8 footballers’ brothers who were only signed to keep their siblings sweet (probably)

Crystal Palace are trying to help Christian Benteke settle in south-east London… by handing a deal to his questionably talented younger brother. Nancy Frostick found more

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1. Christian and Jonathan Benteke

The younger Benteke has followed his £32 million record-signing brother Christian to Crystal Palace after his contract was terminated at Belgian Pro League side S.V. Zulte Waregem.

The 21-year-old striker failed to score in 17 appearances last season – 16 of those off the bench – but has bagged a one-year deal with Palace’s development squad thanks to the name on the back of his shirt. You never know, though: he might become the next… well, Benteke.

2. Roque and Julio Santa Cruz

Roque Santa Cruz arrived at Blackburn in 2007 after eight years with Bayern Munich, and managed an impressive debut campaign haul of 19 Premier League goals.

But while the Paraguayan’s Rovers form convinced Mark Hughes to sign him again at Manchester City in 2009, his younger brother and fellow striker Julio didn’t quite make the same mark when he joined Blackburn in 2008.

If his three years in England don’t stick in the memory, it’s probably because he didn’t make a single senior appearance for Blackburn, instead featuring sporadically in one season for the club’s reserves. He returned to Paraguay, where he currently plies his trade for Deportivo Capiata.

Julio Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Jr managed to score in the 2014 Copa Libertadores final

3. Clarence and Chedric Seedorf

It seems that signing five-time Champions League winner Clarence Seedorf came with the terms of signing his younger brother Chedric as well. Little Seedorf played for Real Madrid’s youth academy for one season (1999/2000) until Clarence moved on to Inter a year later, dragging Chedric in tow.

After following his own career path in the Netherlands and Italy – there were spells with NAC, Legnano, Pizzighettone, Oostende and Cambuur Leeuwarden – a magic phone call from Milan provided Chedric with an escape route to Serie A. “Alright Clarence, fancy seeing you here!”

4. Rafael and Fabio da Silva

It seems to have been a case of “both of us or nothing” when Manchester United signed Brazilian defenders Rafael and Fabio from Fluminense in 2007.

The twins enjoyed mixed spells at Old Trafford – Rafael made 170 appearances for United before moving on to Lyon in 2015, while Fabio managed 56 outings in red. The latter was sent out on loan with QPR in 2012 before permanently switching to Cardiff in 2014. He’s now back in the Premier League with Middlesbrough.

Rafael, Fabio da Silva

The Brazilian brothers were ultimately successful at Old Trafford

5. Kaka and Digao

Brazilian maestro Kaka signed for Milan from Sao Paulo in 2003 and was followed by his younger brother Digao a year later. Whether it was to help Kaka settle in Italy or because the Rossoneri genuinely believed Digao had talent will never be known – but the fact the centre-back only made one senior appearance for the club speaks for itself.

After several fruitless loan spells around Italy, Belgium and Portugal he joined New York Red Bulls in 2012, only to play for a grand total of one minute. Digao gave up the game for good in 2013, aged 27. Probably for the best.


Poor Digao didn't get close to emulating big brother

6. Jesus and Marco Navas

Jesus Navas arrived at Manchester City with a history of homesickness – so his quick-thinking new club set about trying to make things easier for him by dropping neighbours Bury a call in August 2013.

The then-League Two side were happy to take on his 30-year-old brother Marco, who'd mostly spent his career knocking about Spain's second tier. “With his brother being at Manchester City it was felt they would like some family in the North West,” Shakers boss Kevin Blackwell explained. “We were approached but the kid’s no mug. He’s got quite a few games as a professional under his belt at good La Liga level.”

It didn't quite go to plan, though – after a rough introduction to English football followed by only three appearances, he left by mutual consent in January 2014 and returned to Spain. You can't say they didn't try. 

7. Eden and Thorgan Hazard

In a universally exciting move in 2012, Thorgan Hazard followed his much-talked-about older brother Eden to Chelsea. If you brush over last season, Eden Snr has enjoyed a successful career at Stamford Bridge to say the least, but Thorgan never made a senior appearance.

Still, he’s done just fine despite becoming one of many Chelsea youth players to be shipped off on loan, first spending time with Zulte Waregem and then Borussia Monchengladbach, who signed him permanently for €8 million in 2015.

“Before going to Belgium, I was just the brother of Eden,” he later told The Times. “In Belgium I showed what I can do myself. Afterwards they did not say that I was Eden’s brother.” Except for his mum, maybe.

8. Paolo and Fabio Cannavaro

For Paolo Cannavaro, living in the shadow of a World Cup-winning older brother must be hard. Not too hard, though, as Fabio’s presence in the Parma dressing room probably helped him get a move there in 1999 with only two senior appearances for Napoli to his name.

While Fabio went on to hit dizzy heights – namely playing for Inter, Juventus, Real Madrid and becoming a national hero – Paolo stuck it out with Parma through their (first) liquidation, making 128 appearances in seven years and skippering them to the 2005 UEFA Cup semi-finals. After a successful eight-year stint at Napoli, he’s now at Sassuolo, aged 35.

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