Europe’s best attacking tridents: Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Man Utd, Juventus, Spurs

From MSN to MCN, the staple of the best sides in Europe is an enviable trident of attackers.

In signing Neymar from Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain not only completed one of football’s most shocking transfers, setting a record, but destroyed one of the greatest ever attacking tridents.

MSN (Messi, Suarez, Neymar) had been terrifying defences across the continent for three years, but MSN becomes MCN as Neymar linked up with Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani and 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe, who joined the Parisians on loan ahead of next summer’s £166m transfer.

In Spain, however, life moved on and Ousmane Dembele was poached from Borussia Dortmund for a massive £97m to create the latest Barcelona trident, whilst BBC -Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo- remains the order of the day in the capital.

Ahead of the return of the Champions League, RealSport are looking at the best attacking tridents across Europe.

  1. 1 Paris Saint-Germain

    Who: Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani & Neymar

    Edinson Cavani, one of the best finishers not just in Ligue 1 but the world, remains the focal point of this new-look three-pronged attack, but the Uruguayan is now flanked by two of the world's best wingers.

    Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, both of whom have Ballon d'Or-winning potential.

    We glimpsed how devastating they can be together with all three members scoring in the 5-1 victory over Metz on the weekend.

    The beauty of the trident is that goals can come from anywhere, whilst all three can roam the channels or leading the line.

    The intricacy of movement was a joy to behold, and it's enough to baffle even the best defences of Europe.

    RealSport verdict: 9.5/10

    On paper, it's more than enough to lead them to Kiev, but it's dependant on whether the wasteful or clinical Cavani turns up, though the addition of Neymar and his bucket load of goals negates this issue.

  2. 2 Real Madrid

    Who: Karim Benzema/Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo & Isco

    It started as the BBC, though it's something more akin to a BIC, or even an ABC if you include Marco Asensio in the debate.

    Once non-negotiable picks, an injury to Gareth Bale saw Isco emerge from the shadows and lead Real Madrid to a domestic and European double last season.

    The shift in style and personnel, with the Spaniard at the tip of the midfield diamond, heralded some of the best football Los Blancos had played in years with a newfound control in midfield and less emphasis on counter-attacking.

    Given Asensio's rise and Zinedine Zidane's penchant for rotation, there are no guaranteed starters anymore, other than Ronaldo.

    One thing is for certain, though, whoever plays has the ability to devastate.

    RealSport verdict: 9.5/10

    This front three were almost single-handedly responsible for bringing home a second consecutive Champions League title and there's no reason they won't be able to repeat their heroics, or at least make a deep run.

  3. 3 Barcelona

    Who: Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez & Ousmane Dembele

    Although presented with an opportunity to tip the balance of power back in favour of the midfield, Barcelona signed a direct, but arguably lesser, replacement for Neymar in Ousmane Dembele.

    Whilst not the finished article, the Frenchman is a phenomenal young talent, capable of scoring, dribbling, passing and playing off both flanks, either hugging the touchline or cutting inside.

    However, Luis Suarez doesn't have too long left in his career and a front three has been reduced to two given Messi's new role as a false nine/deep-lying midfield playmaker.

    Nonetheless, Messi is Messi and this trident remains one of the most dangerous and feared in Europe.

    RealSport verdict: 9/10

    The potential to devastate is there, but whether they realise it this season hinges on how Dembele settles into the Camp Nou.

    Reaching the Final is contingent on how many strings Messi can pull, given he's now tasked to be a playmaker, goalscorer and winger all in one.

  4. 4 Juventus

    Already one of the best forward units on the continent, there's not much else to add about Juventus.

    Paulo Dybala is a special, unique talent, Gonzalo Higuain a world-class, traditional number nine, whilst they're flanked by Mario Mandzukic, a hard-working striker/winger who scored one of the tournament's greatest ever goals in last year's final.

    With Juan Cuadrado, the alleged weakest link, now backed by former Bayern winger Douglas Costa, the forwards that led the Old Lady to the Final have only strengthened.

    RealSport verdict: 8.5/10

    The issue isn't with Juve's forwards, rather their defence, which has been weakened over the summer. Giorgio Chiellini is injured for now, whilst Leonardo Bonucci left to join free-spending AC Milan. 

    This is what will inhibit their chances of reaching Kiev, not their forward unit.

  5. 5 Bayern Munich

    Whilst on paper this is one of the best tridents in Europe, all is not well in Bavaria.

    Problems were evident in the 2-0 defeat to Hoffenheim on the weekend and, truthfully, Bayern Munich looked devoid of ideas, albeit against a narrow, compact defence.

    Whilst Robert Lewandowski is nearing the pinnacle of his game, those around him seem to be stagnating or declining.

    For instance, Franck Ribery is repeatedly injured, Thomas Muller has lost his sparkle and question marks loom over James Rodriguez's ability to recapture his 2014 World Cup form.

    Arjen Robben is still capable of a long distance goal every now and again and looks Bayern's most creative influence on his favoured right flank.

    RealSport verdict: 8.5/10

    They're expected to waltz their way to the Bundesliga title, but I think they will struggle to reach the Champions League Final.

    Their attack doesn't have the same bite it used to and there's a sense that it needs freshening up with a younger edge.

  6. 6 Manchester City

    When Pep Guardiola signed Gabriel Jesus in January 2017 and immediately deployed him in the starting XI, many thought this signalled the end of Sergio Aguero.

    However, Guardiola has found a way of utilising Jesus and Aguero in tandem, with the duo combining to great effect against Liverpool on the weekend, scoring three goals between them in a 5-0 victory.

    David Silva has found joy in a 'free eight' role as the most advanced midfielder, taking on the creative mantle and providing assists for the strikers to feed on.

    With Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva also capable of taking on this role, it's clear that Pep is building an attacking trident with the potential to develop into world-beaters.

    RealSport verdict: 8/10

    City's defending often is their shortcoming in Europe and their performances aren't complete enough to go far in the competition on their front three alone.

  7. 7 Chelsea

    Crisis? What crisis?

    Those are the words echoing around the Chelsea training ground as Eden Hazard returns from injury and Alvaro Morata is enjoying life in London after netting three goals in his opening four Premier League games.

    The Spaniard is showing an ability to score consistently, which was the biggest concern when he was signed to take over from Diego Costa.

    Hazard is nearing a full return to fitness after a summer injury and with the Belgian fit and firing, coupled with Pedro stretching defences on the right, Chelsea boast a powerful front three.

    RealSport verdict: 7.5/10

    Whilst the starters are some of the best in the world, the issue is depth, which will likely be the Blues' downfall in the Champions League.

  8. 8 Borussia Dortmund

    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leads the line for Borussia Dortmund once more, despite his desire to leave the German club over the summer. He's stayed put and looks thoroughly professional when on the pitch.

    Marco Reus is on the long-term injury list yet again, which means the pressure is all on the Gabonese to score the goals, but five in five this season suggests he's not feeling the stress at all.

    However, relieving some of the burden is wonder kid Christian Pulisic, and the 18-year-old American is developing into one of the most promising wide forwards in the world.

    Maximilian Philipp has a tough task of filling the Reus-shaped void, though Dortmund have new signing Andriy Yarmolenko waiting in the wings.

    RealSport verdict: 7.5/10

    Frankly, there aren't enough goals in this front three to succeed in the latter stages of the Champions League.

    Although Aubameyang won last year's Bundesliga golden boot, he can marshalled out of games if defenders double up on him, leaving Dortmund short of attacking threat.

  9. 9 Tottenham

    Whilst Tottenham's fortunes in the Champions League have been nothing to write home about, they boast one of the best attacking tridents in Europe, whose movement and interplay can frighten the best of the best defenders on their day.

    Last season, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli contributed 55 goals and 29 assists, more than over half of the Premier League clubs, including Manchester United.

    The beauty of Spurs' trident is that goals come from everywhere amongst the forwards, even though Kane is the out-and-out striker.

    He's capable of dropping deep, whilst Alli makes a brilliant second striker with his late runs into the box. The three combined make for a nightmare when in form.

    RealSport verdict: 7/10

    The issue is that none of them were at their best in Europe last season and Alli is missing for the first three games, including ties against Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.

    Spurs lack the maturity to go far in the Champions League and they won't be able to reach Kiev on the power of their forwards alone.

  10. 10 Manchester United

    There's a new sense of urgency about Manchester United this season.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his penchant to drop deep and slow down play has been replaced with the vastly more mobile Romelu Lukaku and four goals in four games is a great record to begin the season.

    Such is Lukaku's movement and desire to break the lines, it's created attacking opportunities for Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, two of the quickest and most exciting young wingers in Europe.

    Supported by Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the hole behind, there's a great deal of potential in this front four, which is now seemingly efficiently utilised by Jose Mourinho.

    Criticised for their lack of goals last season, their 12 is the most in the Premier League.

    RealSport verdict: 7/10

    Although this is the first time this unit will play in the Champions League, they're lucky to have Mourinho as their manager as the Portuguese's record in Europe is something to be admired.

    Whilst he's one of the best at winning one-off matches, it's often to the detriment of attacking impetus, meaning the quadrumvirate will bear the brunt of this sacrifice as the tournament progresses.

  1. POLL: Who has the best forward unit in Europe?

    1. Real Madrid
    2. PSG
    3. Barcelona
    4. Juventus
    5. Bayern Munich
    6. Chelsea
    7. Man Utd
    8. Man City
    9. Chelsea
    10. Borussia Dortmund
    66 votes
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Oli Stein


Oli graduated from the University of Bristol with a degree in History and has worked with RealSport since September 2016.

Currently assistant football editor and Tottenham correspondent.

Follow him on Twitter: @steinoliver_