA and whether football is passed over through blood and genetics, or through nurturing and exposure to the game at an early age.
Enrico and Federico Chiesa
Anyone who played Championship Manager during the 1990’s and/or followed Italian football during this period will know the name Enrico Chiesa. During a career which spanned over 20 years in Italian football, Chiesa was a prolific goalscorer which usually led him to a big move within the likes of CM2 and CM97/98 although for some reason this never materialised in real life. In reality, Chiesa scored over 200 goals in 500+ appearances, regularly averaging 15-20 goals a season where he starred for clubs such as Sampdoria, Parma, Fiorentina and Lazio.
During a season in which Enrico scored 21 goals in 48 appearances for Parma, his son Federico was born (1997), and it is clear that Federico has certainly inherited some of his father’s footballing talent and attacking instinct on the football pitch. Having joined Fiorentina’s underage side at the age of 10 years old, he signed his first professional contract at the age of 18 and has been a regular in the side since – also earning him his first call-up to the Italian national team in 2018 and gaining 11 caps for his country.
How do they compare?
In FM terms, Enrico trumps in terms of attributes as well as his real life stats – however at just 21 years old at the time of writing, Federico has a huge future ahead of him and if FM is anything to go by (he just signed for Real Madrid in my save! ), I have no doubt that he will have something to say about it in the coming years.
Patrick and Justin Kluivert
What can we say about Patrick Kluivert? Aside from the fact that he somehow once played for my beloved Newcastle United, Kluivert was one of the most prolific high profile Strikers of the 1990’s – from his time as part of the Golden Generation at Ajax where he became the youngest player ever to score in the Champions League final (coming on as an 18 year old substitute to score an 85th minute winner against his future club Milan), to the 6 seasons spent at Barcelona where he averaged 20 goals per season in a lightning partnership with Rivaldo.
Justin Kluivert looks to be on a similar path to greatness, and FM enthusiasts will be well aware of his existence since FM17 where he has always been a high potential youth prospect. Like his father, he started his career with Ajax (scoring his first league goal exactly 10 years after his father’s last one), and also moved to Serie A via an €18.75 million transfer to A.S. Roma in the summer of 2018 where he has shone since and picked up 2 caps for Holland along the way. Rather than playing in a direct Striker role like his father, Justin is usually utilised as a Left Winger or Inside Forward and has already nailed down a first team spot in the Roma squad despite still only being 19 years old.
How do they compare?
Safe to say that even at 19, Justin has a huge future ahead of him and has all the potential to surpass his father’s achievements. The crazy thing is that it doesn’t stop there – Patrick Kluivert, having since remarried after his first marriage, has another son Shane Kluivert who at eleven years old currently plays for Barcelona’s underage team, having previously been on the books at PSG. Eleven!! @FM players – remember the name…
Ian Wright. Shaun Wright-Phillips, Bradley Wright-Phillips
This is a really interesting comparison – not only due to the fact that we have 3 players to analyse, but also the fact that Ian Wright is not Shaun Wright-Phillips’ biological father having officially adopted him when he was just 3 years old. This means that we can look at Ian Wright’s football career and compare it to both his adopted and biological sons’ football ability in an attempt to understand how football ability is passed from generation to generation.
Ian Edward Wright didn’t really come from a footballing background; the son of Jamaican immigrants, he was brought up by his mother and a bullying stepfather and despite playing from a young age and having trials as a teen, it wasn’t until he was signed by Crystal Palace in 1985 (just three month’s short of his 22nd birthday) that his undoubted talent and goal-scoring ability became evident. He averaged 20 goals a season during his 7 years at the club, scoring 33 in their promotion winning season of 1989 and later earning his first England cap under Graham Taylor in 1991 – the same year he was signed by Arsenal for a then club-record fee of £2.5 million. He not only scored on his Arsenal debut in a cup tie against Leicester, he then scored a hat-trick on his league debut against Southampton and finished the season with another hat-trick in the return fixture to finish on 31 goals for the season, as well as being the league’s top scorer on 29 goals. He was Arsenal’s top scorer for six years in a row, and the all time top scorer for 14 years until his record was broken by one Thierry Henry.
Shaun Wright-Phillips started his career at Nottingham Forest however was released aged 17 and thankfully Manchester City saw sense and signed him right away. He made a handful of appearances before becoming a first team regular under Kevin Keegan, winning City’s Young Player of the Year award 4 years in a row before gaining his first England cap in 2004. It was this fine form that then led to a £21 million move to Chelsea as part of the Roman Abramovic revolution where he was part of the title winning team in 2006, however he was an on-and-off fixture during his time at Chelsea, often struggling to maintain his place and eventually he returned to Manchester City where he displayed some of his best form before the likes of David Silva and Yaya Toure arrived to kick off the Manchester City revolution.
Bradley Wright Phillips also started his career at Manchester City, however never managed to emulate his father or brother’s success in the Premier League despite scoring on his league debut against Middlesbrough. He was later sold to Championship Southampton where he scored 11 goals in his first season, and then had spells at Plymouth and Charlton before he moved on to what probably became the best move of his career when he joined New York Red Bulls in 2013. Since then, Bradley has been prolific in MLS, averaging 20-25 goals a season and finishing as league top scorer on 2 occasions.
How do they compare?
So what have we learned? Clearly there is some truth in the concept of Football DNA, and that the offspring of successful footballers do tend to inherit their parent’s talent and ability, however in the case of Shaun Wright-Phillips we see that DNA isn’t everything, and perhaps education, training, nurturing and exposure at a young age are equally important variables. Interestingly and to cap off this section (and to make all of us feel a little older) – Shaun Wright-Phillips’ son D’Margio also looks to have a bright future in football, and is currently on the books at Manchester City following in the steps of his father and uncle. Too soon to start comparing with his famous family members, however this could be another indication that footballing talent and ability is an intangible asset that is in fact passed from generation to generation.
Big Shoes to Fill
A lot of the cases we have looked at so far have been players who have successfully emulated their father’s achievements, or have the potential to reach and even surpass these either in FM or IRL. But how difficult is it to follow in the footsteps of a true footballing legend? In this section, we will look at some examples of where young players have had to deal with even more hype than those above because of the name on the back of their jersey.
Johan and Jordi Cruyff
As household names go, they don’t get bigger than Johan Cruff. Arguably one of the best players to ever grace a football pitch, Cruyff won the Ballon d’Or 3 times as a player and is widely regarded for his football ability and Total Football philosophy which inspired a generation of future football teams and managers. He was one of the key drivers behind Ajax’s spell of dominance in European football during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, driving them to 8 league titles and 3 European Cups which subsequently led to a then World Record transfer to Barcelona (estimated to be approx. $2 million). Cruyff also led Holland to the World Cup final in 1974 where they narrowly lost out to West Germany by a score of 2-1; despite the defeat, he won the Golden Ball in that tournament however it was his turn in their group game against Sweden that was to be one of his main footballing legacies that he would impart on the game, so much so that it was named “The Cruyff Feint” after him.
Cruyff was quite simply a genius of the game, and he delighted Barcelona fans by choosing a Catalan name, “Jordi” for his son. Despite starting a promising start to his career at Barcelona where he scored 11 goals in 41 appearances for the club, Jordi Cruyff struggled to live up to the hype that had always surrounded him. A move to Manchester United in 1996 allowed him to display glimpses of his skill and goal-scoring ability, however he was hampered by injuries and only managed to play 57 games in 4 years, scoring 8 goals for the club. He did however manage to play 3 games during United’s famous Champions League winning campaign in 1999, and picked up 3 Premier League medals during his time at Old Trafford.
How do they compare?
Johan Cruyff’s shoes were always going to be difficult to fill, and overall Jordi did a decent job and succeeded in playing and winning at the highest levels of world football – however in comparing him to his father’s achievements, there can only be one winner.
I honestly can’t write enough about Johan Cruyff’s football achievements both as a player and as a manager – I absolutely recommend even reading his Wikipedia page which is an unbelievable account of his life and success in the game.
Zinedine and Enzo, Luca and Theo Zidane
If writing (and reading) about Johan Cruyff wasn’t inspiring enough, now we get to talk about perhaps the best player of the late 90’s/early 00’s generation – the man they call Zizou, or Zinedine Yazid Zidane if he was booking a flight. The son of a nightwatchman and a housewife that emigrated to France before the start of the Algerian War, Zidane grew up idolising Diego Maradona and was signed by AS Cannes as a 14 year old in 1986 (incidentally, the year I myself was born). He made his professional debut for the club in 1989 in a season which saw them finish in their highest ever top flight finish (4th) as well as qualifying for the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history. He then transferred to Bordeaux in 1992 and it was here he began to grab the limelight on the European Stage – he was linked with moves to Blackburn and Newcastle in 1995 however embarrassingly (especially for me as a Newcastle fan), they both turned him down with Blackburn chairman Jack Walker reportedly stating “Why do you want to sign Zidane when we have Tim Sherwood?” (facepalm). Thankfully for Zizou, common sense prevailed and Juventus signed him in 1996 thus preparing the stage for what would soon be the “Zidane” era – he won back to back Serie A titles, helped Juventus reach 3 consecutive European Finals and guided France to victory at both World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000. This prompted a World Record €77.5 million move to the “Galacticos” of Real Madrid, and the rest as we know is history (with the odd headbutt thrown in for good measure).
Without stating the obvious – Zidane’s are certainly big shoes to fill, however the difference from a number of our examples above is that there are now 4 candidates that have a shot at filling them. Zizou’s eldest son Enzo is a midfielder currently on loan at Rayo Majadhonda from parent club Lausanne-Sport, having started his career at Real Madrid and scoring on his debut for the club. Luca Zidane, interestingly a goalkeeper, is currently the third choice keeper at Real Madrid and still only 20 years old. His younger brother Theo is also on the books at Real Madrid, playing for the U19 team and still only 16 years of age, while the youngest of the Zidane clan Elyaz (13 years old) is in the Real Madrid Youth Academy.
While it is far too soon to even begin to compare the Zidane boys with their legendary father (the youngest isn’t even in FM yet 👀) – it has to be said that football clearly runs in the family, and all of them have a bright future in the game which will be extremely interesting for us as FM fans to observe and predict in the coming years. Of course, it will have done no harm that their father is one of the greatest players of all time in addition to him now in his second spell as Manager of Real Madrid (at the time of writing anyway), however there must also be some Footballing DNA at work if all four succeed as professional footballers and if any of them even come close to emulating Zizou on the big stage. Time will tell!
George and Timothy Weah
If you never had the privilege of seeing George Weah scoring goals for fun during his time at AC Milan, I strongly recommend that you pause what you are doing and head over to Youtube (just be sure to come back :P). Weah was the epitome of an out and out powerhouse of a Striker, winning the Ballon d’Or in 1995 as well as winning both Serie A and Ligue 1 on multiple occasions with Milan and PSG. A humanitarian and regular campaigner against racism in the game, perhaps the only thing that held him back from achieving even greater things on the world stage was that his country Liberia have never reached the World Cup Finals to date – he is undoubtedly their greatest ever footballer, and it’s no wonder that the man once nicknamed “King George” at Milan became the 25th President of Liberia in 2018 based on his exploits and representation of his country over the years.
Timothy Weah was born in New York on February 22nd 2000, and joined the PSG academy at age 14 after trials at both New York Red Bulls and Chelsea. Usually deployed on the left wing or as an inside forward, he made his first team debut aged 18 and soon after earned his first international cap for the USA, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to do so. He first goal for PSG came in August 2018 in a 4-0 cup victory against Monaco, and he followed this up with his first league goal in their next game, a 3-0 win over Caen. Soon after he was loaned out to Celtic for the remainder of the season, scoring on his debut again in a Cup game and again following up with his first league goal in the game after. It is clear that the lad knows where the goal is just like his father, and at the age of 19 has a huge future ahead of him in which he may reach and surpass his father’s incredible achievements in the game.
How do they compare?
Of course – it’s far too soon to be comparing the two, with Timothy only 19 years of age and his father not only being one of the best Strikers in European Football history, but also the President of a country! However we can see here that despite growing up away from European football and spending most of his youth in New York and Florida, Timothy Weah most certainly has inherited some of his father’s skill, technique and ability and if he can continue to develop and take this to the next level, he could be a formidable attacking option for PSG in the very near future.
Sibling Rivalry or brotherly love?
Up to now we have mainly focused on Father and Son combinations in order to delve in to the concept of football being passed over from generation to generation, and to get an illustrated understanding of Football DNA in action. While nothing is and will ever be conclusive, it is remarkably evident that there is a definite connection between football and genetics and we have seen this consistently increase in recent years. Is this all based on Football DNA or is it because footballers are so much wealthier these days that they can afford to give their kids the best football training and education available? Is it that young footballers want to emulate their parents more based on the fact that they now have more access to their father’s achievements with things like Youtube, Sky Sports and the Internet? It is difficult to pinpoint the driving factor, and perhaps it’s fair to say that it is a combination of all of the above.
But what of cases where we have seen no immediate footballing connection from parents, however we see more than one child succeeding at the highest levels of professional football? Rather than comparing siblings against each other as we did above (not enough hours in the day :D), it is interesting to take a broad look at how many sets of brothers we have seen perform and succeed across the globe, especially taking in to account that they have come in all shapes, sizes, positions and ages and yet still we see something which suggests that football clearly is in their blood and runs in the family. Feel free to click the names below to view their FM profiles and make your own comparisons 👌:
It doesn’t even stop there – as most of us know, Rio and Anton Ferdinand’s uncle is none other than Les Ferdinand who was one of the most prolific Premier League strikers of the 1990’s; Phil Neville’s son Harvey is currently on the books at Man Utd; somehow Luka Modric and Mark Viduka are cousins! Football and DNA are surely connected, and it will be interesting to look back in 10 or 20 years time to see what else the wonderful game produces.
Ones for the Future
Nearly there I promise! We have already mentioned some exciting prospects above such as Federico Chiesa, Justin Kluivert, Timothy Weah etc and these are definitely some of the hottest prospects both in Football Manager and in real life. Thankfully for us FM fans, although it means we are getting older, Football DNA continues to produce a lot of raw talent and this year is no different with FM19; there are a number of prospects in the game that come from highly successful footballing families, and I think it is safe to say that you might recognise the surnames on some of these kids below who are my tips to develop both in this year’s game as well as in real life also:
Ianis Hagi (son of Gheorghe)
I came across Ianis Hagi in FM18 and instantly recognised the name. 1990’s football fans will easily recall the exploits of his father Gheorge Hagi, who played and shone in 3 World Cups and 3 European Championships for Romania during which he also had successful spells at both Real Madrid and Barcelona. An exceptionally powerful attacking midfielder, Hagi was renowned for his creativity and technique which led to him being appropriately nicknamed “The Maradona of Carpathia” by his Romanian worshippers – at his peak he was one of the most feared Number 10’s in the game and his son Ianis also looks to be on a similar trajectory with his ability to play anywhere across the Attacking Midfield line.
Ianis started his career in his home country for Vitorul Constanta, and after a brief stint at Fiorentina where he was nominated for the European Golden Boy award, he returned to his home club due to lack of playing time and has since earned 2 caps for the Romania national side. If Football Manager is anything to go by (of course it is!), this kid has a very bright future ahead of him and has the potential to be every bit as good as his father.
Jordan Larsson (son of Henrik)
Jordan Larsson is the son of Swedish goalscoring machine Henrik Larsson. Having graduated from Barcelona’s Youth Academy, Jordan Larsson returned to Sweden where he signed his first professional contract and since has emerged as one of the hottest prospects in Swedish and European football. Like his father, he knows where the goal is and is rated as having 4 star potential at the start of FM19.
His father obviously needs no introduction – Henrik Larsson‘s goal scoring record is almost unrivaled. He scored 242 goals in 313 appearances for Celtic, including 4 seasons scoring over 30 goals and one season with a tally of 53 goals in 50 appearances. Larsson was nothing short of a goal machine in Scotland, and while it is arguable that he was too good to play in the Scottish league, his record has still never been broken and it was this form that led to relative successful spells at Barcelona and Manchester United in later years. If Jordan Larsson inherits even a percentage of his father’s finishing ability, there is no doubt we will see him featuring in one of the top European leagues before long – decent value at €625k in the game too!
Marcus and Khephren Thuram (sons of Lilian)
I could write a book on how good Lilian Thuram was. Not only did he play in the top flight of French, Italian and Spanish football, he was also a rock at the centre of the famous World Cup 1998 and Euro 2000 winning France national team. His strentgh and aggressive tackling style compared with his intelligent tactical and technical attributes made him arguably one of the best and most understated defenders in world football, and it is interesting to observe that neither of his two sons play in the same position with Marcus preferring to play on the left side of midfield, and Khephren more suited to a defensive or holding midfield role. Both look to have excellent potential in both FM and in real life, and definitely are ones to watch in future editions of the game. The name Thuram on the back of a shirt would strike fear in to any opposition, and looking at those stars below I have no doubts in tipping them as ones to watch for FM19.
Andri Gudjohnsen (son of Eidur)
At just 16 years old, Andri Gudjohnsen already has the world at his feet. Despite being the son of an ex-Barcelona player (as well as Chelsea, Monaco and Spurs), he signed for Real Madrid in August 2018 after climbing the ranks at Espanyol’s youth academy. A Striker just like his father, he scored 5 times in 13 games for Iceland U-17’s and looks to have a similar goal scoring instinct that Eidur Gudjohnsen displayed, most prominently during his six years at Chelsea where he scored 78 goals in 186 appearances.
So what does all this mean?! Are we any wiser about the concept of Football DNA? Have we answered the question – are footballers born and not made? I think we can all agree that there is clearly a connection to be made here, that footballing talent, skill and ability is certainly an intangible asset that can and has been passed from generation to generation repeatedly down through the years. As mentioned above, perhaps the more recent offspring of successful footballers have had more opportunity, exposure and access to the highest levels of football education and training, and by default are more likely to be monitored and watched by scouts than unknown players that develop elsewhere around the world. However it is clear that there seems to be a natural phenomenon occurring in the way football appears to “run in the family” and is transferred from father to son; so much so that there were even too many to cover in this blog, considering we never even mentioned the likes of Harry & Jamie Redknapp, Frank Lampard Sr. & Frank Jr., Paul & Tom Ince, Danny & Daley Blind, Jurgen & Jonathan Klinsmann – the list is almost endless, so I think we can conclude that Football DNA most certainly exists and for those of us that spend hours and hours scouting and staring at numbers & dots on a screen, long may it continue 🔥 🔥 🔥 .
FM Save Idea – “Family Guy”
What if you could only sign players and staff on the condition that you also have to sign a blood relative of theirs?
Now that we are halfway through FM19 I regularly see a number of community members undertaking various challenges in order to create new and intriguing save ideas. I think this would certainly make for an interesting challenge, whereby you can only sign a player if you are able to bring in their father / son / uncle / nephew / cousin etc either as a player or staff member. Reckon you could get the job done??
That’s it!! I hope you enjoyed this article and that you learned as much as I did while writing it – please feel free to post any thoughts, questions or feedback in the comments section below or on my Twitter page – comments and retweets etc are always appreciated! If you would like to check out any of my other FM articles or follow my current FM19 save with CD Tenerife, feel free to check out and follow my blog here. As always, a big shout out to Joe and the lads at WeStreamFM.com for their support and promotion of more written content and blogs etc – legends as always! I will leave you with an article that popped up in my feed while I was writing this blog – more food for thought with regard to genealogy and Football DNA 😄. Thanks for reading – MaddFM (http://maddfm.home.blog).
“Genetics expert reckons he can create a clone of Lionel Messi” – https://www.joe.co.uk/sport/clone-lionel-messi-barcelona-224378