Pelé, Lionel Messi and the 58 Best Attacking Combinations in Football History

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentNovember 1, 2011

Pelé, Lionel Messi and the 58 Best Attacking Combinations in Football History

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    Strike partnerships, central midfield pairings, triumvirates—football has been glittered with an array of attacking combinations.

    Talking about strike partnerships, have you ever considered who Filippo Inzaghi’s best partner was? Alessandro Del Piero or the linesman?

    I’ve made this list as comprehensive as possible, but it’s near impossible to be 100 percent right.

    Please comment below if I’ve missed a combination you believe should be on the list.

    It’s a fascinating look at how teams in the past have constructed their attack, and I hope you enjoy it. 

Chris Sutton and Henrik Larsson (Celtic)

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    Years: 2000-2004 

    Notes: Three-time Scottish Premier League champions, two-time Scottish Cup champions, 2000-2001 Scottish League Cup champions, and 2002-2003 UEFA Cup finalists. 

    With Chris Sutton as his partner, Henrik Larsson scored 53, 35, 44 and 40 goals per season. 

    It was a change of fortunes for Sutton who couldn't hit a barn door with a banjo while at Chelsea. 

Francesco Baiano, Giuseppe Signori and Roberto Rambaudi (Foggia)

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    Years: 1990-1992

    Notes: Outscored Juventus, Torino, Napoli, Roma, Sampdoria, Parma, and Inter Milan who were all ranked above Foggia.

    The miracle of Foggia is a minor bookmark in the history of the Serie A during the 1990s when the league was the best in the world.

    Foggia climbed their way back into prominence from Serie C and finished ninth with a bunch of unheralded footballers during the 1991-1992 Serie A season.

    Foggia scored and conceded 58 goals (62 percent of which came from Baiano, Signori, and Rambaudi).

    Little-known Foggia was managed by chain-smoking Zdeněk Zeman who was insistent on adopting a 4-3-3 formation encapsulated by short, snappy passing and an emphasis on triangles. 

    This was back in a time when sweepers, man markers, catenaccio-like football was the norm in the Serie A.

    Baiano later played for Derby County and was voted 1998 player of the year.

    Signori became one of the most lethal Serie A forwards. In 2011, he was given a five-year ban from all footballing activities for match-fixing.

    Rambaudi would enjoy success with Sven-Göran Eriksson’s Lazio.

    This Foggia side also included Dan Petrescu and Igor Shalimov; both went onto bigger and better things in Chelsea and Inter Milan, respectively. 

Ally McCoist and Mark Hateley (Rangers)

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    Years: 1990-1995

    Notes: Five-time Scottish Premier League champions, two-time Scottish Cup champions, three-time Scottish League Cup champions. Combined for 77 goals during the 1992-1993 season. 

    Ally McCoist was the 1992 and 1993 European Golden Shoe recipient. Mark Hateley was awarded the Scottish Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year for the 1993-1994 season. 

    Not only was it a prolific partnership but a well decorate one in terms of team and individual honours. 

    Ally McCoist currently manages Rangers whilst Hateley made headlines earlier in the year by saying he was bribed not to play against  Marseille during the 1992-1993 UEFA Champions League. 

Andriy Shevchenko and Sergei Rebrov (Dynamo Kyiv)

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    Years: 1994-1999

    Notes: Five-time Ukrainian League champions, three-time Ukrainian Cup champions, three-time CIS Cup champions. 

    Andriy Shevchenko and Sergei Rebrov combined for 198 goals in their five seasons together. 

    Coincidentally, both ended up scoring 99 goals each during their time together. 

    Their personal best was during the 1997-1998 season, when they combined for 70 goals. 

    Whilst Shevchenko progressed to the next level, Rebrov never quite emulated his scoring feats at bigger clubs. 

Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand (Newcastle)

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    Years: 1996-1997

    Notes: 1996–97 Premier League runner-up.

    Forget about Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley and say hello to Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand. 

    They combined for 49 goals in their one and only season. 

    Ferdinand moved on to Tottenham Hotspur but never regained his prolific goalscoring.

    Shearer would become the Premier League's all-time top goal scorer. 

Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn (Sunderland)

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    Years: 1997-2002

    Notes: 1998-1999 Football League Division 1 champions.

    During their first three seasons together, they combined for 49, 43 and 44 goals.

    It was a prototypical, big man, little man strike partnership.

    At 38 years old, Kevin Phillips is still playing professional football, at a relatively high level, with Blackpool in the Championship.

    Niall Quinn was the chairman of Sunderland but is now the overseas manager. 

Jesper Olsen, Michael Laudrup and Preben Elkjær (Denmark)

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    Years: 1982-1988

    Notes: Preben Elkjær voted into 1986 FIFA All-Star Team.

    Danish Dynamite was the closest European imitation of Dutch total football.

    As Rob Smyth and Lars Eriksen recounted

    “Although they [Denmark] had the Total Football hallmarks—spatial awareness, ceaseless movement, and imagination of passing—they were like a fast-forwarded version of that Holland side. No team has ever had such a collection of jet-heeled dribblers.”

    This is where the dynamite came in—they were so vibrant going forward, and this was facilitated by Jesper Olsen’s trickery, Michael Laudrup’s playmaking ability, and Preben Elkjær’s eye for goal.

    The 1986 FIFA World Cup Danish side also had Morten Olsen cleaning up, Søren Lerby in midfield, and Jan Mølby (of Liverpool fame) off the bench. 

Antonio Cassano and Francesco Totti (Roma)

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    Years: 2001-2006

    Notes: 2001 Supercoppa Italiana. Antonio Cassano was a two-time Serie A Young Footballer of the Year, 

    As I type this slide, I just want everyone to know that Cassano is in the hospital right now, after reportedly suffering a stroke. Hopefully he can return to full health and continue his career. 

    His partnership with Francesco Totti was at times telepathic. Two audaciously skilled and strong-willed individuals combined for some great goals. 

    It's a shame that no one has created a compilation of Cassano and Totti on YouTube...well, not any HD ones. 

    Cassano really debilitated his career when he went to Real Madrid. It got to a point where not only was he overweight, but he was also begging to go back to Roma. 

    Understandably Totti shunned Cassano and hasn't spoken to him since:

    "I haven’t heard from Cassano for a lifetime. There has been no contact for a while and I don’t even have his mobile phone number."

Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham Hotspur)

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    Years: 2006-2008

    Notes: 2008 Carling Cup champions.

    The goal-poaching Irishman and the languid brilliance of the Bulgarian combined for 91 goals in just two seasons.

    Regarding his partnership with Robbie Keane, Dimitar Berbatov said:

    “We know how to play with each other, when one is moving the other wants the ball. It's like a telepathic connection.”

    As of 2011, Keane is enjoying the lavish lifestyle of Los Angeles whilst Berbatov is getting paid to warm the Manchester United benches. 

Eiður Guðjohnsen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Chelsea)

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    Years: 2000-2004

    Notes: Hasselbaink awarded Premier League Golden Boot during 2000-2001 season. 

    Gianluca Vialli had laid down the blueprint of a Guðjohnsen-Hasselbaink partnership, however, it didn’t last long enough to benefit from his transfers.

    Out with Vialli and in with Claudio Ranieri.

    Also known as the Tinkerman, thank goodness he didn’t immediately tinker with Vialli’s two latest transfers.

    Behind these two great forwards was a genius in Gianfranco Zola.  

Jürgen Klinsmann and Teddy Sheringham (Tottenham Hotspur)

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    Years: 1994-1995

    Notes: Both in the top-ten goalscorers for the 1994-1995 Premier League season.

    Short but sweet.

    Jürgen Klinsmann and Teddy Sheringham combined for 58 goals in their first and last season together.

    Klinsmann moved to Bayern Munich, and Sheringham moved to Manchester United.

    Though both would return to White Hart Lane in separate stints later in their careers. 

Alan Peacock and Brian Clough (Middlesbrough)

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    Years: 1955-1961

    Notes: Combined for 62 goals during the 1958-1959 season.

    Both combined for 262 league goals. 

    Alan Peacock was the more selfless of the two, whereas Brian Clough was, "Me, me, me."

    About his striking partnership with Clough, Peacock said

    "We go back years and years. We first met in 1954. He was 19, and I was 17. He was in the RAF, and I was in the steelworks. But he was a terrific goalscorer, one of the best. When we first started at Middlesbrough we just seemed to start well and we went from there. From one season to another we just got better and better."

    Clough would end up eclipsing his prolific goalscoring feats with his managerial prowess. 

    I highly suggest watching the The Damned United.

Giampiero Boniperti, John Charles and Omar Sívori (Juventus)

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    Years: 1957-1961

    Notes: Three-time Serie A champions, three-time Coppa Italia champions.

    During their first three seasons, John Charles and Omar Sívori combined for an average of 54 goals. Giampiero Boniperti, who was winding down his career, was still influential in creating play.  

    In 1997, Charles was voted the best ever foreign player to play for Juventus. 

Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm (A.C. Milan)

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    Years: 1949-1953

    Notes: Nils Liedholm voted Swedish player of the millennium by Aftonbladet; Gunnar Nordahl was a five-time Serie A top goal scorer.

    Gunnar Gren, Gunnar Nordahl and Nils Liedholm, the Swedish trio, also known as Gre-No-Li, were a compact trio. 

    Gren ended his A.C. Milan career early, whereas Nordahl was forced into international retirement for choosing A.C. Milan over playing for Sweden. 

    Gren and Liedholm played for Sweden during the 1958 FIFA World Cup final against Brazil and were upstaged by a teenager called Edison Arantes do Nascimento—Pelé.

Rui Costa and Gabriel Batistuta (Fiorentina)

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    Years: 1994-2000

    Notes: 1996 Coppa Italia and 1996 Supercoppa Italiana.

    Prior to Rui Costa arriving at Florence, Gabriel Batistuta had scored 14, 19 and 21 goals per season. That changed to 28, 27, 19, 24, 26 and 29 goals per season with the Portuguese wizard behind him.

    Here is Costa on his relationship with Batigol:

    "We had a special connection, which always seemed to work. He was always facing the goal, while I used to find the best way to get the ball to him. The depth of understanding we had was very impressive."

Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore (Liverpool)

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    Years: 1995-1997

    Notes: Combined for 102 goals in two seasons.

    The partnership between Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore can be summed up in two acts: awarded joint player of the month (January) during the 1995-1996 season.

    Both scoring braces against Newcastle United in the greatest Premier League game so far.

    What made this partnership even better was Steve McManaman in world class form—25 assists during the 1995-1996 season.

    Talking about Collymore, Fowler said in his autobiography:

    “I thought Stan was a terrific player, incredibly talented, and when we arrived at Anfield I thought we were a fantastic partnership. We weren't best mates, but we got on fine together—no matter what he says. In fact, I think he could have been a world beater, and it's a shame his career ended like it did.”

    Collymore’s Liverpool career was cut short when a prodigious fresh-faced Michael Owen emerged coupled with Aston Villa throwing money at then-owner David Moores. 

Hristo Stoichkov and Romário (Barcelona)

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    Years: 1993-1995

    Notes: 1993-1994 La Liga and 1994 Spanish Supercup.

    Hristo Stoichkov was in his career-best form and would surprisingly lead Bulgaria all the way to the 1994 FIFA World Cup semi-finals. 

    Romário, of course, won the World Cup. 

    This partnership really personified the Dream Team era under Johan Cruyff.

    It didn't last as Stoichkov lost his form, and Romário was too busy partying after the World Cup victory. The Brazilian gave himself an extension from the date Barcelona wanted him to return. 

    It was either "my way or the high way," and Barcelona decided to go with the latter as Romário joined Flamengo. 

Michael Ballack and Miroslav Klose (Germany)

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    Years: 2001-2010

    Notes: 2002 FIFA World Cup finalists, 2006 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists, and Euro 2008 finalists. Both voted into 2006-2010 FIFA All-Star Team. Klose is the second all-time FIFA World Cup top scorer with 14 goals, one behind Ronaldo.  

    Perhaps their friendship grew during the beginning of their careers at Kaiserslautern.

    Of Klose’s 14 goals, five of them were assisted by Ballack. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Manchester United)

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    Years: 2001-2006

    Notes: 2002–2003 Premier League, 2003-2004 FA Cup, and 2005-2006 Carling Cup. Ruud Van Nistelrooy awarded the 2002-2003 Premier League Golden Boot.

    It was that 2001-2002 season when they combined for 61 goals. Playing behind the Dutchman, Ole Gunnar Solskjær also racked up countless assists. 

Jimmy Greaves and Alan Gilzean (Tottenham Hotspur)

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    Years: 1964-1970

    Notes: 1967 FA Cup champion

    Here is an interesting quote from Jimmy Greaves about his once Tottenham Hotspur teammate Alan Gilzean:

    "From 1964 until 1970, we were like blood brothers. Believe it or not, I haven’t set eyes on the fella for the best part of 40 years."

    Prior to Gilzean, Greaves was in a great partnership with Bobby Smith, who went to play out his career at Brighton and Hove Albion. 

    In fact, Greaves was more prolific when playing with Smith, and they obliterated Atlético Madrid 5-1 in the 1963 European Cup Winners Cup.

Enrico Chiesa and Hernán Crespo (Parma)

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    Years: 1996-1999

    Notes: 1999 Supercoppa Italiana winners, 1998-1999 UEFA Cup winners, and 1998-1999 Coppa Italia winners.

    This partnership should have been confined to the annals of history…if only Zdeněk Zeman had been managing this team. Instead, only Parma supporters remember such a great partnership.

    Zeman would have kept Gianfranco Zola, signed Roberto Baggio and somehow fitted both of them into the starting line-up. 

    Carlo Ancelotti was in his sophomore season as a top flight manager and managed: Gianluigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro, Néstor Sensini, Dino Baggio, Enrico Chiesa and Hernán Crespo.

    Yes, all these players in the same team.

    In retrospect, Ancelotti’s results with this ridiculously talented Parma side was a failure.

    Not only did the Italian force Zola off to London, but he balked at the option of signing Roberto Baggio, who went on to score 22 goals in 33 games that season for Bologna.

    14 years later, Ancelotti gave an account of the Roberto Baggio situation:

    "Baggio wanted to leave Milan because he wasn't playing, and he came to speak to me. So I asked him where he wanted to play, and he said behind the two strikers. I told him we didn't play that shape and told him he would have to compete with Crespo and Chiesa for one of the two striker places. I didn't want someone in the hole. So he said no and joined Bologna. If the same thing happened now, 14 years later, I would buy him. But that was a lack of experience. I had been a coach just two years, and maybe I was a little bit scared to change because it was the start of my career."

Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba (Chelsea)

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    Years: 2004-current

    Notes: Three-time Premier League champions, three-time Carling Cup champions, and three-time FA Cup champions. Didier Drogba was a two-time Premier League Golden Boot recipient. Frank Lampard was voted the second best player in 2005. 

    Frank Lampard is such an underrated passer. It seems people always seem to blink when he splits a defence open with a pass. A month ago, some Chelsea fans wanted Lampard axed, stating he didn't create enough chances, even though he was leading the league in chances created. 

    There is much more to Lampard's game than making great runs into the box and getting himself into positions to score goals. 

Sergio Agüero and Diego Forlán (Atlético Madrid)

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    Years: 2007-2011

    Notes: 2009-2010 UEFA Europa League champions and 2010 UEFA Super Cup champions. Forlán awarded 2008-2009 European Golden Shoe.

    There was Fernando Torres. Then there was Sergio Agüero who was joined by Diego Forlán.

    As Torres prospered at Anfield, Agüero struck up a remarkable partnership with Forlán.

    Instinctive, skillful flashes of brilliance from time to time and goals galore—191 goals in four seasons to be precise. 

Andy Cole and Peter Beardsley

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    Years: 1993-1995

    Notes: 1992-1993 Football League First Division champions. Combined for 65 goals during the 1993-1994 season. 

    One of the most lethal Premier League partnerships in recent memory. 

    Peter Beardsley would play second fiddle to Gary Lineker in the national team. 

Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton (Blackburn Rovers)

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    Years: 1994-1996

    Notes: 1994-1995 Premier League champion.

    Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton, also known as S.A.S, combined for 58 goals during the 1994-1995 season. 

    It was the main reason why Blackburn Rovers won their first Premier League title. 

Bruno Giordano, Careca and Diego Maradona (Napoli)

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    Years: 1987-1988

    Notes: 1987-1988 Serie A champions. 

    Bruno Giordano, Careca and Diego Maradona, otherwise known as Ma-Gi-Ca, dazzled the world with some magic in their sole season together. 

    They won the Serie A, but even without Giordano, Careca and Maradona went on to win the 1989 UEFA Cup.

Raymond Kopa and Just Fontaine (Stade Reims and France)

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    Years: 1956-1962 (Stade Reims) and 1953-1960 (France)

    Notes: Two-time Ligue 1 champion. Both voted into 1958 FIFA World Cup All-Star squad. 

    Here is an excerpt from The Age: 

    "Fontaine, a clinical finisher, was to provide the perfect foil for the more famous Kopa, blessed with immaculate close control and capable of splitting the meanest of defences with his pinpoint passing."

    Just Fontaine scored 13 goals, yes, 13 goals, in his one and only FIFA World Cup tournament. 

    Two broken legs debilitated Fontaine's career and forced him to retire at the age of 28. 

    Kopa would later play with Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás, and Francisco Gento at Real Madrid. 

Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet (Juventus)

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    Years: 2000-2010

    Notes: Two-time Serie A champion, 2006-2007 Serie B champion, and Two-time Suppercoppa Italiana champion.

    Perhaps the most consistent scoring tandem in the past decade. Combined for 53 goals in their debut season together.  

Edin Džeko and Grafite (Wolfsburg)

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    Years: 2007-2011

    Notes: 2008-2009 Bundesliga champions. Džeko awarded Bundesliga Golden Boot during 2009-2010 season. Combined for 71 goals during the 2008-2009 season.

    If only Grafite was several years younger because if he was, he’d be at a top flight club right now instead of collecting his pensioner’s check with Al Ahli Dubai. Mind you, the Brazilian is only 31 years old.

    Džeko, on the other hand, was so complete as a forward, so smart, so technical, and a great finisher.

    It was an excellent decision for Manchester City to purchase the Bosnian because he will transition into a world-class forward.

    Talking about Bosnians, there was a lazy genius in Zvjezdan Misimović, who orchestrated the attack for Wolfsburg.

    Like Yasuhito Endō, Misimović is one of the best passers in world football, yet hardly anyone knows who he is. 

Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini (Sampdoria)

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    Years: 1984-1992

    Notes: 1990-1991 Serie A champions, three-time Coppa Italia champions, 1991 Suppercoppa Italiana champions, and 1993 UEFA Cup champions. 

    Roberto Mancini was one of the most elegant players to grace the game. So much finesse and intelligence in his game which contrasted with Gianluca Vialli—a powerful hard working forward. 

    What made this partnership work was that they were childhood friends. 

Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder (Inter Milan)

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    Years: 2009-current

    Notes: 2009-2010 Serie A champions, two-time Coppa Italia champions, 2010 Supercoppa Italiana winner, 2009-2010 UEFA Champions League champions, and 2010 FIFA Club World Cup champions.

    Before Diego Milito and Wesley Sneijder, former Inter Milan manager José Mourinho had hoped the pacey and tricky pair of Mancini and Ricardo Quaresma would be a winning formula.

    Both flopped to the nth degree. 

    Then Mourinho had the balls to go up to owner Massimo Moratti and demand more cash. 

    It brought Moratti his most successful period as owner of Inter Milan. 

    One also has to appreciate Samuel Eto'o being played out of position as a right-sided midfielder who was defending more than he attacked. 

    Inter Milan are now in shambles, and it will be interesting to see what Claudio Ranieri can do for the club. 

Leopoldo Luque and Mario Kempes (Argentina)

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    Years: 1975-1981

    Notes: 1978 FIFA World Cup champions.

    Leopoldo Luque may have been overshadowed by Teófilo Cubillas and Rob Rensenbrink, but the Argentine's link-up play with Mario Kempes provided the platform for the FIFA World Cup victory. 

    It also helped that Daniel Passarella, Alberto Tarantini and Ubaldo Fillol were at their best. 

    Who provided the assist for Kempes to score against the Dutch in the final? Luque.

    Interestingly, this Dutch team was devoid of one Johan Cruyff, who stated he wasn't going to Argentina because of Jorge Rafael Videla's military dictatorship.

Bebeto and Romário (Brazil)

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    Years: 1987-1998

    Notes: 1994 FIFA World Cup champions. 

    The elegant pairing of Bebeto and Romário rocked their way to 1994 FIFA World Cup glory.

    Fast forward to 2010 and it seems that love for each other has evaporated after Romário, the general manager of America, sacked Bebeto after eight games. 

Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Luis Fernández and Jean Tigana (France)

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    Years: 1982-1986

    Notes: Euro 1984 champions. Michel Platini voted into 1982 and 1982 FIFA World Cup All-Star teams. 

    Michel Platini, Alain Giresse, Luis Fernández and Jean Tigana worked so well together that the phrase carré magique, which translates to magic square, was adopted to describe the four. 

Ludovic Giuly, Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona)

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    Years: 2004-2007

    Notes: Two-time La Liga champions, two-time Supercopa de España champions, and 2005-2006 UEFA Champions League champions. 

    This was a Ronaldinho pulling off tricks you'd see on FIFA video games. Think of the nightmares defenders would have dealing with Samuel Eto'o and Ronaldinho, then you had the much-underrated hardworking Ludovic Giuly running down on the flanks. 

    It was a three-pronged attack strong enough to win the UEFA Champions League. 

Kevin Keegan and John Toshack (Liverpool)

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    Years: 1971-1977

    Notes: Three-time Football League First Division champions, two-time UEFA Cup champion, and 1977 European Cup champion.

    John Toshack, the less talented player, worked hard to make Kevin Keegan look better. In doing so, Toshack became a better player.

    Here is Keegan praising Toshack:

    "Toshack was a wonderful player to play alongside. His aerial ability was fantastic, and I always knew that he was going to win the high balls. From then on it was just a question of me reading which way the ball was going to go and from those situations we created many chances. I always admired Tosh's honesty as a player. He was a nice, approachable lad and he did a really great job for the club during his time here."


Ademir and Zizinho (Brazil)

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    Years: 1945-1953

    Notes: 1950 FIFA World Cup finalists. Both voted into 1950 FIFA World Cup All-Star squad. 

    Ademir was scoring goals for fun during the 1950 FIFA World Cup, nine in all, whilst Zizinho was zooming around in midfield and attack. 

    Here is Pelé's recount of Zizinho:

    "He was a complete player. He played in midfield, in attack, he scored goals, he could mark, head and cross."

    Zizinho led Brazil to score 22 goals in six games. The only time they failed to score twice was in the most important game of the tournament—the final. 

Alcides Ghiggia and Juan Alberto Schiaffino (Peñarol and Uruguay)

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    Years: 1948-1953 (Peñarol) and 1950-1952 (Uruguay)

    Notes: Three-time Primera División Uruguaya champions and 1950 FIFA World Cup champions. Both voted into the 1950 FIFA World Cup All-Star team. 

    You might be wondering why Alcides Ghiggia only played two years for the Uruguayan national team. Well, he ended up becoming a naturalised Italian. 

    Ghiggia and Juan Alberto Schiaffino, Peñarol teammates, both scored in one of the biggest upsets in FIFA World Cup finals history. 

    Ghiggia recounts:

    "Only three people in history have managed to silence the Maracana with a single gesture: the Pope, Frank Sinatra and I."


Emilio Butragueño and Hugo Sánchez (Real Madrid)

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    Years: 1985-1992

    Notes: Five-time La Liga champion, 1989 Copa del Rey, three-time Supercopas de España, and 1985-1986 UEFA Cup.

    There was some audacious moments of skill by Emilio Butragueño and Hugo Sánchez during their time together at Real Madrid. 

    Here's Butragueño running the Cádiz defence ragged and Sánchez scoring an outrageous overhead kick. 

Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

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    Years: 2004-2009

    Notes: Three-time Premier League champion, 2007-2008 UEFA Champions League winner, 2008 FIFA Club World Cup winner, and two-time Carling Cup champion.

    During the early stages of playing together, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo flourished. But towards the end, it was more like Rooney sacrificing in order for Ronaldo to score or provide an assist. 

    Ronaldo has since gone on a stratospheric scoring run for Real Madrid and would be the greatest player in the world if not for number 10 from Barcelona.  

Ricardo Bochini and Daniel Bertoni (Independiente)

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    Years: 1973-1977

    Notes: Three-time Copa Libertadores champions and 1973 Intercontinental Cup champions. 

    The famed Independiente of the 1970's was highly influenced by Ricardo Bochini and Daniel Bertoni. Three successive Copa Libertadores titles—the South America equivalent of the UEFA Champions League. 

    Bochini, a one-club man, played 740 league games and even has a pass named after him. 

    Bertoni was a nimble winger who had mixed success in Spain and Italy. described the pair as monumental:

    "A particularly complementary forward pairing, they could practically find each other blindfold on the field. Their achievement against Juventus in Rome still ranks as one of the greatest goals in Intercontinental Cup history." 

Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke (Manchester United)

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    Years: 1998-2001

    Notes: Three-time Premier League champions, 1998-1999 FA Cup champions, 1999 Intercontinental Cup champions, and 1998-1999 UEFA Champions League champions. 

    A fantastic partnership but here's something candid insight from Andy Cole about Dwight Yorke:

    "We were totally different people. Dwight was, 'Look at me, I play for United, I've got a nice bird and car'. I'm the opposite. I bought a Porsche one year but was so self-conscious that I couldn't drive it. It took me two months to drive it to training. Yorkey had no such worries. 

    One game stands out against Champions League favourites Barcelona away in 1998-99. We were behind after one minute. Yorkey equalised after 25 minutes after I combined with him. I then put us ahead, and ran to the corner to celebrate with a group of United fans sitting in the home end. Rivaldo levelled for Barca, before Yorkey struck again: 3-3. After that, the biggest clubs in Europe were saying: stop Cole and Yorke and we stop Man United.

    He was one of the fittest footballers I played with and his ability was up there with the best of them. Sometimes he relaxed too much, like when he fell asleep in the middle of the pitch during a training session before a pre-season tour game in Australia. After the treble, though, I felt that he eased off. I told him and so did Roy Keane. If he had put his nut down and worked, Dwight could have become a United legend."


Fernando Morientes and Raúl (Real Madrid)

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    Years: 1997-2004

    Notes: Three-time UEFA Champions League champion, three-time Supercopa de España champion, two-time La Liga champion, two-time Intercontiental Cup champion, and 2002 UEFA Super Cup champion.

    It did the strike partnership a lot that they were such good friends. 

    Just to make one point: even with Zinedine Zidane, Real Madrid only won the UEFA Champions League once during the Frenchman's time. 

Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo (Brazil)

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    Years: 1999-2003

    Notes: 2002 FIFA World Cup champions. All three voted into 2002 FIFA World Cup All-Star squad. 

    Perhaps the greatest comeback from a footballer, because no one really gave Ronaldo much of a chance, let alone to have such a dominant tournament. 

    Rivaldo may be remembered for deceiving referee Kim Young-Joo in sending off Hakan Ünsal, but Rivaldo was such a factor in Ronaldo's success.

    Oh, and who could forget a then-precocious Paris Saint-Germain talent in Ronaldinho? The next year he was off to Barcelona. 

Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry (Arsenal)

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    Years: 1999-2006

    Notes: Two-time Premier League champions and three-time FA Cup champions. Both members of The Invincibles—the unbeaten 2003-2004 Arsenal team. 

    Both came to Arsenal with shattered egos, Thierry Henry labelled overrated and a flop whilst Dennis Bergkamp was as hated as Mario Balotelli. 

    Together they entertained the world with sublime skill season in, season out.

Gerd Müller and Uli Hoeneß (Bayern Munich)

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    Years: 1970-1979

    Notes: Three-time Bundesliga champion, three-time European Cup champion, and 1976 Intercontinental Cup champion.

    With Uli Hoeneß as his strike partner, Gerd Müller scored 39, 50, 55, 43, 40, 35, 44, 31 and 13 goals per season. 

    They shared record for the most goals in one Bundesliga season up until 2009, when Edin Džeko and Grafite broke the record. 

Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best (Manchester United)

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    Years: 1963-1973

    Notes: Two-time Football League First Division champion and 1968 European Cup champion.

    Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best comprised of the Holy Trinity and scored 666 goals between them. 

    Here's an interesting piece of trivia: all three won the European Footballer of the Year during their time together. 

Eusébio, José Augusto Torres and Mário Coluna (Benfica and Portugal)

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    Years: 1960-1970 (Benfica) and 1963-1968 (Portugal)

    Notes: Seven-time Portuguese Primeira Liga champions, four-time Taça de Portugal champions, 1961-1962 European Cup champions, two-time European Cup finalists, and 1966 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists. 

    Like Eusébio, Mário Coluna was of Mozambican ethnicity, so they identified with each other. Coluna controlled play in midfield like a general, whereas José Augusto Torres was the big man who aimed at garnering a defender's attention on him instead of the deadly Eusébio. 

Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit (A.C. Milan)

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    Years: 1987-1993

    Notes: Three-timeSerie A champions, three-time Supercoppa Italiana champions, two-time European Cup champions, two-time UEFA Super Cup champions, and two-time Intercontinental Cup champions. 

    Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit were the reason A.C. Milan became one of the most dominant teams in the history of the game. 

    With a backline of Alessandro Costacurta, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini plus Van Basten and Gullit's brilliance, it was no surprise Milan were that good.

    Oh, and throw in Carlo Ancelotti, Frank Rijkaard and Roberto Donadoni and you have a super team. 

Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish

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    Years: 1980-1987, 1988-1990

    Notes: Six-time Football League First Division, three-time European Cup champion, three-time Football League Cup champion, 1985-1986 FA Cup champion, and 1977 European Super Cup champion. 

    With the exception of the 1987-1988 season, which Ian Rush spent in a "foreign country" with Juventus, Kenny Dalglish and Rush were a once-in-an-era partnership. 

Andrés Iniesta, Lionel Messi and Xavi (Barcelona)

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    Years: 2004-current

    Notes: Five-time La Liga champions, three-time UEFA Champions League champion, five-time Supercopa de España champion, 2008-2009 Copa del Rey champions, and 2009 FIFA Club World Cup champions.

    Forget about MVP (Lionel Messi, David Villa and Pedro) or even Lionel Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry. 

    At the crux of what makes Barcelona the greatest team of this decade is Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi.

    Without the aforementioned three players, Barcelona wouldn't be so dominant. 

    It will be interesting to see what kind of further impact Cesc Fàbregas has because so far, his interaction with Messi is near telepathic. 

Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Rob Rensenbrink (Netherlands)

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    Years: 1970-1977

    Notes: Pioneers of Total Football. 1974 FIFA World Cup finalists. All three were voted into the 1974 FIFA World Cup All-Star squad. 

    It probably would be more accurate if Rinus Michels's entire 1974 starting lineup was in the slide title. 

    Though Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Rob Rensenbrink took Total Football to another level.

Falcão, Zico and Sócrates (Brazil)

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    Years: 1979-1986

    Notes: All three were voted into the 1982 FIFA World Cup All-Star squad. 

    The most talented side in the 1982 FIFA World Cup by a landslide, yet like the Mighty Magyars in 1954 and the Dutch Total Football in 1974, Telê Santana's brilliant side failed to bring home the trophy. 

    So who was to blame? Poor old Serginho.

Coutinho and Pelé (Santos)

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    Years: 1958-1968

    Notes: Eight-time Campeonato Paulista champion, five-time Taça Brasil champion, two-time Copa Libertadores champion, and two-time Intercontinental Cup champion.

    During their decade together, Coutinho and Pelé combined for 1,114 goals, 774 of which Pelé scored. 

Gérson, Pelé and Jairzinho (Brazil)

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    Years: 1964-1971 

    Notes: 1970 FIFA World Cup champions. Part of a team considered the greatest World Cup team ever. All three voted into FIFA World Cup All-Star squad. 

    It seems people only remember Gérson for his chain-smoking ability. One of the most underrated footballers of all-time; he was the midfield general and was what Xavi is to Barcelona. 

    Jairzinho was in a purple patch as he scored in every World Cup game in Mexcio.

    Pelé, who had overturned his decision to never play in the World Cup, was ever so inspirational as he won the Golden Ball.  

    No wonder the Brazilian gets so touchy when people rate Lionel Messi as a better footballer than him. 

Pelé and Garrincha (Brazil)

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    Years: 1957-1966

    Notes: 1958 and 1962 FIFA World Cup champions. 

    Everytime Pelé says he won three FIFA World Cups, I roll my eyes, because he only won two. 

    He sat out the large majority of the 1962 FIFA World Cup because he was injured, and Garrincha single handily brought the Jules Rimet Trophy home.

    When Pelé and Garrincha started, no team ever beat Brazil. 

Alfredo Di Stéfano, Ferenc Puskás and Francisco Gento (Real Madrid)

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    Years: 1958-1964

    Notes: Four-time La Liga champions, two-time European Cup champions, and 1961-1962 Spanish Cup champions. 

    Prior to Ferenc Puskás defecting to Spain, Alfredo Di Stéfano was only a three-time European Cup and four-time Spanish league champion.

    Real Madrid already had the skillful Francisco Gento. Adding Puskás elevated this Real Madrid side into legendary status. 

    During the 1959-1960 European Cup, Real Madrid scored 31 goals in seven games, including seven against a shell-shocked Eintracht Frankfurt in the final. 

    Of those seven, Puskás scored four and Di Stéfano scored three. 

Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis and Nándor Hidegkuti (Hungary)

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    Years: 1948-1956

    Notes: 1952 Olympic champions and 1954 FIFA World Cup finalists. All three voted into 1954 FIFA World Cup All-Star squad. 

    The most dominant team in football history, and there won't be a team like this ever again.

    Here are some facts:

    • From 1950 to 1956, the Mighty Magyars lost once, and that was in the 1954 FIFA World Cup finals to Germany. 
    • They scored 27 goals in 5 games during the 1954 World Cup. 
    • First team outside of Britain to defeat England at home in 90 years. 


    Please read Mythbusting the 5 Biggest Misconceptions in the Pelé vs. Lionel Messi Debate.