5 of Europe's most exciting attacking partnerships in 2019-20
- While some well-known attacking partnerships faded away this season, new ones have emerged
- Here are the top 5 most exciting attacking partnerships in 2019/20.
Probably for the first time in the 21st century, Barcelona and Real Madrid don't have the attacking partnership that's making the headlines. Not that Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez failed to live up to their standards this season, but various injury setbacks have prevented both of them from performing consistently throughout 2019/20.
Meanwhile, no one at the Santiago Bernabeu has managed to keep up with Karim Benzema's high tempo, with Gareth Bale, Luka Jovic, Vinicius Junior, and Rodrygo all underperforming for the majority of the campaign.
While the Spanish giants entered somewhat of a downturn, new, exciting partnerships were born across the continent, with the one between Josip Ilicic and Alejandro 'Papu Gomez' probably being the highlight of the season. The aging duo has guided Atalanta all the way through to the Champions League quarter-finals in their first-ever season in Europe's top-tier competition.
In Germany, Timo Werner and Marcel Sabitzer had managed to bring RB Leipzig to the top of the Bundesliga and keep them there for quite a while before Bayern Munich finally toppled them. In Ligue 1, Wissam Ben Yedder and Islam Slimani have escorted Monaco from the relegation zone to Europe's doorstep.
But, here, we will take a look at the five most intriguing attacking partnerships that fascinated football lovers across the globe so far in 2019/20.
#5 Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne
Liverpool's fierce Premier League rivals, Manchester City, also possess intimidating firepower in the shape of Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne. The duo has played an instrumental part in City's back-to-back Premier League titles under Pep Guardiola and has continued to demonstrate their superiority this season, too.
Almost a quarter (23.53%) of Manchester City's 68 league goals bagged this campaign required Aguero's final touch. The best foreign goalscorer in the Premier League history (180), the Argentinean has been tearing apart the opposition defenses during his nine-year stint at the Etihad. Yet, this season has not been straightforward for the 31-year-old, who has had to battle Gabriel Jesus for a place in the starting XI. Despite being limited to 17 Premier League starts, Aguero has scored 16 times, which now means he has surpassed a 10-goal landmark in each season since arriving from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
While Guardiola entrusted 'Kun' with the goalscoring task, De Bruyne is in charge of ‘feeding’ his attacking teammates and creating scoring opportunities. The Belgium international has provided 16 assists in the Premier League so far this season, becoming the first player ever to pick up 15 or more assists in the English top-flight three years in a row. Notably, the 28-year-old has created 23 clear-cut chances this term (more than any other player in the Premier League), with only Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller (24) and PSG’s Angel Di Maria (32) bettering that record of all players featuring in Europe’s top-five leagues.
According to WhoScored.com, no player in Europe has managed more key passes than De Bruyne (72) this season, which makes him the most creative midfielder by a mile. As per the same source, Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is not among the top-six in that category, which is probably the best illustration of how important De Bruyne's qualities are to Guardiola's side.
Let's put it this way - the former Chelsea outcast makes an assist every 134 minutes he spends on the field. His closest competitor, Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool, has 12 league assists this season, although it takes him 212 minutes on the pitch per an assist.
#4 Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah
With all due to respect to the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Roberto Firmino, but Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are the twin pillars upon which Liverpool’s success rests. It is beyond doubt that Van Dijk has almost single-handedly shored up the Reds’ immense defensive problems, while the Brazilian notched up some important goals over the past couple of years. However, the African duo remains the foundation stone of Jurgen Klopp’s revolution.
Mane and Salah have orchestrated Liverpool’s inexorable march towards their first Premier League title in history in remarkable fashion. The Senegal international has clocked up 14 goals and nine assists in 26 league outings so far this season and is only one assist short of becoming the first Premier League player to hit double figures. In the meantime, his partner in-crime has 16 goals and six assists to his name and remains in contention to become the league’s top-scorer, with Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, who tops the scoring chart, netting three more.
The extent of their significance in Klopp's set-up can be fully grasped only by taking off their numbers from the Merseysiders' account. The Senegalese forward and his Egyptian teammate have participated in 68.18% (45) of the total 66 goals Liverpool have scored in the Premier League this term. In turn, they have contributed to 59 goals across all competitions this campaign, either scoring or assisting.
Indeed, Mane and Salah, both 27, form one of the most prolific partnerships in Europe, let alone the Premier League. The former Roma man is Liverpool’s joint-best overseas scorer in the Premier League, and it took him only two-and-a-half seasons to establish himself as a record-breaker. Additionally, Salah struck 20 goals in all competitions for the third year running, while Mane came two short of reaching the same milestone before the coronavirus pandemic halted the club season in Europe.
#3 Kylian Mbappe and Neymar
'The most exciting partnerships in football' list can't not include Mbappe and Neymar. Let's face it - these two form the most enjoyable attacking couple in Europe, and even though many would say they play in a 'less competitive' league, no one can overlook their ridiculous numbers.
They are blessed with talent, pace, technique, lethal goalscoring instinct, and an audaciousness that merges all those qualities into one superior entity. Apart from being an enjoyable pair to watch, the Frenchman and the Brazilian really drive PSG forward in every sense of the phrase. With 75 Ligue 1 goals scored this season, the Parisians are the most prolific team in Europe’s top-five leagues, and that’s mainly thanks to Neymar and Mbappe. Indeed, the all-star duo has been involved in 58.67% of PSG’s total league goals this campaign (44).
Take their goals away from the equation, and PSG become an average side in France. Indeed, without their goals, the perennial Ligue 1 champions would have 44 in their account, which would put them on a pair with Monaco and just two clear of Lyon and three of Marseille and Nice.
Often accused of being selfish, Mbappe has 17 assists in all competitions to his name (5 in the Champions League) and can still surpass Ajax's Hakim Ziyech (5) in the competition’s assist standings now that the Lancers aren't involved anymore. Although tied with Monaco's Wissam Ben Yedder (18) at the top of the Ligue 1 scoring table, the 21-year-old is enjoying his second-best senior season and is nine short of equaling his 2018/19 tally of 39 goals in all competitions.
Meanwhile, an injury-hit start to the season has not prevented Neymar from showcasing his class. The Brazilian dynamo has netted 13 goals in 15 league outings for PSG this term, adding six assists in the process. It means a goal or an assist for Neymar every 70 minutes he’s on the field in Ligue 1, which makes him the most effective player in the French top tier.
#2 Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller
The attacking partnership between Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller has been nothing short of outstanding this season. In fact, these two are the main reasons why Bayern Munich managed to overthrow RB Leipzig at the top of the Bundesliga table. Philippe Coutinho, Serge Gnabry, and Kingsley Coman (when fit) have all contributed to the Bavarians’ rise under Hansi Flick, but Lewandowski and Muller have singled out as Bayern’s driving force this season.
Widely regarded as the best No 9 in Europe, the Poland international has been in blistering form this term, scoring 25 of Bayern’s 73 league goals (34.25%), as he sits four clear of his closest rival Timo Werner of RB Leipzig at the top of the goalscoring standings. Speaking of his video-game performances, Lewandowski has failed to find the net in just two of 23 Bundesliga appearances this year.
By extension, free-scoring Lewandowski has transferred his out-of-this-world digits to the Champions League, too. He tops the scoring chart in Europe’s most prestigious club competition in Europe with 11 goals, which came from just 20 attempts on target! With Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland now out of the picture, the 31-year-old is likely to finish the season as the competition’s best scorer.
Many have thought that Muller was past his prime after a torrid 2018/19, but the German has silenced his critics by producing an astonishing 2019/20 campaign. The best assist-maker in Bundesliga history, the 30-year-old has registered 16 assists this term, taking his overall tally to 115. Muller, therefore, average one assist every 97 minutes he's on the pitch, which puts him streets ahead of his closest followers.
Although he has become more of a playmaker this season, the famous German has still netted ten goals in all competitions, as he remains one of just two Bayern players to reach double figures in 2019/20.
#1 Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez
Last but not the least, Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have been a truly remarkable duo this year exceeding all expectations and receiving praise from all football fans in Europe.
Although they may not have been as productive as the other duos on this list, these two deserved their place on this list for everything they've done this season. Lukaku and Martinez are a perfect mix of a robust target man and a fox-in-the-box forward that has been keeping the Milanese giants in contention for the title for the majority of 2019/20.
Lukaku's decision to swap Manchester United for Inter turned out to be a career-saver for the Belgian striker, who has flourished in Serie A under Antonio Conte. Seventeen goals in 25 league appearances for the Nerazzurri have propelled the 26-year-old back to Europe's elite and earned him plaudits across the ‘Old Continent.' From being the Old Trafford scapegoat, Lukaku has turned into the Giuseppe Meazza hero, being directly involved in 38.78% of Inter's 49 league goals this term.
As for his companion Lautaro Martinez, he has scored 11 and set up three to his teammates, which means he is directly responsible for 28.57% of Inter's Serie A goals. Impressively, the Argentinean has found the back of the net in all but two of his six Champions League appearances this year, managing a total of five on an average of one goal scored per 104 minutes of Champions League action played.Published 24 Mar 2020, 20:22 IST