Leonardo Bonucci‘s return to Juventus means a reunion with Giorgio Chiellini, the two centre-backs set to reform the partnership which was among Europe’s finest until the former’s departure for AC Milan last summer.
In any other summer, Bonucci’s decision to leave Milan for Juve just a year after moving in the opposite direction would be the headline transfer in Italy. But Cristiano Ronaldo‘s arrival at Juventus from Real Madrid has claimed that mantle for this transfer window – and brought the star forward together with one of the best defensive pairings of his era.
Ronaldo is no stranger to playing ahead of great centre-half duos, having seen plenty throughout his career.
Here’s a look at the top five defensive duos Ronaldo’s had behind him.
1. RIO FERDINAND AND NEMANJA VIDIC – MANCHESTER UNITED (2006-2009)
Ferdinand and Vidic were the consummate pairing. The former was once described as a Rolls-Royce defender, elegant, composed, and a classy presence on the ball, with an excellent reading of the game and no-nonsense defending. Vidic, meanwhile, took no-nonsense defending to a different level, the typical warrior defender who took every goal conceded as an insult.
Together, they set Ronaldo on the way to success, leading Manchester United to three Premier League titles in Ronaldo’s final three seasons at the club, plus a famous Champions League triumph in 2008.
2. SERGIO RAMOS AND PEPE – REAL MADRID (2011-2017)
Ramos and Pepe formed the heart of the defence for the first two of Real Madrid’s run of four Champions League titles in five years – and for part of the third as well, though Pepe endured an injury-riddled 2016-17 before leaving the club.
They made for a fiery duo. Both were masters of the dark arts and both could at times be reckless in defence, yet somehow they complemented each other well. Not to mention, the two of them were dangerous attacking threats, and benefitted from Ronaldo’s presence on set-pieces, getting goals as the star man commanded the attention.
3. RICARDO CARVALHO AND PEPE – REAL MADRID (2010-2012)
Carvalho and Pepe are two of Portugal’s most decorated defenders, and the duo struck up a productive partnership at Real Madrid. In the club’s run to the Champions League semi-final in 2010-11, they led a defence that conceded only six times – and half of those goals came in the semi-final tie against Barcelona, when Ronaldo was out-dueled by Lionel Messi.
Interestingly, they were rarely a first-choice defensive partnership at international level. Pepe was deployed as a defensive midfielder during the 2010 World Cup, while veteran Carvalho marshalled a defence which conceded just once in four games.
Yet Pepe was a key part of that defensive record as well. Carvalho was in the squad for Portugal’s Euro 2016 triumph, a trophy run fuelled by Ronaldo, making three appearances.
4. SERGIO RAMOS AND RAPHAEL VARANE – REAL MADRID (2016-2018)
Varane is the reason Pepe was allowed to leave Madrid last summer. The young defender has become Ramos’ new defensive partner, and the duo have led Los Blancos to their two latest Champions League triumphs.
The young Frenchman is much like Ronaldo’s old teammate Ferdinand, a calm presence in defence and good on the ball. He’s a contrast to predecessor Pepe, but he and Ramos have struck up an excellent partnership that has been as crucial to Madrid’s recent success as Ronaldo’s form up front.
5. RICARDO CARVALHO AND JORGE ANDRADE (2004)
This particular centre-back partnership was the bedrock of Portugal’s run to the Euro 2004 final, a tournament where Ronaldo was the breakout star. Carvalho and Andrade had formed an excellent partnership at Porto in 2001-02, and reprised the role for Portugal two years later.
The duo combined to lead a defence which conceded just six goals at the tournament, though there was to be heartbreak for them and Ronaldo as they were sucker-punched by Greece in the final.
Know more about Sport360 Application