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10 greatest strike partnerships in football history

Football has seen great strike partnerships
Football has seen great strike partnerships
Aditya Hosangadi

In a footballing world dominated by tactical nuance, the average manager's favourite 4-4-2 formation is starting to become a thing of the past. The innate geometrics of the beautiful game have persistently evolved over decades of trial and error and orthodox strike partnerships are harder to come by in the modern footballing diaspora.

While today's managers often prefer more dynamic formations, the efficacy of a powerful strike partnership has often yielded exceptional results in the past. Some of history's best strikers have often thrived in tandem with an attacking teammate by their side and several European giants have benefitted as a result.

Footballing greats often have a transformative impact on their teams but their legendary exploits have often overshadowed a support system that is critical to the success of any team. The likes of Pele and Gerd Muller have been lauded for their impeccable records but owe a significant part of their success to their seldom-mentioned strike partners.

The role of a support striker has often gone unnoticed in history but the position has often been occupied by football's most creative talents. The strike partnerships mentioned in this list possess some illustrious names that thrived primarily because of the relationships they shared with their equally talented partners-in-crime.


#10 Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke (Manchester United)

Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke created history with Manchester United
Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke created history with Manchester United

Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were a match made in heaven. The two Red Devils often had to share their playing time with numerous other strikers under Sir Alex Ferguson but their telepathic relationship and exceptional record made the duo a hallmark of one of the best Manchester United sides in history.

Widely regarded as one of the most formidable partnerships of all time in the Premier League, Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke played instrumental roles in Manchester United's treble-winning season in 1999. The duo scored an impressive 53 goals in all competitions and thrived in each other's company as Manchester United stormed past their opponents on the domestic and European front.

Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole seemed to bring the best out of each other and scored crucial goals for Manchester United against some of the best teams in the world at the time. The synergy between the two strikers made Manchester United a deadly counter-attacking force and made the 1998/99 side one of the best Premier League teams in history.


#9 Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit (AC Milan, Netherlands)

AC Milan built one of the best teams of all time
AC Milan built one of the best teams of all time

The Serie A has seen its fair share of magicians over the years but may never witness a player as talented as Marco van Basten again. The Dutch maestro was capable of spectacular moments on the pitch and his unique ability to create history on the pitch made him one of the greatest strikers of his era.

Van Basten plied his trade with AC Milan and the Netherlands and his compatriot Ruud Gullit offered him the ideal foil. Gullit's versatility and tenacity in the final third gave Serie A's formidable defences a run for their money and the magical Van Basten often took full toll of the impending chaos.

With Frank Rijkaard dominated the midfield and the likes of Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini forming an unreachable wall in defence, Arrigo Sacchi's AC Milan won two European Cups and two Scudettos. The duo reached its peak in 1989, with AC Milan dismantling Real Madrid and Steaua Bucharest on their way to a European crown.


Also Read: Top 10 Argentina footballers of all time

#8 Marcelo Salas, Ivan Zamorano (Chile)

Marcelo Salas had an excellent relationship with Zamorano
Marcelo Salas had an excellent relationship with Zamorano

Widely considered one of the most lethal strike partnerships in international football, Ivan Zamorano's tryst with Marcelo Salas for Chile was a match made in heaven. The two South American spearheads were worlds apart both generationally and stylistically but combined to produce a series of glorious moments for their national team.

Ivan Zamorano was already an established member of the Chile national team when Marcelo Salas broke through the country's youth systems in 1994. Zamorano immediately took Marcelo Salas under his wing and the duo combined to wreak havoc across South America.

With Chile's stocks rising on the international stage, Zamorano and Salas became the embodiment of every fiery attribute of La Roja at the time. The South American duo played an instrumental role in Chile's commendable 1998 World Cup run and gave the South American nation a series of memorable moments.


#7 Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis (Hungary)

Hungary's golden generation was a phenomenal force
Hungary's golden generation was a phenomenal force

The fact that Ferenc Puskas is the only player who features twice on a list filled with illustrious names speaks volumes about the legendary Hungarian's talents. While Puskas was stunning the world with his goalscoring exploits, however, Sandor Kocsis' equally impeccable efforts often flew under the radar.

Sandor Kocsis was perhaps not as stylish as his magical compatriot but the results were brutal nonetheless. The Hungarian team of the 1950s was one of the best national teams ever assembled and the partnership between Puskas and Kocsis sent shivers down the spines of some of the best defenders in history.

The two Hungarian legends ran amok in the 1954 World Cup with 9-0 and 8-3 victories against South Korea and West Germany respectively. The two strikers went on to play for Real Madrid and Barcelona and are widely regarded as the greatest players in Hungarian history.


#6 Gerd Muller, Uli Hoeness (Bayern Munich, Germany)

Gerd Muller was an exceptional striker. Image Source: CF Classics
Gerd Muller was an exceptional striker. Image Source: CF Classics

While fans of the game are well aware of Gerd Muller's stunning records with Bayern Munich and Germany, Uli Hoeness' stints with the Bavarian club's administration have often prevented his footballing skills from hogging the limelight. Hoeness was reportedly one of the fastest wingers of his time and his sheer pace worked in perfect harmony with Gerd Muller's poaching instincts.

The two Germans spent nearly ten years together at the Bavarian club and won three league titles and three European Cups in the process. With Gerd Muller firing on all cylinders in the penalty area and Uli Hoeness decimating his opponents on the flanks, Bayern Munich became a powerful European force and dominated German football.

With a stunning 359 goals in less than ten seasons for both club and country, Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness made the most of their excellent relationship and carved a unique legacy in Bayern Munich's history.


#5 Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)

Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were a force to reckon with
Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were a force to reckon with

Arsenal's golden era in the early 2000s was marked by some of the best players in Premier League history. The Gunners' spectacular feats under Arsene Wenger were marked by the achievements of a formidable group of attackers and Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were the cream of the crop.

When Thierry Henry joined Arsenal as a prodigious 20-year-old striker, Dennis Bergkamp was already a living legend at the club. Arsene Wenger's rotation policy meant that the two fan-favourites took their time to establish an effective relationship on the pitch.

Once the fireworks began, however, a brick wall could not get the better of the two enigmatic forwards. Dennis Bergkamp remains one of the most creative players in Premier League history and his legendary vision was the perfect elixir for Thierry Henry's explosive bursts of speed on the pitch.

The two Arsenal behemoths played crucial roles in Arsene Wenger's legendary 'Invincibles' season in 2004. The duo won two Premier League titles and two FA Cups with the Gunners and created an aura of glory at Highbury.


Also Read: 10 Greatest Football Managers of all time

#4 Ian Rush, Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool)

Ian Rush has an excellent relationship with Kenny Dalglish
Ian Rush has an excellent relationship with Kenny Dalglish

Liverpool have always been associated with legendary strikers over the years and their golden era under Bob Paisley yielded two of the best hitmen in English football history. Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish established a special connection with Anfield in the 1980s and have written unique chapters for themselves in Merseyside folklore.

Kenny Dalglish was the creative fulcrum of Bob Paisley's side and his innate ability to create magic in the final third brought the best out of the lethal Ian Rush. The two Anfield stalwarts won four league titles and two European Cups with Liverpool and made the Merseyside club a formidable continental force.

Rush and Dalglish were two of the most dangerous strikers of their era and marked one of Liverpool's most glorious eras. The two took to different paths after their playing careers but remain the most devastating duo in English football history.


#3 Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

Messi and Suarez share an excellent friendship
Messi and Suarez share an excellent friendship

Originally a trio of the most talented South American footballers on the planet, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez became Barcelona's messiahs after Neymar's transfer to Paris Saint-Germain. The two superstars forged a magnificent partnership on the pitch and wreaked havoc in La Liga.

Lionel Messi has transformed into Barcelona's primary creative influence in the latter stages of his career and his exemplary vision gave Luis Suarez the spark he needed to work wonders for the club. Messi also found himself on the receiving end of a flurry of chances over the year as Suarez's tenacity on the pitch allowed the Argentine to waltz past defensive lines with ease.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have combined for an astonishing 420 goals in six years for Barcelona and shared an excellent relationship both on and off the pitch. The two South Americans now play for La Liga rivals but remain both friends and competitors.


#2 Pele, Garrincha (Brazil)

Pele and Garrincha were unplayable at their best
Pele and Garrincha were unplayable at their best

Pele and Garrincha were two of the greatest players to have ever graced the beautiful game and their sheer presence in Brazil's star-studded team made the Selecao virtually invincible. The two prodigious forwards are legends of the game and while their abilities transcend the statistical realm, the numbers do provide a stunning rendition of their impact on Brazilian football.

Pele and Garrincha played 40 games together in national colours and the Selecao has famously never lost a match with the two greats on the pitch. Pele's unrivalled ability to find the back of the net often overshadowed Garrincha's mesmerising feet but the latter's importance is not lost on the most ardent fans of the game.

With 44 goals and two World Cups between them for Brazil, Pele and Garrincha forged a partnership that remains unmatched on the international stage. The two Selecao legends were unplayable in their prime and made Brazil synonymous with the beautiful game.


#1 Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas (Real Madrid)

Di Stefano and Puskas plundered Spain and Europe
Di Stefano and Puskas plundered Spain and Europe

Real Madrid's era of glory in the 1950s did have certain controversial roots but the quality of their formidable strike force remains unquestionable. Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas remain two of the most prolific goalscorers in history and their partnership gave Real Madrid the launchpad they needed to become Europe's most successful club.

The two legendary stalwarts played together for six years at Real Madrid and scored a stunning 302 goals in the process. The European Cup final of 1962 witnessed the duo's crowning moment as Di Stefano and Puskas dismantled Eintracht Frankfurt on their way to a historic 7-3 victory.

Di Stefano, in particular, was Real Madrid's maestro at the time and won five European Cups with Los Blancos. Ferenc Puskas' presence at the club brought the best out of the Argentine legend and gave Real Madrid the elite status they have today.


Honourable Mentions

Alan Shearer, Chris Sutton (Blackburn Rovers); Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema (Real Madrid); Romario, Hristo Stoichkov (Barcelona); Alessandro del Piero, David Trezeguet (Juventus); Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini (Sampdoria)


Also Read: Top 10 attacking trios in football history

Edited by Aditya Hosangadi

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