Lucio & Samuel, Costacurta & Baresi and Italian football's greatest centre-back partnerships

With the Inter pair reunited and helping to lead their side out of a slump, looks at some of the most formidable defensive partnerships in Serie A & Azzurri history
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

After a desperate start to the season, Inter have finally shown signs of regaining their footing of late - and this has been largely down to their defence, which has helped them climb into the top half of the table for the first time this term. Two games on from Lucio's return from injury, the Nerazzurri have kept two clean sheets and shown a greater defensive resolve than earlier on in the campaign.

The Brazilian's partnership with Walter Samuel was cited by many as the main reason why Inter won the 2010 Champions League title to crown a magnificent treble, and it was also thought that the Argentine's knee ligament injury later that year was a partial explanation for their underwhelming 2011 form.

Now reunited, the two 33-year-olds may be in the twilight of their careers, but they remain a formidable outfit to match some of the great centre-back pairings in Italian football over the years. In recognition of that, has put together a list of half a dozen of the best defensive partnerships to have graced the game in the peninsula.

Former Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi recently told that he didn't just have the best defence ever, but the best team ever. The widely-held belief that their back line of the late 1980s and early 1990s deserves to be known as the best came from their magnificent record on the way to three European Cup triumphs in six seasons. With Mauro Tassotti and Paolo Maldini to either side, Costacurta (right) and Baresi masterfully snuffed out attacks in both Italy and Europe with amazing ease.

United in 1996, Ferrara and Montero would help the Old Lady to 11 trophies in nine years before they each departed in 2005. With a mix of old-fashioned ruggedness and a more cultured approach, they performed heroics at the back as Marcello Lippi's side captured four Scudetti. A fifth title was collected in their final season under Fabio Capello as Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro were left with the unenviable task of replacing a partnership that got the club so close to a third European title in 1998.

The word 'catenaccio' is extremely overused is modern football, but the 'Grande Inter' pairing of the 1960s helped the Italian word for 'padlock' become regular football parlance in the peninsula. Over a seven-year spell, their partnership formed a sensationally successful base around which Helenio Herrera's Nerazzurri would become one of the most renowned defensive forces in football history. Winners of two European Cups and three Scudetti, the duo's quality has never been forgotten.

First brought together in the summer of 2009, the pair almost immediately formed a wonderful duo that would be the rock on which the Champions League win would be built in their first season together. Superb displays against Chelsea, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in particular helped the Nerazzurri clinch their first European title in 45 years. Temporarily broken up by Samuel's knee ligament injury, they have rarely been seen together of late, but their reunification in recent weeks has led to Inter demonstrating a more solid core once more.

Between them, Nesta and Cannavaro would amass an incredible 214 international caps as they laid the foundations for a remarkable World Cup win in 2006. First paired up against Moldova in 1997 - unsurprisingly helping to keep a clean sheet - the duo would become one of the most consistent defensive outfits in international football history. The only shame was that an injury to Nesta saw him miss their crowning moment in Berlin, and the pair played together only once after that night.

As the pairing of Ferrara and Montero reached its latter days, Capello needed a new partnership to hold his back line. With Thuram having already joined the club, the Old Lady took Cannavaro from huge rivals Inter in 2004 and rejuvenated his career by placing him alongside the Frenchman in what was to become a short-lived, but amazingly successful centre-back unit. Two successive Scudetti came off the back of a wonderfully solid back line, with only one defeat suffered in 2005-06 before the two left for Spanish adventures with Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively.

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