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Top 10 attacking trios in football history

Football has seen some exceptional attacking trios
Football has seen some exceptional attacking trios
Aditya Hosangadi
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Football has experienced several stages of evolution over the years but a few aspects of the game have captured the minds of audiences for the past several decades. The concept of an attacking trident that can tear the most well-drilled teams in the sport apart has been tried and tested on several occasions and has, more often than not, succeeded to a devastating degree.

The best players in history have always been surrounded by scintillating individuals who have carved out their own legacies in the sport. The likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, and Johan Cruyff have often associated themselves with attacking partners capable of going toe-to-toe with their legendary abilities.

Here, we take a look at the ten most lethal attacking trios to have ever graced the beautiful game.


#10 Omar Sivori, John Charles, Giampiero Boniperti

(Juventus)

'Trio Magico' made Juventus a force to reckon with. Image Source: The Totally Football Show
'Trio Magico' made Juventus a force to reckon with. Image Source: The Totally Football Show

Juventus are arguably the greatest team in the illustrious history of Italian football. The roots of the Bianconeri can be traced to the early 20th century but Juventus were not the superpower they are today until a certain trident of legends graced the club with their presence.

Juventus were languishing in ninth place in the Serie A table when Umberto Agnelli took over as the chairman of the club. The industrialist had massive ambitions for Juventus and brought in English superstar John Charles and Argentine wizard Omar Sivori to propel the club to glory.

The decision to create a trio of superstars worked wonders for Juventus. With John Charles' presence in the penalty area and Omar Sivori's magic, Giampiero Boniperti finally had the support he needed to make Juventus a European superpower.

Juventus' star-studded attack was dubbed 'Trio Magico' and led the club to three Serie A titles and two Italian Cups in four seasons. The Bianconeri have fielded some of the most potent attacking combinations in football history but continue to consider this particular trio as the best in their history.


#9 George Best, Denis Law, Sir Bobby Charlton (Manchester United)

Law, Best, and Charlton were brilliant for Manchester United. Image Source: Tifo Football
Law, Best, and Charlton were brilliant for Manchester United. Image Source: Tifo Football

Manchester United have had some of the most lethal attacking players in the history of the beautiful game. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole, and Dwight Yorke have carved out their own legacies with Red Devils and have obliterated the English top-flight with their exploits.

The pinnacle of Manchester United's attacking fervour, however, was embodied by the football's 'Holy Trinity.' The trio took the 1960s by storm and paved the way for Manchester United's domination under Sir Matt Busby.

While Denis Law terrorised the opposition with his sheer presence in the penalty area, Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best worked their magic in the midfield to create an unplayable machine that dominated English football for the better part of the decade.

The trinity scored an astonishing 46 goals in a 42-game streak and took turns plundering goals and winning Ballon d'Ors over a span of four seasons. Manchester United have seen a host of brilliant players over the years but may never see another 'Holy Trinity' again.


Also Read: Premier League 2019/20: Team of the season

#8 Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)

Real Madrid enjoyed plenty of success with the 'BBC'
Real Madrid enjoyed plenty of success with the 'BBC'

Real Madrid needed something special to loosen Barcelona's iron grip over Spanish football earlier in the decade and the 'BBC' came to the fore at just the right time. In a rather rare occurrence where two of the most lethal attacking tridents in football shared an exhilarating rivalry, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Gareth Bale played their part in taking the Spanish game to astonishing new heights.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were brought to the Spanish capital to restore Real Madrid to their former glory and the arrival of Gareth Bale ignited, albeit for a brief period, one of the most exciting periods in the club's storied history.

The trio scored an incredible 97 goals in their first season in 2014 and won four UEFA Champions League trophies over a span of four years. Each member of the trident may have experienced varying degrees of success at Real Madrid but when they were at their best, the 'BBC' were unstoppable.


#7 Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

Barcelona's South American trio was incredible
Barcelona's South American trio was incredible

In 2014, Barcelona had all the makings of a perfect storm. With Lionel Messi transitioning into a more creative role for the Catalans, Neymar stepped up as Barcelona's crown prince in the final third. The Blaugrana added Luis Suarez to their ranks and all hell broke loose.

The South American trio massacred defences in their first season and led Barcelona to an unprecedented treble. Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez scored 122 goals in a single season and formed one of the most magical partnerships in football history.

The feared attacking trident broke their own football record in the following season and scored an astonishing 131 goals as Barcelona stormed their way to another La Liga title. Neymar may have moved on to Paris Saint-Germain but the MSN's exploits in their best years have been etched into Spain's football folklore.


#6 Johan Cruyff, Piet Keizer, Sjaak Swart (Ajax)

Johan Cruyff was in illustrious company at Ajax. Image Source: Ajax Daily
Johan Cruyff was in illustrious company at Ajax. Image Source: Ajax Daily

Ajax will go down in history as the club that managed to revolutionise football and change the beautiful game forever. Johan Cruyff is the most famous player from Ajax's years of glory in the 1960s and 1970s and he had two of the most devastating wingers of his time on either side of him at the Amsterdam club.

Piet Keizer started out as a teenager at Ajax and grew into an unplayable phenomenon on the left flank. Johan Cruyff also developed an excellent relationship with Sjaak Swart on Ajax's right flank and the trio formed one of the most complete tridents in the history of football.

With the trio firing on all cylinders, the torchbearers of 'Total Football' won six Eredivisie titles and three European Cups in eight seasons and gave Ajax a golden era that has heavily influenced the football that we experience today.


#5 Pele, Garrincha, Vava (Brazil)

Pele, Garrincha, and Vava formed an incredible combination. Image Source: Lance
Pele, Garrincha, and Vava formed an incredible combination. Image Source: Lance

Brazil's dominance of the football world was at its heyday in the 1950s. The Samba magicians were adored for their approach to the game and made Brazil synonymous with the beautiful game.

Pele was predictably at the heart of Brazil's incredible World Cup successes and his prodigious abilities gave the Selecao an otherworldly aura. Garrincha, at his best, was one of his best players in history and was arguably Brazil's most important player in the 1958 World Cup.

Vava also played a pivotal role in Brazil's all-star side and stepped up at the perfect moments to complement Pele and Garrincha in their extraordinary exploits. Brazil's success at the international stage is well-documented and Pele, Garrincha, and Vava kicked into a motion a phenomenon that continues to captivate the world to this day.


Also Read: UEFA Champions League 2019/20: Team of the season

#4 Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis, Nandor Hidegkuti (Hungary)

Ferenc Puskas is the best Hungarian player in history. Image Source: Daily News Hungary
Ferenc Puskas is the best Hungarian player in history. Image Source: Daily News Hungary

At a time when England, West Germany, and Sweden were vying for supremacy on football's intriguing European stage, Hungary upset the odds relentlessly and made the world take notice.

Dubbed the 'Magical Magyars' for their baffling ability on the pitch, Hungary were known for their ruthlessness on the pitch. The country miraculously produced three of the best forwards in history in Ferenc Puskas, Sandor Kocsis, and Nandor Hidegkuti and the trio came together to send shivers down their oppositions' spines.

With Kocsis and Puskas at their lethal best in the penalty area, the understated Nandor Hidegkuti quietly pulled the strings as Hungary wreaked havoc in the 1954 World Cup. The 'Magical Magyars' may have shockingly lost the World Cup final to West Germany that year but Puskas, Kocsis, and Hidegkuti wrote themselves into football's history books with their stunning exploits.


#3 Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo (Brazil)

Brazil's 2002 squad was incredible
Brazil's 2002 squad was incredible

Brazil predictably have more than one entry on this list and Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho find themselves in the highest echelons of football history for the sheer joy that their exploits brought to the beautiful game. The three Brazilian superstars made football look like a cakewalk as they dribbled their way past the best defences of their era and took Brazil to World Cup glory.

The trio first came into the fore in the Copa America tournament in 1999. Ronaldo and Rivaldo helped a young Ronaldinho navigate the challenges of the first team and the trident scored 11 goals in six games to win the trophy.

The fearsome trident achieved the most coveted feat in world football in 2002 and scored 15 goals in only seven games in the Selecao's successful World Cup campaign.


#2 Pele, Pepe, Coutinho (Santos)

Pele, Pepe, and Coutinho had extraordinary goalscoring records. Image Source: Globo
Pele, Pepe, and Coutinho had extraordinary goalscoring records. Image Source: Globo

Santos may not be the talk of the football world anymore but the landscape of Brazilian football in the 1960s was extraordinarily different from what it is today. Pele scored an incredible 643 official goals with Santos but may not have reached the impeccable heights he managed without his prodigious partners in crime.

Former Santos forwards Pepe and Coutinho do not dominate popular discourse to the extent that Pele does but were legendary figures in their own right. Pepe's 405 goals and Coutinho's 370 goals may have been overshadowed by Pele's otherworldly statistics but all three Brazilians were involved in Santos' incredible domination of South American football.

The trio's goal tally is scarcely believable. Over a period of nearly 15 years, the trio scored an astonishing 1418 goals in 1800 appearances and are arguably the most lethal attacking trident in Brazilian history.


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

Puskas, Di Stefano, and Gento initiated Real Madrid's European glory. Image Source: Reddit
Puskas, Di Stefano, and Gento initiated Real Madrid's European glory. Image Source: Reddit

Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano empowered Real Madrid in the 1950s and joined forces with Los Blancos legend Francisco 'Paco' Gento to form the most potent attacking trident in the history of football. The three visionaries turned Real Madrid into the most formidable club European football has ever seen.

The trio led Real Madrid to five consecutive UEFA Champions League victories and dominated the competition in its early years. Real Madrid's crowning moment of the Puskas-Gento-Di Stefano era came in 1960 when Los Blancos thrashed Eintracht Frankfurt by a 7-3 margin in the European Cup final.

Ferenc Puskas put in his best performance in a Real Madrid shirt with four goals while Di Stefano scored a hat-trick of his own. Paco Gento went on to become the most successful Real Madrid player in football history and completed an attacking trident whose achievements are unlikely to be surpassed in the near future.


Honourable Mentions:

Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl, Nils Liedholm (Sweden)

Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane (Liverpool)

Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o, Thierry Henry (Barcelona)

Thierry Henry, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)

Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez (Manchester United)


Also Read: 10 Greatest Football Managers of all time

Edited by Aditya Hosangadi
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