Good friends off the pitch, firm rivals on it: Bayern Munich and Germany's Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham of Borussia Dortmund and England both bring the fireworks when their young worlds collide with club and country.
Birmingham-born Bellingham and Stuttgart native Musiala formed a strong bond as they worked their respective ways up through the ranks of England's youth teams. Although both now play for different nations and Bundesliga teams, the pair remain in close contact as their careers explode on the world stage.
At just 20 and 19 respectively, Musiala and Bellingham boast such phenomenal talent and startling maturity that they represent both the present and the future of a game they are destined to dominate.
At this point, Musiala's fascinating life journey has been oft told. Born in Baden-Württemberg to a German mother and Nigerian father, he left the country of his birth for England with his parents aged just seven. The attacking midfielder impressed at Southampton before joining Chelsea's youth ranks and it was during his time at the latter club where he crossed paths with Bellingham at international level.
The duo quickly hit it off in England's Under-15 set-up and they would go on to play together at Under-16 and Under-17 level too - appearing on the same team sheet a total of 13 times.
Speaking to GOAL, former England youth coach Kevin Betsy said of the two players, "Jamal and also Jude have really unique personalities; they are very competitive. Everything they do, they do with the goal of winning and improving, but also with great humility and respect for everything that surrounds them.
"They are also very unselfish and this attracts people to like them even more," Betsy added. "They are just great guys, boys that every mother and father would love to their sons to grow into."
Watch: Jude Bellingham - made in the Bundesliga
Despite subsequently switching allegiances to Germany following a couple of caps with the England U21s, Musiala - who joined Bayern at 16 - was keen to point out that his heart remained in both countries, especially as he now follows Bellingham as a senior England international. "I still have that love for England, my boys are there, like Jude." Musiala told BBC's Match of the Day.
The Bayern and Borussia boys have now come face to face six times in their young careers to date, with Bellingham - on BVB's books since July 2020 - yet to best his good friend at club or international level. In two of the teams' Bundesliga Klassiker meetings that have featured these terrific youngsters, Musiala has been on the winning side twice.
Bellingham's BVB revenge will no doubt one day come but, for now, the former Birmingham City man is no doubt thankful to Musiala for the help he receives from his friend, who, according to reports, is the go-to man for German lessons.
Watch: The best of Musiala
The language skills appear to be helping immensely, with Bellingham named as Dortmund's third captain behind Marco Reus and Mats Hummels earlier this season. "Jude came to us as a teenager and is slowly becoming a young adult, both physically and in terms of his character," Dortmund coach Edin Terzic said of his tireless midfielder. "He's been one of our most consistent players over the past couple of years."
Both players have been consistently getting better in the Bundesliga as the years pass, and it is astonishing to note just how similar their trajectories have been in Germany since they made the switch from England.
To date, Musiala has made 81 Bundesliga appearances to Bellingham's 85, with the former boasting a total of 22 goals and 14 assists to the BVB player's eight goals and 15 assists, numbers that represent the players' differing on-field roles.
At 17 years and 82 days, Bellingham was 33 days younger than Musiala was when they made their Bundesliga debuts while the Bayern man managed to score his first Bundesliga goal 80 days younger than his friend achieved the feat. Bellingham hit 50 Bundesliga appearances at a younger age than Musiala, who recently passed the milestone of making 100 outings across all competitions for Bayern, a milestone Bellingham has already achieved.
Both brilliant, but decidedly different out on the pitch, versatility is one area they most certainly have in common. Bellingham operates slightly deeper, is a reader of the game, one who can set the pace, will relentlessly chase down opponents and tackle, before setting his side on the attack.
Musiala, in is own words, likes, "dribbling in tight spaces, close control. Beating players is something I've always liked to do," he told the BBC. "I have trained these movements since I was little with my dad. He encouraged me to take on and beat players and I have always kept that with me."
So far this season, Bellingham has appeared in all but one of Dortmund's 25 Bundesliga games - he only missed out on Matchday 17 due to suspension for yellow card accumulation - highlighting his importance to a Schwarzgelben side very much in the ascendancy. Musiala, meanwhile, has also made 24 league outings, starting 21, scoring 11 times and assisting eight in a campaign where the Bavarians have not always been at their best.
But therein lies the intrigue of what next faces Musiala and Bellingham: the challenge to help lift their respective sides to bigger things. Whatever the future may hold, one thing appears certain: both players are destined for the very top of the game.
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