Ranking the 10 best attacking trios in football history

Ranking the 10 best attacking trios in football history

Kenneth Mwenda
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:14 PM

Football has evolved through several stages, with some of the best attacking trios in football history. Their brilliance and unique chemistry with teammates made it sensational. Furthermore, these players established outstanding individual records that wowed fans.

Ranking the 10 best attacking trios in football history
Luis Suarez (L), Lionel Messi (C) and Neymar (R) of Barcelona walk the pitch while warming up prior to the match against Manchester United on July 26, 2017. Photo: Ira L. Black
Source: Getty Images

We compiled a list of some fierce soccer trios from credible sources as voted by football fans. From older to younger players, their sensational gameplay stands out from the crowd.

The top 10 attacking trios in football history

The concept of an attacking trident capable of tearing apart even the most well-drilled teams in the sport has been tried and tested on numerous occasions. It has frequently succeeded to a devastating degree.

10. Kocsis - Hidegkuti - Puskas | Hungary

Ranking the 10 best attacking trios in football history
Known to fans as the 'Golden Team' or the 'Mighty Magyars' Photo: @Centraltres
Source: Twitter

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The Hungarian national football team of the 1950s was one of the most magnificent groups of men to ever take to the field. Sandor Kocsis, Nandor Hidegkuti, and Ferenc Puskas bombarded everything on their way to the 1954 World Cup final unbeaten for nearly four years.

Known to fans as the 'Golden Team' or the 'Mighty Magyars,' they are widely regarded as the greatest national team which has never won a World Cup. They still hold the record for the most consecutive games with at least one goal scored, with 73 from 1949 to 1957.

9. Rensenbrink - Cruyff - Rep | Netherlands

most dangerous trio in football history
Holland's Johnny Rep (16) takes on Uruguay's Ricardo Pavoni (c), watched by teammates Johan Cruyff (l) and Rob Rensenbrink (top l). Photo: Peter Robinson
Source: Getty Images

Johan Cruyff was not like anyone else. This was a Lennon-like figure with shoulder-length hair who could dribble as if the ball was pinned to his feet. At Ajax, Johnny Rep was Cruyff's partner; the duo skillfully combined to win the club's third straight European Cup in 1973.

Meanwhile, Ron Rensenbrink stood out. The forward, who was neither an Ajax nor a Feyenoord product, was well on his way to becoming an Anderlecht legend.

The Dutch formed one of the best-attacking trios in history. They were at their best during the 1974 World Cup, swooping and swivelling like fighter planes. However, they were defeated in the finals by West Germany in Munich.

8. Rivelino - Pele - Jairzinho | Brazil

The best attacking trios in football all time
Brazil's Jairzinho on his knees prays after scoring his team's third goal in the World Cup Final as teammates Rivelino, Pele, Clodoaldo, and Tostao rush in to celebrate. Photo: Rolls Press
Source: Getty Images

During his career, Pele formed three legendary trios. He was unstoppable for Santos alongside Pepe and Coutinho, and he won the 1958 and 1962 World Cups with Garrincha and Vava.

However, perhaps the best-attacking line-up in international football history came in 1970 when a majestic Brazil team thrashed everyone in their path on their way to glory.

Although this wasn't strictly a front three (Tostao also linked up), Rivelino on the left, Jairzinho on the right, and Pele in the middle did the majority of the damage.

7. Gento - Di Stefano - Puskas | Real Madrid

Best attacking trios in football
From left, Alfredo di Stefano (Spain), Puskas, and Francisco Gento (Spain) in 1960. Photo: Ullstein Bild
Source: Getty Images

In the 1958/59 season, Real Madrid assembled a forward line that would go down in football history. When Di Stéfano and Gento arrived at the club in 1953, they were the first key pieces of this attack.

This attacking quartet dominated Europe, and Puskas' arrival in 1958 was the cherry on top of this dream forward line. Their best moment together came in the 1960 European Cup final, when Di Stefano scored three goals and Puskas added four in a 7-3 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt.

Alfredo Di Stefano remains one of the top scorers in the UEFA Champions League, which is quite an accomplishment, given that teams play so many more games these days. Francisco Gento is also the only player to have won six European Cups.

6. Trio Magico | Juventus

Best attacking trios in football all time
Omar Sivori and Welsh forward John Charles playing against Milan's defenders at San Siro Stadium. Photo: Sergio del Grande
Source: Getty Images

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the magic trio of Giampiero Boniperti, John Charles, and Omar Sivori returned Juventus to their 1930s glory days.

When Umberto Agnelli took over as chairman of Juventus, the club was wallowing in ninth place in Serie A. The industrialist had lofty plans for Bianconeri, bringing in English superstar John Charles and Argentine wizard Omar Sivori to help propel the club to success. They won three Scudetti in four seasons and came close to winning the European Cup.

5. The three R's | Brazil

The greatest attacking trios in the history of soccer
Rivaldo (R), Ronaldinho (L), and Ronaldo (C) during a match in 2002. Photo: Andreas Rentz
Source: Getty Images

Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, and Ronaldo were all-time starters for Brazil's national football team. The three Brazilian superstars made football look easy as they dribbled past the best defenses of their generation to lead Brazil to World Cup glory.

They first appeared in the Copa America tournament in 1999 and became one of the greatest attacking trios in soccer history. In 2002, the intimidating trident accomplished the most prestigious feat in world football, scoring 15 goals in only seven games during the Selecao's successful World Cup campaign. The trio also allowed a young Ronaldinho to flourish, going on to dazzle at Barcelona and AC Milan.

4. Mane - Firmino - Salah | Liverpool

Best attacking trios of all time
Sadio Mane celebrates with Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino after scoring a goal during the Premier League match at Anfield on June 24, 2020 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. Photo: Sebastian Frej
Source: Getty Images

Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah were devastating for Liverpool over a three-year period in which they reached two Champions League finals before romping to their first league title in 30 years in 2020.

Under Jurgen Klopp, Mane supplied the skill and speed, Firmino the intelligence, and Salah the goals, as they broke all kinds of scoring records. They were also a modern attack, pressing ferociously from the front to reclaim the ball.

3. The Holy Trinity | Manchester United

The trio dominated the 1960s, paving the way for Manchester United's dominance under Sir Matt Busby. Although not strictly a front three, George Best, Bobby Charlton, and Dennis Law terrorized defences all over England and Europe for over a decade.

Best was a great dribbler, Law was a great goalscorer, and Charlton was probably England's best-ever attacking midfielder. All of this culminated in 1968, when Manchester United became England's first team to win the European Cup, defeating Benfica 4-1 in extra time at Wembley Stadium.

2. Bale - Benzema - Cristiano (BBC) | Real Madrid

Best attacking trios in football
Gareth Bale (R) celebrates after scoring with his teammates Karims Benzema (L) and Cristiano Ronaldo (C) on March 20, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. Photo: Pedro Castillo
Source: Getty Images

Real Madrid needed something special to break Barcelona's iron grip on Spanish football earlier in the decade. 'BBC' emerged at the perfect time and formed the most dangerous trio in football history. Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Gareth Bale contributed to the Spanish game reaching incredible greater levels in a rather rare event in which two of the most lethal attacking tridents in football shared a thrilling rivalry.

The trio scored an incredible 97 goals in their first season in 2014. They later won an unprecedented three Champions League titles in a row - and four in total - with all three scoring memorable final goals. When Ronaldo joined Juventus in 2018, they called it quits after five glorious years together.

1. Messi - Suarez - Neymar (MSN) | Barcelona

Top 10 attacking trios in football
Lionel Messi (C) celebrates a goal with Neymar (L) and Luis Suarez (R) at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on January 9, 2016. Photo: Lluis Gene
Source: Getty Images

Barcelona had all the ingredients for a perfect storm in 2014. When the Blaugrana signed Luis Suarez, all hell broke loose. He was chipped in as Barcelona's crown prince in the final third as Lionel Messi transitioned into a more creative role for the Catalans.

In their first season, the South American trio annihilated defences and led Barcelona to an unprecedented treble. Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez scored 122 goals in a single season, forming one of football's best-attacking trios. They are still Barcelona's best-attacking trios of all time.

The best-attacking players in history stood out as a trio. Furthermore, they have always been surrounded by illustrious individuals who have established their own legacies in the sport.

READ ALSO: The best centre-backs of all time in football history ranked

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Great side-by-side pairs are also among the top centre-back pairings of all time. Click the above link to read more!

Kenneth Mwenda photo
Kenneth Mwenda
Kenneth Mwenda is a business and sports writer with over five years of experience. At Sportsbrief, he contributes to writing biographies and listicles.