Best Attacking Trios in Football History

Sat 16 January 2021 | 14:30

Greatest teams in football have always had a great attacking force so we have taken a look at the best attacking trios in football history, let’s see who they are:

A great defense may result in a clean sheet or a point but you can’t win a football match until you score and if the goals keep coming, well you might just be able to win a trophy or two. Many of football’s greatest teams share something and that is having a great attacking prowess that lets them win games. Formations may differ from different eras of football, with the actual attacking line consisting of anywhere between 0 (Del Bosque’s famous 4-6-0 formation) to 3 or 4 attackers. But it’s often 3 players that actually lead the line.

Now as you’ll find out later in this article, the players that make up an attacking trio could fill different roles with 2 actual forwards and a playmaker behind or 2 wingers and a complete forward in front or 3 players who could change positions between themselves easily. The possibilities are numerous but one thing is for certain and that is the fact that these players are some of the

best attacking trios in football history

. They are the partnerships that anyone else, no matter how successful will be compared to. So let’s find out who they are:

Greatest Attacking Trios in the History of Football

Since football has changed so much over the years, we have decided to not rank any of the trios mentioned below. The fact that these trios, who are the greatest attacking trios in the history of football, were the best of their time and achieved unsurmountable success is the reason they are mentioned here. So here they are:

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

As the most decorated team in English football, Manchester United is no stranger to bombastic partnerships in front. From the days of Yorke and Cole to Beckham, Giggs, van Nistelrooy and even later Tevez, Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo. But none of these partnerships were as potent as the Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best trio, who certainly carved their names in football history as one of the

greatest attacking trios of all time


Dubbed as the Holy Trinity, Charlton, Best and Law led a

Manchester United

under the management of the famous Sir Matt Busby to much glory and helped the club get out the tough times they had after the tragic plane crash that killed most of Manchester United squad in 1958. The 3 actually played their first match together in the January of 1964, where United won 4-1 with the Best and Charlton both scoring 1 and Law scoring the remaining 2 and it was only just the start.

With Law’s incredible finishing ability and Charlton’s creativity Manchester United were able to create many chances but then add to that George Best’s magic touch and then you have a recipe for one of the best ever attacking trios in the world.

The Holy Trinity help Manchester United win 2 First Division titles with the 1968 European Cup trophy being the cherry on top of all their achievements. The trio also all won a Ballon d’Or trophy each in the period that they played together which makes them unique amongst the best attacking trios in football history. In 2008, Manchester United erected a statue of these three legends outside the Old Trafford stadium to honor and mark their greatness on the history of the club.

Ferenc Puskas, Nandor Hidegkuti, Sandor Kocsis (Hungary)

A modern football fan might be surprised by the inclusion of 3 Hungarian players to our list of greatest attacking trios of all time but the situation was different back in the 1950s where Hungary was the Black Cat of every World Cup competition as they had possibly 3 of the best strikers in football history in Ferenc Puskas, Nandor Hidegkuti and Sandor Kocsis.

The Magical Magyars, the nickname given to the trio, took the 1954 World Cup by storm when they bombarded every defense with goals. Nandor Hidegkuti was the playmaker and the mastermind behind attack, Ferenc Puskas the ever so perfect finisher and Sandor Kocsis was the icing on the cake, the dribbler and the showman. Three of them together put fear in the hearts of every defender in 1954 and helped produce one of the most memorable World Cups of all time.

There were team goals, headed ones, simple one on one goals and total screamers from outside the box as Kocsis, Puskas and Hidegkuti helped Hungary score an amazing tally of 27 goals in a single World Cup tournament (that is a 5.4 goals per match average by the way). Koscis ended the tournament as the best goal scorer with 11 goals and Puskas and Hidegkuti each scored 4.

The trio made history as they took Hungary to the World Cup final but shockingly they lost the final to West Germany, who won their first ever title. But even though they couldn’t get their hands on the trophy they were the real stars of that tournament and their partnership still is remembered today as one of the best attacking trios in football history.

Johan Cruyff, Sjaak Swart, Piet Keizer (Ajax)

When football is referred to as “the Beautiful Game” it is hard to not think of Netherlands and Ajax’ teams from the 70s. the Total Football style which boasted of great, entertaining and attack minded style of football that were perfected by the Dutch masters of the game, really started in Eredivisie and especially in Ajax, where one of the best ever footballers, Johan Cruyff, teamed up with Sjaak Swart and Piet Keizer to form one of football's best attacking trios ever.

A lot of what is considered modern football now has really originated in


of the 1960s and 70s era. The aforementioned Total Football philosophy of Ajax propelled them to monumental success in that period and it was in large parts thanks to these three players. Cruyff in the middle and Swart and Keizer on each flank, the simple attacker with two wingers on each side that we see so much in today’s football.

Cruyff, Swart and Keizer helped Ajax win 6 Eredivisie titles, 4 Domestic cups and 3 incredible consecutive European Cups (now known as Champions League) between 1970 and 1973, with 1971-72 season ending on a rare Treble. Even though the trio never really paired up properly in the national team, with Swart retiring from international duty before 1974, they were the pioneers of the great Netherlands teams that dominated 1974 and 1978 World Cups and so these three will be remembered as one of the

best attacking trios in football history


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Pele, Coutinho, Pepe (Santos)

Goals, goals and even more goals is what you get when you put 3 of the greatest Brazilian forwards of all time together. The almost mythic pairing of Coutinho, Pepe and the legend of football himself, Pele, made


of the 1950s and 60s era one of the greatest club teams in history of football. Back then it seemed that no one could stop Santos who were spearheaded in attack by one of

football's best attacking trios ever


Pele is a name that most people who are exposed to sports in any degree may recognize which casts a long shadow that can hide any other player’s achievement but even then Coutinho and Pepe were so great that many still remember the heights that climbed to and the role they played in Santos’ unprecedented success in the 15 years that the trio played together.

We have possibly the greatest player of all time, Pele, alongside his best ever partner in crime, Coutinho and behind them there is the Canon of Vila Belmiro, Pepe, with his canon of a left foot. No other team really stood a chance against Santos when their attacking force would just overwhelm any defense with that much talent.

With Pele scoring 643 goals and Pepe and Santos scoring 405 and 307 goals respectively, little room is left for competition amongst the best attacking trios in football history, at least for a successful partnership in terms of goals. The trio were all World Cup winners and they helped Santos with numerous Brazilian Serie A titles as well as 2 Copa Libertadores. During the course of their partnership they managed to score 1418 goals in 1800 appearances and we dare you to find a more potent and lethal attack force!

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar (Barcelona)

Now comes the famous MSN that included 2 of the best modern day attackers, with



Luis Suarez

and arguably the best footballer ever,

Lionel Messi

. While the Argentine part of some of the best attacking trios ever, where he teamed up with players like Henry Eto’o and Ronaldinho, the fact remains that his team up with Neymar and Suarez was one of the

most dangerous trio in football history


While Real Madrid’s BBC were great athletes, Barca’s MSN was pure technique and flair, with the three of them being capable of doing outrageous things on the pitch and make opposite defenders like amateurs. Messi and Neymar already had a great rapport and usually linked up with another forward player like Alexis Sanchez to rattle opponents but the addition of Suarez in 2014 just added that X-factor to Barcelona’s attack and the 3 experienced the best period of their career together.

Perhaps the most incredible thing that these trio of players had was that Barcelona school of thought that teaches to play beautiful football and to always pass the ball to the person who has a better chance of scoring. That seems quite simple but when you have players who are absolutely capable of scoring even from the halfway line and when they decide to put teamwork ahead of their selves then you get a trio of players that are always assisting each other and are so in sync that can turn every chance to a goal.

Messi, Neymar and Suarez managed to score 364 goals in 450 games together and ended up assisting each other 173 times, which boasts of that team work mentioned above. Their biggest achievement was in the first season they played together when they helped Barcelona win an unprecedented Treble, being the first club to do so twice. In addition to that, they also won a La Liga and 2 Copa del Rey trophies but the trio, despite being one of the best attacking trios in football history was relatively, didn’t last very long as Neymar soon decided to leave Barcelona and join PSG in 2017. Who knows what they might have achieved if that didn’t happen!

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

The infamous BBC that so many Real Madrid fans have good memories of, is the first Real Madrid trio to appear on our list of

greatest attacking trios in the history of football


Cristiano Ronaldo

has been part of many great partnerships during his lengthy career but at the height of his powers, he was part of a fearsome attacking Trident alongside

Gareth Bale


Karim Benzema

and took Real Madrid to unreachable heights in terms of European glory.

With Benzema normally down the center, Ronaldo operated on the left and Bale, who is left footed, down the right flank but the three could easily change positions as they all are capable of playing multiple roles. The trio were all more than capable both with the ball at their feet and on the air so any cross that found its way to the box was usually a threat. With Ronaldo and Bale in particular being capable of scoring incredible volleys and bicycle kicks. Add to that the sheer physicality and speed that Bale and Ronaldo brought to their game which resulted in unrelenting assault of the trio against nearly every team that they faced.

Ronaldo and Benzema were already established Real Madrid players in 2013 when Real Madrid went all out to buy Premier League’s best player back then, Gareth Bale. The transfer, as any of Real’s big transfers, was in order to build a strong team that could help Real Madrid achieve their dream of the 10th Champions League title. And as it happened, Bale was actually the missing piece because he came and impressed right away and alongside Benzema and Ronaldo led Real Madrid to their 10th Champions League title.

The trio went on to win another 3 Champions League titles consecutively, establishing their place amongst the best attacking trios in football history. With Ronaldo scoring 249, Benzema with 105 and Bale with 98 goals the trio scored an incredible 452 goals which led Real Madrid to 4 Champions League titles as well as a La Liga and a Copa del Rey. They will go down in history as one of the best attacking forces Real Madrid ever had but certainly not the best as that one will come later in our list!

Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho (Brazil)

In hindsight, even saying the names of these three players excites football fans all over the world but back in 2002 it wasn’t exactly so as Ronaldo, who was Brazil’s golden boy for so many years, was coming back from a horrible injury with many even criticizing the decision to put him in the 2002 World Cup squad and on the other hand there was Ronaldinho who was just 22 and still hadn’t proven himself as a player. But the trio gloriously proved doubters wrong as they put in some of the best ever World Cup performances and became one of the

best ever attacking trios in the world


Dubbed by many as ‘the last team that played Joga bonito’, the 2002 Brazil team was something else. Fiercely attack minded and beautiful to watch, they took on every opponent and rolled over them with ease and all their attacks seemed to either find Rivaldo or Ronaldo at the end of it. With Ronaldinho playing the part of the playmaker. The way these three expressed themselves on the pitch, entertained viewers and at the same time achieved a team objective at the end of every match is both beautiful and in a way sad as there seems to be no player today that can replicate that to this extent.

Nonetheless, with Ronaldo scoring 8, Rivaldo with 5 and Ronaldinho with 2 plus a couple of assists, the trio scored 15 of Brazil’s 18 goals in the World Cup and led Brazil to their 5th ever World Cup title. Consequently, all three were named in the World Cup team of the tournament.

Despite the short period that the ‘Three R trio’ had together, the way they played and brought the street football beauty to the biggest stage of football has made them one of the best attacking trios in football history and they will remain as one of the most memorable trios ever, as long as there are those who admire ‘the Beautiful Game’!

Pele, Garrincha, Vava (Brazil)

There is seldom a team as legendary as Brazil’s 1958 and 1962 squad. If there ever was a Mount Olympus for football, that Brazil team would be up there. The team and the trio that spearheaded their attack, became the blueprint for many attacking partnerships, like the other Brazilian trio we have on our list.

Pele and Garrincha are easily one of the best pairings in football history. The two played 40 games for Brazil together and Brazil lost none of those matches, with Garrincha going as far as only losing once in his whole international career. Add to that the experienced and prolific Vava and you’ll end up with a mix of goals, tricks and entertainment. Simply put, Joga Bonito.The trio first started playing together in the 1958 World Cup. Pele was a 17-year-old kid back then and didn’t feature until Brazil’s last group game.

After Brazil’s manager Vicente Feola decided to change the lineup after Brazil’s weak first two showings in the tournament. The change to the line-up came with the trio’s first appearance together and after they went from strength to strength after that. With Garrincha providing the assists and Vava and Pele scoring the goals.  The pair scored 11 goals and helped Brazil be champions after beating the hosts, Sweden, 5-2 in one of the highest scoring World Cups ever.

By the time 1962 World Cup came around Pele was already the best player in the world by many accounts but after scoring in the first match, he got injured in the second match and was set to lose the rest of the tournament. Up stepped the Joy of the People, Garrincha, as he took tournament by storm and eventually became its best player and best goal scorer, albeit sharing the latter with 5 other player including Vava. Nonetheless, the trio helped Brazil establish themselves as World Cup giants by contributing massively in the nation’s first 2 trophies and thus became one of the best attacking trios in football history.

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

Ferenc Puskas’ second appearance on the list, this time in possibly the most dangerous trio in football history that made Real Madrid, the European Giants they are today. The success that these three achieved was not even overtaken by players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, which is proof enough of their quality and the success they had.

Real Madrid was already 3 times European Champions in 1958 when Puskas, one of the world’s best ever strikers joined them. With the legendary Di Stefano and Paco Gento also there to help them Real Madrid continued their European dominance. Reaching multiple European Cup finals. The partnership of Di Stefano and Puskas in particular was perfect as the two complimented each other perfectly, with Puskas happy for Di Stefano to take the spotlight as he scored bags of goals.

The trio’s partnership lasted 6 years, which saw them win 4 La Liga titles as well as 2 European Cups with the 1960 final in particular being the best as Puskas scored 4 goals and Di Stefano 3 and Real Madrid won the match 7-3 over Eintracht Frankfurt. Although Di Stefano departed Real in 1964, Gento and Puskas continued to win glory which ended up with Paco Gento being the most decorated Champions League player with 6 titles. Gento-Di Stefano-Puskas propelled Real Madrid to the European Giant they are today and in the process became the

best attacking trios in football history.



source: SportMob

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