Are Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar the best attacking trio in football history?
Some people say that they are the best trio since Nirvana. While the comparison between a music band and bunch of exceptionally talented football players may seem odd, the fact remains that both have excelled in their respective fields.
Nirvana wooed people through their magical music, whereas the attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar – commonly referred to as ‘MSN’ – are busy setting benchmarks through their amazing skills and goals galore in football. With an unprecedented number of 117 goals so far during the current season, MSN is the reason Barcelona are on the cusp of winning a historic treble again.
The Liga Title is already in the bag and all that is required is a victory in the Copa Del Rey and Champions League final. The question, however, remains: Is MSN really the best trident ever in football?
To unearth the answer, let us take a ride through memory lane.
Much of Real Madrid’s victories between 1955-56 can be attributed to the sheer brilliance of Alfredo Di Stefano, Francisco Gento, and Ferenc Puskas, who came together and helped maintain Madrid’s supremacy in Spain and Europe.
While the trio may be recognised for having won the most number of Liga and European titles, it was Puskas who formed an outstanding tandem with Di Stéfano and tormented one of Europe’s best defences. Relatively speaking, it was more of a formidable duo after Puska’s arrival, rather than a fearsome trident.
Manchester United became the first English team to win the prestigious European Cup in 1968. The Holy Trinity of George Best, Denis Law and Bobby Charlton played a pivotal role in the club’s success. With Charlton pulling the strings in midfield, Best and Law ripped apart the opposing defences with aplomb. While they do make a strong case for one of the best tridents, their failure to prevent United’s slump in the subsequent seasons does put a question mark on the title for being one of the best in the history of football.
Next up is Ajax’s Trio of Johan Cruyff, Johnny Rep and Piet Keizer, who were central to Ajax winning three European Cups in a row during early 1970s. They shared a great chemistry between each other but were unable to replicate their club heroics in the international arena during the 1974 World Cup, when Netherlands succumbed to defeat against West Germany in the finals.
Midfield General Frank Rijkaard, along with forwards Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit, were at the core of AC Milan winning back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990. While the trident does merit an honourable mention in the debate, the fact that they operated ahead one of history’s best defensive line-ups, somehow slightly overshadows the magnitude of their achievements.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez offered the much-needed firepower to United in 2008, when the club tasted European success for only the third time in its history. However, they were outshined in the following year’s cup final by Barcelona’s more vibrant trio of Messi, Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry. Together, the attacking trio of the Catalan Club accounted for 99 strikes and were the key reason for Barca’s historic treble. However, one must not forget that their prolific scoring was primarily due to Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who I feel are two of the finest play-makers.
Messi went on to team up with David Villa and Pedro for the 2010-11 season; in yet another display of a stunning goal fest. The threesome scored a total of 98 goals, helping Barcelona to clinch the League and Champions League double for a second time in three years.
Real Madrid’s Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, and Gareth Bale are right up there in contention for the title of the best attacking trident ever. Boasting of the two most expensive footballers in history, their combined tally of 97 goals during all the competitions fired Madrid to the La Decima and Copa Del Ray title success during the 2013-14 seasons. They were, as usual, prolific during this season, but Madrid’s failure to win any title means their efforts count for little in the broader perspective.
So who deserves the title of best trident?
It is nearly impossible to single out one such trident, but if it had to be done, Madrid’s trio of Di Stefano, Puskas and Gento along with Barcelona’s current trio of ‘MSN’ appear to enjoy a distinct edge when it comes to versatility and productivity.
While the former has a trophy-laden cabinet and sustained period of domination to strengthen their case, the latter seems to be way ahead in terms of dynamism, creativity and productivity. The same is also reflected from the number of goals they have amassed vis a vis a far more superior strike rate.
Considering this is only their first season together, it is safe to assume that ‘MSN’ will stop at nothing short of being the best ever attacking trio in history.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.