"My guardian angel," begins Gerard Pique's open letter to his outgoing teammate and Barcelona legend Carles Puyol.
“The day has come. You're going. Even though it's the law of life, it's impossible for me to imagine myself at Barca without you."
The fact the centre-back's heartfelt tribute, posted on his Facebook page this week, has inspired such mirth among football fan probably says a lot about the reductive way we still see sportsmen. The only 'passion' they're supposed to display is the safe kind: anger at defeat, glory in victory.
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But in reality, the beautiful game has witnessed as many beautiful bromances as bitter rivalrys. And in a time when footballers can seem so remote to us, we think their love for for one another is something to celebrate. Here are five of football's other great love affairs.
1 | Jose Mourniho and Marco Materazzi
Whatever the rest of the world thinks of Jose Mourniho, there's no shortage of players who love him. Drogba, Lampard, Ibrahimovic – the list of men who'd take a bullet for the Portuguese goes on and on. But never has Mourniho's incredible ability to bond with his charges for life manifested itself quite so vividly as the case of Marco Materazzi. Jose and the defender he took to a domestic and European treble at Inter Milan in 2010 were so devoted to each other, it left them both in tears when, at the end of season, they had to bid farewell. Wonderfully, the exact moment was caught on camera. What's this lump in our throat?
2 | Gary Neville and the class of '92
Beckham and Neville were each other's Best Man. Giggs and Neville have opened a restuarant together. Scholes and Neville added a smacker on the lips to their repertoire of goal celebrations. The Manchester United youth team of '92
stuck together all the way from cleaning Bryan Robson's boots to winning the treble and beyond. Their time together on the pitch was the foundation of much of Alex Ferguson's success – off the pitch, they remain as close as ever, with 'Red Nev' in particular devoted to his band of brothers.
3 | Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan
In 2010, when Newcastle United wild boy Andy Carroll was facing an assault charge, he was bailed on one condition: he moved in with his captain and best friend Kevin Nolan. Who knows what Nolan's wife made of suddenly having a 7 foot, pony tailed Geordie with a propensity for trouble moving into her mansion, but Nolan was unequivocal in his support of the man he'd later be reunited with at West Ham. He even had the soon-to-be most expensive English footballer of all time reading to his kids. "I have got a four-year-old daughter and a nine-month-old son, and we have got all sorts of different books for him to pick from," said Nolan at the time. "He might like Peppa Pig – or there is a monkey one."
4 | John Terry and Frank Lampard
To each other, they're just 'JT and Lamps' – Chelsea lifers, holiday pals and most importantly, 'top, top players'. To everyone else they're one of the most enduring and passionate bromances in Premier League history. Both products of the academy, their friendship on the pitch has endured good times (under Mourinho) and bad (the forty or so managers who followed him), including Terry's infamous arse-over-tit Champions League penalty miss that looked for all the world to have robbed Lampard of the biggest medal in club football for ever. Even more impressively, Lampard stuck by his man through suscpected assault, racial abuse charges and losing his England captaincy for shagging a teammate's wife. Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a pal.
5 | Cristiano Ronaldo and Cristiano Ronaldo
If words are any measure of love, than the Ballon d'Or winner's relationship with himself must be one of the truly great romances in football history: “People whistle me because I am good-looking, rich and a great footballer. They are jealous of me." "I am the first, second and third best player in the world." "My free-kick secret? I just look at the net and say 'Take the kick, Cristiano.'" There are, of course, other people in Portugese's life whom he loves. Girlfriend Irina Shayk. His son, Cristiano Junior. But there is nothing, as they say, quite as power as a man's first love. The difference with CR7 is that it really will last forever.