ARNAV KHANNA | 2nd November 2021

Comparing players from different eras is when it gets sticky. And those conversations never add up because history chooses who to be the kindest to.

Instead, I paired them up and sat back to imagine duos that would cause mayhem if they played in tandem, be that in 1991 or 2021.

I. R9 x Benzema

A freak of nature and a gift from the footballing Gods, playing shoulder to shoulder. R9, laser-eyed in his pursuit of goal with Benzema being as selfless as a saint ensures this partnership would fit like a puzzle.

If it wasn’t for that damned knee, Ronaldo may as well have been the greatest player of all time and as things stand, King Karim may just be the best player on planet Earth.

Think of the greatness you’d witness for a second.

There’s O Fenômeno’s immaculate close control, burst of pace that would put a cheetah to shame and his habit of sitting ‘keepers down before pushing the ball into the back of the net on one hand.

And then there’s Benz’s impeccable first touch, sublime eye for a pass and a rare ability to stitch attacks like no other on the other.

Do you realize how spoilt we’d become if the pair linked up?

In a sense, this is the greatest facilitator and the greatest finisher shaking hands. And in another sense, it isn’t due to the fact that Ronaldo and Benzema tick pretty much every box any striker ever has.

This never happened because we were never worthy.

II. Vieira x Pogba

The two Frenchman might be splitting images in terms of size and stature, but their profiles as players lie in completely different hemispheres and that is what makes this pairing so interesting.

Paul Pogba has proven to be a difficult one to “unlock”, but if there was ever a player who could be the key, it would be good ol’ Paddy V.

The complete defensive midfielder while also being a superb technician, the iconic Arsenal captain would put in a crunching tackle, followed by fizzing in the perfect pass.

A complete midfielder in all senses, Viera could dominate and control and him being an absolute tank didn’t make squaring up him to any easier.

Speaking of technique and stature, give Paul Pogba a ground to stand on and he’ll stand taller than anyone else on the pitch. Bending the ball to his will, La Pioche is the rarest of breeds, being a 6’4” showman.

His trickery and screamers supplemented by his vision and incision, Pogba owns the final third when he is on it.

And with someone like Vieira standing guard, Pogba would roam free, mesmerizing and mauling teams in equal measure.

Patrick and Paul is really the perfect pivot.

III. Ronaldinho x Neymar

Two Brazilians cut from the same cloth; the fabric of Jogo Bonito. Physical embodiments of the beautiful game, this South American pair has made two separate generations fall in love with football.

Even sitting down to imagine Ronaldinho and Neymar on the same pitch in tandem gives me an endorphin rush. There’s a method to their magic, or madness, however you wish to see it.

And that’s an obsession with approaching the most global sport on the planet in a way that makes it as Ronaldinho and as Neymar as can be.

Picture this: the pair, both adept at playing at left-wing and as No.10’s, combining on the pitch while pulling off the most disrespectful artillery of skills and tricks to leave defenders chasing ghosts as they breeze past them. Crowds will be awestruck and ‘keepers will have to pick the ball out of the onion bag all game.

No defence can develop a gameplan for geniuses like these two. How can you set a gameplan for things you’ve never seen anyone else ever execute on the pitch?

You press them, they’ll spin you. You back off, they’ll take aim. So as a defender, what do you do? You pray. And as a viewer, you thank your stars that you were lucky enough to witness it.

IV. Ferdinand x van Dijk

We are looking at two centre-backs who have been bestowed with the “Rolls Royce” tag, time and time again. When one contemplates, you start realizing how similar this pair of Premier League greats really are.

As intelligent as they are industrious, both of them operate with an aura of invincibility. You cannot befuddle them, you cannot bully them, you cannot outpace them and you can never intimidate them. And that is when you’re facing only one of them.

It almost feels like one of Rio Ferdinand or Virgil van Dijk has been described here as well. If that’s how in sync the pair are as defenders, imagine them joining forces.

The goalkeeper might as well lay down on the grass and stare at the clouds. Attackers would consider it a career highlight getting past one, but getting past both of them? You’re dreaming.

What’s more, this duo can deal blows on the other end of the pitch too. A looming threat with their Hollywood passes while also being able to drive into midfield, both of them can initiate attacks from back to front like its standard procedure.

A centre-back pairing so perfect, we’re glad they played in different eras because it would be way too unfair on the forwards.

V. Henry x Özil

If football had a royal palace, these two would be one of the first inductees. Grace, poise, class, they play football as if the turf was a red carpet.

Now given that Özil is the classic No.10 and Henry was primarily a striker, one might conclude that the German would provide and the Frenchman would finish.

While this is exactly what’s written on the tin, their relationship would go so much further than just that.

Since the pair can manipulate the ball in pretty much every single way imaginable, TH14 and MÖ10 would thrive off of each other in ways that would split open even the tightest defences.

After all, King Titi holds the record for the highest number of assists in a Premier League season, only equaled by Kevin De Bruyne 17 years later. And Mesut’s “How may I assist you” memes were monotonous enough to prove a point that he really did have a GPS in his left foot.

Henry’s searing pace, silky dribbling and ice-cold finishing combined with Özil’s incredible vision and cushioned final ball would be a harrowing proposition for any opponent.

If these two blessed us by kicking a ball on the freshly-cut Emirates grass in the same era, Arsenal would make being invincible a habit. Replace Henry with Giroud, and 2016 Özil would be walking home with the assist record of his partner-in-crime who set the milestone in 2003.