They say everything in life comes in threes. In football, the best attacks certainly do.
It was arguably Pep Guardiola’s revolution at Barcelona that has resulted in the trident becoming a deadly force in modern football, overtaking the duo in the process. Of course, managers tinker every game, but the trio is here to stay.
For years, Barcelona dazzled with their deadly MSN link-up, namely the heavyweight unit made up of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. PSG have looked to build something similar at great expense, but so far have fallen incredibly short.
Liverpool boasted one of the best attacking trios in world football before they were torn apart
Meanwhile, Liverpool managed to piece together one of the most potent three-man striking teams in the history of football, although it has been ripped apart this week.
That is because Sadio Mane has left the club for Bayern Munich, having expressed his desire for a new challenge. Alongside Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino, he helped bring silverware to Anfield, and departed on good terms as a fan favorite.
But which, statistically, is the best front three in the sport? Sportsmail takes a look.
Sadio Mane’s departure for Bayern Munich brought an end to their trophy-winning spell
Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
105 league games played, 144 goals
Their first season as a trio saw them reach the Champions League final.
Incredibly, the trident hit 30 goals, 10 each, on their way to the blockbuster in Ukraine. That was the most by three team-mates in any edition of the tournament.
Over the following years, they went on to win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and the Club World Cup, as well as the Champions League.
In total, they played 105 league games as an attacking unit, stretching back to the 2017-18 campaign. Individually, Salah, to little surprise, leads the way with 65 goals and 21 assists. Behind him, the departing Mane scored 44 goals and set up 17 more.
Firmino, meanwhile, netted a still-impressive 35 goals and recorded 16 assists.
As a trio, they combined for 54 league goals, a key factor behind their success.
In total, Salah, Firmino and Mane played 105 league games together, and scored 144 goals
Gareth Bale / Karim Benzema / Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
69 league games played, 158 goals
This trio have won the Champions League a sensational four times, with each of the stars – Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo – proving equally crucial.
They arrived as a riposte to Barcelona’s formidable MVP, and were every bit as effective. Scoring goals for fun, they ensured Madrid remained serial winners.
Bale endured a low-key ending to his career at the Bernabeu, which came as a great shame considering his heroics in his early years there, especially in his first season.
A cup double arrived in his maiden year, with Bale scoring key goals in both finals.
At their fizzing best, they were untouchable. They won the Copa del Rey in 2013/13, the UEFA Super Cup three times and the FIFA Club World Cup on four occasions.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema won the Champions League four times
Memorably, they lifted LaLiga in 2016/17, but will have wanted more league glory.
Their statistics, when broken down, make for fascinating reading.
Ronaldo tops the charts for the trio, having scored 80 goals and registered 28 assists. Team-mates Benzema and Bale netted 41 and 37 goals respectively.
As for teeing up team-mates, both Bale and Benzema have 22 assists each.
In LaLiga, they combined for 70 goals, bettering the total of Liverpool’s three.
Wayne Rooney / Cristiano Ronaldo / Carlos Tevez (Manchester United)
21 league games played, 40 goals
Manchester United have been blessed with an array of world-class partnerships over the years, but perhaps none come close to the exploits from this deadly trio.
What made these stars stand out is that none of them were truly ever an out and out No 9 or winger. Instead, they combined beautifully to keep their rivals guessing.
That meant that, in any given attack, Ronaldo could have been haring through on goal down the middle, with Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez flanking him in support.
But just minutes later, they would interchange, injecting a fresh, exciting dynamic.
The results speak for themselves. United won the Premier League twice, the Champions League on one occasion, the League Cup and the Club World Cup.
Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez (L) and Ronaldo won several trophies at Manchester United
They also came within just one win of a second straight Premier League and European Cup double, highlighting their dominance at both home and abroad.
But this trio is held back, in comparison to the others, over their lack of game time.
Indeed, they started just 21 league games together. In those matches, Ronaldo scored 19 goals, while Rooney and Tevez hit eight and 13 respectively.
To little surprise, Rooney boasted the most assists, with seven.
In total, they combined for 23 goals in the top-flight.
Lionel Messi / David Villa / Pedro (Barcelona)
28 league games played, 68 goals
Was this trio part of the best club side in the world? This writer believes so.
The period between 2010 and 2012 is when Barcelona, then managed by Pep Guardiola, were at their swashbuckling, breath-taking, all-conquering best.
Their tika-taka style was renowned the world over, but their cutting edge was largely down to the three magicians at the top – Messi, David Villa and Pedro.
Messi would often operate in the false nine role, allowing him to dictate play from deep and ensure he remained a threat on goal. Everything revolved around him.
Supporting him superbly would be Villa from the left, and Pedro down the right.
Barcelona between 2010 and 2012, led by David Villa, Messi and Pedro, were a superb team
When Messi was marked out of a game, it would be either of these two who would step up with crucial goals. The end product? A colossal winning machine.
Villa’s crippling injury unfortunately broke up this band of brothers, however, meaning Barcelona stumbled in LaLiga and, shockingly, the Champions League.
A glance at the numbers shows that Messi, unsurprisingly, was the standout name.
He scored 39 league goals in total when playing with his two team-mates, and also picked up 17 assists. Villa scored 12 goals, while Pedro chipped in with 12 of his own.
Overall, they combined for 37 league goals, from 2010/11 to the 2012/13 campaign.
Lionel Messi / Luis Suarez / Neymar (Barcelona)
67 league games played, 153 goals
This trio, both visually and statistically, are the greatest football has ever seen. Each of the three are sensationally good, but put together, they formed a lethal spear.
There was competition between then, of course there was. But they were equally selfless, resulting in a goal fest in countless games, where they would score a hatful.
During their glorious time together in Catalonia, they won two consecutive domestic doubles, the treble in 2014/15 and three Copa del Rey trophies in a row.
Led by Messi at the heart of this masterpiece, their connection was seamless. It was as though they were telepathic, such was their ability to predict each other’s ideas.
And on the same wavelength, they plunged a dagger into the heart of many a side.
But statistically, the best trio on this list, and perhaps ever, was Luis Suarez, Neymar and Messi
Suarez’s role in this triumvirate was to be the goal machine, a poacher. But he was also partial to an assist, a well-earned reward for his hard work and pressing.
On the other hand, Neymar brought unpredictability. He would enjoy the ball being glued to his feet and dazzled defenders into submission before firing home.
It was his exit that split the trio, but while they were together, they were unbeatable.
In total, they played 67 LaLiga matches together. Messi led the way with 67 goals and 25 assists, while Suarez netted 59 goals and recorded 34 assists as the No 9.
Neymar was also on hand with 30 goals and 19 assists.