Torres and Drogba: Ranking the Top 25 Strike Partnerships of All Time
The signing of Fernando Torres has been the source of much debate in the previous two weeks. One of the questions asked is whether they are the two best strikers of all time to play together.
To further look into it, here we give you the 25 best strike pairs to play together. While modern tactics have went away from the traditional pair of forwards, we have included on this list two players who played in three-man forward lines. This allowed pairings such as Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo to be considered despite not playing in a traditional 4-4-2 system.
The 25 pairings on this list all played in markedly different styles, but they had one thing in common. They were a nightmare for defenders to handle, and if the opposition focused heavily on one player, the other was sure to punish them.
Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section, and debate where you think Torres and Drogba will fit into this list when all is said and done.
25. Mick Harford and Brian Stein (Luton Town)
Luton Town are no longer a professional outfit in England, having been relegated down to the Blue Square Premier Division. However, there was a time during the 1980s when the Hatters developed a reputation for upsetting the big names of English Football.
The front pair of Harford and Stein was a classic big man/little man pairing, with the physical presence of Hartford causing havoc while the speedy goal poacher Stein stretched defensive lines and racked up the goals.
The pair lead Luton to a seventh-place finish on the English top division in 1984 and led Luton to an upset win over Arsenal in the 1988 Littlewoods Cup Final.
A generation of long ball merchants has lived off the old tactic of "knock in a free kick and have it knocked down for a quick forward." See 1.02 in this video for a textbook example, where Harford sucks in three Arsenal defenders to release Stein to open the scoring. Stein then netted a late winner to win Luton what is still their only major trophy.
24. Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn (Sunderland)
Another classic pairing of a towering big man and a speedy goal merchant alongside him. Veteran Irish international Niall Quinn signed for Sunderland in 1996 and would go on to play a huge part in a golden era for the career of Kevin Phillips.
Phillips and Quinn scored 46 goals between then in the 1998/1999 season as Sunderland were promoted to the Premier League and would not slow down in the English top division.
During their first season in the top flight, the muscle and git of Quinn-occupied defenders and Phillips rattled in 30 league goals to win both the English Premier League and European Golden Boot awards.
A high point for the pair came in December 1999 when they each scored two goals as Chelsea were destroyed 4-1 at the Stadium of Light.
23. Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur)
The silky skills and technical brilliance of Dimitar Berbatov was complimented at Spurs by the hard working speed merchant Robbie Keane. The laid-back Bulgarian and the fiery Irishman appeared to have little in common but acted as one on the field and formed a partnership that was a joy to behold for all Tottenham fans.
In their first season together in 2006/2007, the pair combined for 45 goals and received recognition in April. Keane and Berbatov were named joint Barclays Player of the Month award winners for the month of April, having scored eight goals between them in five games for that month.
The following season, the pair lead Tottenham to League Cup glory, as they beat Chelsea in the final to claim the club's first trophy in nine years. Berbatov scored a penalty during the 2-1 victory for Spurs at Wembley Stadium.
22. Teddy Sheringham and Jurgen Klinnsmann (Tottenham Hotspur)
Jurgen Klinsmann arrived at Tottenham Hotspur in 1994 having already won the World Cup. Bearing that fact in mind, it was lofty praise indeed then when during his stay at White Hart Lane he described Teddy Sheringham as "the most intelligent strike partner I have ever had."
The pair terrorized the Premier League, scoring 52 goals between them and firing Spurs to seventh in the Premier League and to the semifinals of the FA Cup.
Sheringham was one of the best players the English game has seen when it came to dropping off the front line and playing as a withdrawn striker. Klinsmann complimented him as a spearhead with veteran savvy, excellent movement and a simply lethal finishing touch.
21. Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas (Chile)
Chilean strike duo Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano had decorated European club careers and also combined to form the greatest strike partnership in their national team's history.
Salas and Zamorano blazed a trail through South American qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Salas scored 11 goals in qualifying, including two hat-tricks against Colombia and Peru respectively. Zamora scored 12 goals during the campaign including five goals against Venezuela and double strikes against Paraguay and Ecuador respectively.
When they arrived at the World Cup in France, Salas scored in every game he played, including a double strike in the group stage 2-2 draw against Italy.
20. Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore (Liverpool)
Robbie Fowler was in the process of establishing himself as a Liverpool legend in the summer of 1995, when Stan Collymore arrived in a multi-million pound move from Nottingham Forest.
The pair were only together for two seasons but were prolific in their time together. Fowler racked up 67 goals in all competitions, while Collymore chipped in with 26 of his own. Collymore was the pace and power of this strike pair, while Fowler is often referred to as one of the greatest natural finishers in the history of the Premier League.
Fowler and Collymore were also key figures in one of the greatest Premier League games of all time, when Collymore's last-minute winner gave Liverpool a 4-3 win over Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United.
19. Eidur Gudjohnsen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Chelsea)
Torres and Drogba will not be the first great strike pair to play at Chelsea, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink terrorized defenses throughout the Premier League when they paired together at Chelsea for four seasons between 2000 and 2004.
During their time together, the power and bustle and Hasselbaink paired well with the skill and subtlety of Gudjohnsen, and the pair combined for 146 goals in all competitions. As the clip shows, a large number of the goals were laid on a plate for each other, thanks to their excellent understanding.
Hasselbaink described their partnership by saying, "off the ball we knew exactly where one another were, and on the ball I knew exactly where he was gonna be and vice versa."
The admiration was mutual, "there just seemed to be a flow between us, there was a chemistry that was just there," said Gudjohnsen.
18. Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez (Uruguay)
Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez were the driving force as Uruguay exceeded all expectations during the 2010 World Cup. During an inconsistent qualifying campaign, the strike pair combined for 12 goals, but Uruguay only made it to South Africa when they scraped a 2-1 aggregate win over Costa Rica in a qualifying playoff.
At the World Cup, a dour 0-0 draw against France in their World Cup opener gave no indication of what was to come. Forlan scored twice and produced an assist as Uruguay beat the host South Africans 3-0 in the next group game, before Suarez's guaranteed qualification with a winning goal in their final group game against Mexico.
Suarez scored twice in the second round as South Korea were dispatched, and Uruguay beat Ghana on penalties in the quarterfinal. Forlan scored from a free kick, while Suarez preserved the 1-1 scoreline with a handball that would make him one of the most infamous players on the planet. Uruguay would lose the semi-final to the Netherlands 3-2 where Forlan was again on the score sheet.
When all was said and done, Forlan was awarded the Golden Ball award as the tournaments best player, and finished tied as the tournaments leading goal scorer with five goals. Suarez chipped in with three goals and played a huge part in Uruguay's semifinal run.
Many pundits suggested at the World Cup that 4-4-2 was a dying system at the top level, and the deployment of a lone forward and extra man in midfield was the way forward. Suarez and Forlan showed that you can still have success in a 4-4-2, provided you have a red-hot strike force.
17. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were not a traditional front two, but they played together in a dynamic Manchester United front three that worked to devastating effect.
The relationship of Ronaldo and Rooney was deemed broken by many fans in the summer of 2006, when a World Cup altercation resulted in Rooney being red carded for England as they crashed out of the World Cup at the hands of Ronaldo's Portugal.
With media speculation of the two at war off the field, they went on to have some of their greatest success together in the coming seasons.
Rooney provided the fight while Ronaldo showed fantastic skills and impressive aerial ability. Both possessed lightning pace and the ability to create goals out of nowhere, and scored 152 goals combined in three seasons between 2006 and 2009 when Ronaldo left for Madrid.
United won the Premier League title in all three of those seasons, and secured a Champions League title in 2008, when Ronaldo was on the scoresheet in the final.
16. Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley (Newcastle United)
Newcastle United under Kevin Keegan developed a reputation for competing at the top end of the Premier League and scoring a bucket load of goals.
With Newcastle residing in the second tier of English football in 1993, Keegan signed Andy Cole from Bristol City in February. Cole scored 12 goals in 12 league games as Newcastle cruised to the title and earned promotion to the English Premier League.
Local hero Peter Beardsley was signed in the summer of 1993 to partner Cole, and the partnership was a roaring success. The newly promoted Magpies finished third and the pair netted an astounding 66 goals between them in all competitions during the 1993/1994 season.
The pair started the next season well, but their days as a partnership were cut short when Cole was sold to Manchester United in a shock transfer that broke the British record at seven million pounds.
15. Teddy Sheringham and Alan Shearer (England)
Going into Euro 96 England fans were furiously debating who England's best striking options were. Alan Shearer had not scored for 20 months, Sheringham was scoreless for half a year, and with a lack of competitive qualifying games played to prepare, the sharpness of England's front options was a concern for many. Five games later, Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham had established themselves as one of the best front pairs in England's history.
Shearer was the bustling spearhead with the ability to hold the ball up, and score from all angles and distances with his head or either foot. Sheringham was the player who would use clever movement and incisive passing to create havoc for the opposing defense.
Shearer opened the scoring as England drew 1-1 with Switzerland to open group play and was on target again when the Three Lions beat bitter rivals Scotland 2-0. In the final game of group play, England produced one of their great performances as they destroyed the Netherlands 4-1, and Shearer and Sheringham scored twice each.
England would battle past Spain on penalties after drawing 0-0, but a Shearer goal was not enough to prevent a penalty shootout exit at the hands of Germany after a 1-1 draw.
When all was said and done, the pair had scored seven goals and helped England to the semifinals of a major tournament, a feat that has not been matched since. Shearer also won the Golden Boot for the tournament with five goals.
The video clip displays many of the strengths of the pair, at 1.59 Sheringham shapes to shoot before playing a beautifully disguised pass for Shearer to rifle home England's third goal. At 2.55 the strength of Shearer holds possession, and Sheringham finishes off the attack with a classic poachers finish.
14. Gary Lineker and Peter Beardsley (England)
With 48 goals scored for England, Gary Lineker is rightly revered as one of his nation's greatest ever strikers. Lineker paid a huge compliment to strike partner Peter Beardsley when he described him as "the best partner I could ever have."
Beardsley was nowhere near as prolific finding the net as Lineker but provided countless assists and was excellent at building the attack and sucking defenders out of position. In the clip you see at 0.14, clever interplay between the two to build up an attack that ended in a Lineker goal, while at 1.22 Beardsley drops deep to release the winger who crosses for Lineker to score again.
The pair appeared together in both the 1986 and 1990 with great success. Lineker won the World Cup Golden Boot in 1986 after scoring six goals, while Beardsley found the net in England's second-round win over Paraguay. A goal by Lineker was not enough to prevent England going down 2-1 to Argentina in the infamous "Hand of God" quarterfinal.
In the 1990 World Cup, England went one step further and reached the semifinals with Lineker netting four goals while partnered with Beardsley.
13. Lionel Messi and David Villa (Barcelona)
Lionel Messi and David Villa are a fledgling partnership and do not play as a traditional front pair. However, their place on this list cannot be denied as they currently spearhead the attack of one of the greatest teams to play the game.
Barcelona already had a tradition of excellence when they signed Villa in the summer of 2010 to join 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year Messi. Villa leads the attack while Messi tends to float out wide and wreak havoc making him very difficult to defend.
The pair both scored in their first game together as Barca opened La Liga play with a 3-0 win at Racing Santander, and they have not looked back since. At the time of writing, the pair have combined for 39 goals and 20 assists in only 22 games. They have also led Barca to first place in La Liga and spearheaded a 5-0 mauling of arch rivals Real Madrid.
While Villa tends to stay as a high forward, Messi's constant movement means a defensive system is yet to be designed to comfortably deal with this pair, and when their time together is done, they will likely feature higher on lists like this one.
12. Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton (Blackburn Rovers)
The partnership affectionately known by Blackburn Rovers fans as the "SAS" powered the club to their only Premier League title in the 1994/1995 season.
While some strike partnerships are the finishing touch in a group that has goal threats all over the field, Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton were truly the heartbeat of Blackburn's title success. The pair combined for 49 goals, with no other Blackburn player managing to score more than six.
The video clip shows every goal scored by Blackburn in their title winning campaign, although you could be fooled into thinking it is merely an SAS highlight reel.
One thing that is striking in the video is the direct and physical style that they played in. Every opponent knew Blackburn were a direct team that played through their front pair, Shearer and Sutton were just so good and so strong no team was capable of doing anything about it.
11. Eusebio and Jose Augusto Torres (Portugal)
Eusebio and Jose Augusto Torres played centrally in a dynamic front four for Portugal during the 1966 World Cup. Torres found the net in Portugal's opening 3-1 win over Hungary, while both Eusebio and Torres found the net in the 3-0 win over Bulgaria that followed.
Portugal concluded group play with a resounding 3-1 win over defending World Cup champions Brazil as Eusebio scored twice.
In the quarterfinals, Portugal faced an upstart North Korea team who had shocked Italy with a 1-0 upset win in the group stages. North Korea were 3-0 up after 25 minutes, but Eusebio responded with one of the great individual performances of all time as he scored four goals and led the Portugese to a 5-3 win. Torres played his part as he won the penalty that Eusebio converted to make it 3-2 and headed back across goal for Jose Augusto to make it 5-3.
In the semifinals, Eusebio scored but it was not enough to prevent eventual Champions England from winning 2-1 and advancing to a final. Both players found the net as Portugal beat the Soviet Union 2-1 to finish in third place.
In the end, Eusebio and Torres combined for 12 goals during the tournament, and Eusebio won the Golden Boot with nine strikes.
10. Fernando Torres and David Villa (Spain)
Fernando Torres and David Villa were the driving force as Spain won their first ever major trophy in Euro 2008. Torres spearheaded the attack as Villa drifted in from wide left with devastating effect.
Villa opened the tournament with a hat-trick in a 4-1 win over Russia, and both players found the net in a 2-1 victory over Sweden next time out. Spain battled past Italy on a shootout after a 0-0 draw, before dispatching Russia again 3-0 in the semi-finals.
In the final, it was Torres who scored the decisive goal when he bullied his way past a German defender before dinking a cool finish over the goalkeeper for a 1-0 win.
The pair combined for six goals during the tournament, and Villa won the Golden Boot with four strikes.
9. Jurgen Klinsmann and Rudi Voller (West Germany)
Jurgen Klinsmann and Rudi Voller are tied for third place all time on the lost of goal scorers for the German National team. The pair played together in Euro 1988 and then combined for six goals as Germany won the 1990 World Cup.
The pair seemed very similar as out-and-out goal scorers but found a way to intelligently link with each other and cause pandemonium for opposing defenders.
8. Romario and Bebeto (Brazil)
Brazil's 1994 World Cup winning team is remembered as one of Brazil's most defense-oriented teams. However, they had a strike pair that like other Brazilian teams could produce game winning magic any moment.
Romario and Bebeto combined for four goals in the group stages as Brazil advanced without losing a game. They followed that up when Bebeto scored the winner to eliminate the USA in the second round.
The pair scored one goal each in a thrilling 3-2 quarterfinal win over the Netherlands, and Romario scored the only goal in a 1-0 semifinal win over Sweden.
Neither player scored in the World Cup Final, but Brazil triumphed in a shootout after a dogged 0-0 tie with Italy.
Bebeto finished his Brazil career with 39 goals, while Romario finished with 55, second only to the great Pele.
7. Pele and Jairzinho (Brazil)
The 1970 Brazil team seemed to have a goal-scoring threat at every outfield position, but it was Pele and Jairzinho who featured most prominently in the attack. Jairzinho scored in every single game Brazil played right through to the final and finished with seven goals, while Pele weighed in with four goals and multiple assists.
While neither player won the Golden Boot, they combined with devastating effect throughout the tournament. Both players featured prominently in the World Cup Final when Brazil mauled Italy 4-1 in one of the great team performances of all time.
6. Ronaldo and Rivaldo (Brazil)
Brazil won the 2002 World Cup on the back of an outstanding performance from Ronaldo and Rivaldo. Ronaldo showed pace, power and lethal finishing while Rivaldo showed skill and guile that unlocked many tight defenses. What was truly frightening, is this duo were ably assisted by Ronaldinho playing in the hole behind them.
Brazil breezed through the group stages with three wins, and this duo got off to a flying start with seven goals between them in the first three group games. Both scored in the 2-0 second round win over Belgium, while Rivaldo scored as England were dispatched in the quarterfinals.
Ronaldo picked up the mantle from then on, scoring the decisive goal in the 1-0 semifinal win over Turkey and scoring twice to beat Germany 2-0 in the World Cup Final.
When all was said and done, Brazil had won their fifth World Cup, and this dynamic duo had combined for 13 goals; Ronaldo's eight strikes won him the Golden Boot.
5. Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)
Widely considered by Arsenal fans as the best strike partnership in the history of the club, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were a lethal combination of pace, skill and finishing ability.
Bergkamp floated between the opposing defense and midfield, while Henry would switch between drifting wide, and racing by slower footed defenders to produce yet another goal. The pair played together at Arsenal for seven seasons and achieved great success.
In their time together, Henry scored 214 goals and Bergkamp contributed 51 strikes and many assists. The pair won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups together. Henry and Bergkamp also led the line as Arsenal became the only team to complete a full Premier League season undefeated.
4. Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole (Manchester United)
Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke formed the greatest strike partnership in the storied history of Manchester United. The high point of this pair's career together came during the famous treble winning season in 1998/1999.
Cole and Yorke started 36 games together during the treble winning campaign, and United lost only one of them. The pair combined to net 53 goals and played some beautiful football along the way. The video clip displays arguably their most famous goal at 0.12, when sublime interplay tore apart Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
During their time together at United, the pair won three straight Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a Champions League title and an Intercontinental Cup.
3. Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool)
Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish are a strike pair that were seemingly made for each other. When Bob Paisley deployed Dalglish as a withdrawn striker behind the younger, faster Rush, the pair proved to be a revelation. Rush was credited with adding years to the career of the great Dalglish, while the guile and craft of the veteran striker were credited with raising Rush to greatness.
The pair led the way as Liverpool won three straight Premier League titles, three League Cups and a European Cup between 1981 and 1984. The pair combined for 162 goals during that time span, with Rush netting the lions share (108).
Rush and Dalglish added a League and FA Cup double to their resumes in 1986 and etched themselves into history as club legends at Anfield.
2. Hugo Sanchez and Emilio Butragueno (Real Madrid)
Hugo Sanchez and Emilio Butragueno fired Real Madrid to five consecutive La Liga titles, and a UEFA Cup title between 1985 and 1990. Sanchez netted 150 goals in that timespan with a range of acrobatic and spectacular finishes from all angles.
Butragueno weighed in with 58 goals but provided many assists and displayed the kind of remarkable ball control showed in the video clip.
1. Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas (Real Madrid)
Ferenc Puskas and Alfredo Di Stefano were already well on their way to becoming legendary figures in the game when they joined forces at Real Madrid. The two did not disappoint during their time in the Spanish capital and led the club to four straight league titles between 1961 and 1964.
The pair also led Madrid to a European Cup in 1959 as Di Stefano found the net in a 2-0 win over Stade Reims. As if all that was not impressive enough, more was to follow the following year.
In the 1960 European Cup (now Champions League) Final, Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3, with Di Stefano and Puskas scoring all seven goals between them.