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Luis Suárez, Messi and Neymar Jr, the finest trident in Barça history / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

This is almost an exercise of football fiction, in which the biggest danger is committing the injustice of missing out some of the greatest players in the history of FC Barcelona. The table below (click to expand), shows the greatest attacking threesomes in team history, seeking a balance between the names, goals and titles in each particular season. The main reason why this is essentially fiction, and could even be considered unfair, is that the idea of having three forwards did not really form part of the Barça system until 1988, and the arrival of Johan Cruyff as manager. Before then, different coaches employed different methods, and indeed, until well into the 20th century, the 2-3-5 system was almost universal. Games were generally much more high-scoring, and out of combinations of such forwards as Alcántara, Samitier, Escolà and Mariano Martín, it might be unrealistic to pick out just three and claim they were the ‘trident’ in times when people would learn the names of the five forwards of any team by heart.

Down to three

Jordi Vila was the third highest scorer of the legendary Barça of the Five Cups in 1952, topped only by Kubala and César. But citing those three means missing out Basora and Manchón, as well as Moreno, who’d be a regular starter the following season. Later on, Helenio Herrera was in charge of a team featuring Evaristo, Eulogio Martínez and Luis Suárez, who scored 68 goals in 1959/60. They were all huge stars of the club in a very successful period, but to name these three means ignoring such others as Kubala, Kocsis, Czibor and Tejada.

After the joyous football of the 50s, more defensive tactics were the norm from the late 1960s onwards. There were exceptions, most remarkably the Dutch school of ‘total football’, and Rinus Michels imposed that philosophy on Barça with forwards of such calibre as Cruyff, Sotil and Marcial in the 1973/74 season. But once again, a hypothetical ‘trident’ would mean leaving out Rexach and Asensi, who also played a huge role in winning the championship that year.

What is not in doubt, however, is that Barça has always included some of the true heavyweights of world football in the frontline. Not that this has always delivered the expected results. From 1982 to 1984, the team could boast both Bernd Schuster and Diego Armando Maradona but among injuries and illnesses, 25 goals between them was the best season they could muster. But it would also be fair to say that neither were out-and-out strikers.Barça didn't start to regularly use three strikers until 1988

It’s from the 1990s that a comparison between threesomes becomes more feasible. It was in that decade, and particularly following the application of the Bosman ruling, that Barça was truly able to bring together the very best forwards in the world. Great strikers like Romário and Ronaldo would be supported on either side by such extraordinary players as Stoichkov, Figo and Rivaldo. Now, rather than a great forward line for each decade, there was a different one for almost every season, and the goal count shot up.

Messi the main man

And then came Leo Messi. Surely the greatest player that the game has ever seen has formed part of what are already legendary attacking formations at Barça. From Ronaldinho to Neymar Jr, nobody has partnered so many different players in attack while consistently producing such staggering results. He started out competing for a place with Giuly alongside Ronaldinho and Eto’o in the 2005/06 season, that of the second Champions League in Paris. By the time of the wins in Rome (2009) and at Wembley (2011), he was already established as the huge star that he still is.

No player has formed part of so many legendary attacking threesomes as Leo Messi

The trio that Messi formed with Henry and Eto’o was the first to score 100 goals in official matches in a single season. But that amazing tally was blitzed by the arrival of Neymar and Luis Suárez. Even with the Uruguayan missing the first two months of the 2014/15 season through suspension, in combination with the Argentinian they managed to amass an unprecedented 122 goals. A world record. In statistical terms, that’s the greatest trident in the history of Barça, if not world football in general.

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