Sons of Weah, Zidane, Simeone and Kluivert making waves in club and international football
Twenty years ago, Diego Simeone and Patrick Kluivert were confronting each other for the most prestigious prizes in Italy again and again.
Both distinguished footballers in what was then the most respected league in the world, they faced off in two Milan derbies. Simeone scored three times for Inter against an AC Milan side spearheaded by Kluivert and the Ballon d'Or, George Weah.
That summer, Kluivert and Simeone were on opposite sides once more – in one of the classic encounters of the 1998 World Cup. Kluivert scored for the Netherlands in their 2-1 quarter-final win against Simeone’s Argentina.
It sent Simeone home from the tournament in less than ideal mood for his son Giovanni’s third birthday, the day after the defeat. Giovanni would get to know, as his father accumulated his 100-odd caps, the many pains and rewards of representing his country.
Last week, he discovered the thrill of it first hand, making his Argentina debut and scoring his first international goal, against Guatemala.
Meanwhile at the Stade de France on Sunday, Justin Kluivert wore the jersey of the Netherlands' senior team for the first time for a competitive international. He was on the bench for the 2-1 defeat to France in the Uefa Nations League.
Justin is only 19, has played in two friendlies for the Netherlands already, and does not lack ambition. He joined Roma from Ajax this summer and has apparently planned his career along lines his father would recognise.
“Ultimately, my dream club to play for would be Barcelona,” the teenager said in March.
Father’s route? Ajax to Italy – with Milan – and then Barcelona before winding down in the Premier League, France’s Ligue 1 and onto a management career whose latest episode began at the weekend, as assistant coach of Cameroon.
Come November, Serie A could stage its second generation of Kluivert-Simeone contests when Roma play Fiorentina. Giovanni plays for Fiorentina, has scored two goals in two games already this season, as has his partner in the club's forward line, Federico Chiesa.
Federico, 20, made his competitive international debut for Italy on Friday, winning the penalty that gave the Azzurri their equaliser in the 1-1 draw against Poland. Twenty summers ago, his father Enrico was playing for Italy at the World Cup. He was later Simeone's teammate at Lazio.
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In the case of Federico, comparisons with his father are easy: a similar playing style and position. The Kluiverts’ chief resemblance is facial: dad is taller and was an all-round centre-forward; Justin’s best work is done on the wing. The Simeone inheritance has passed from midfield galvaniser to penalty-box predator.
That means Giovanni challenges to establish himself as a regular start for Argentina, where Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Mauro Icardi and – perhaps, after his time off – Lionel Messi are the competition.
Giovanni has talked of a future where one day he might come under the day-to-day instruction of the man who taught him most of what he knows of football.
“Why wouldn’t I like to work with one of the best coaches in the world?” he says of the regular questions about whether he might team up with Simeone, managerial architect of Atletico Madrid’s rise to modern superclub.
But pairings of father and son in the workplace can be problematic. Ask Luca and Enzo Zidane, sons of the stand-out player from the 1998 World Cup.
Zinedine Zidane gave both their senior debuts during his two-and-a-half seasons as Real Madrid manager, as they graduated from the youth ranks. In the case of Enzo, 23, an attacking midfielder like his father, it was decided his best course was to move to a less demanding club.
Goalkeeper Luca, 20, suffers less from comparison with dad. But still had to endure mutterings about preferential treatment when he was elevated to the first team squad at Madrid.
That will probably not be a problem for another precocious owner of privileged genes building his international career.
Timothy Weah, 18, has scored twice already for Paris Saint-Germain this season. He hopes to win his fifth cap for the country of his birth, the United States, on Tuesday night against Mexico.
His father is George, formerly of Milan and PSG, and was once Liberia captain. There, the former World Footballer of the Year has considerable influence.
He is no mere coach, though. He is the state president.