With the “MSN” Gone: Who has the best strikeforce in Europe? Real Madrid, Man United, PSG or another?

For years Barcelona’s “MSN” was considered the best strikeforce in Europe, then Neymar left for Paris Saint-Germain this summer. The Ligue 1 side may now have assembled the most expensive forward line in football history – with €466 million worth of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe – but are trio the best strikeforce around?

This have all been argued by our editors on Football Weeks and Senior Writer Bertrand Francois has ranked them all and concluded there’s no upsetting the established order yet.

“With Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in their armoury, it is impossible to look beyond Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively as the top two,” he says. “Ronaldo and Messi are the still the best around and having one of those is arguably better than having three of the best from the rest.”

REAL MADRID: Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo (BBC)

FC Rank: 1

Ever since Bale joined Benzema and Ronaldo in summer 2013 there have been questions surrounding Real Madrid’s galatico trio. But three Champions League titles in the four seasons since show that when all are fit and firing ‘the BBC’ cannot really be stopped. Ronaldo’s burst of goals which secured last season’s double success showed that, at 32, the Portuguese man remains the deadliest finisher around. Few players Bale’s speed, physically and directness when games open up, and Karim Benzema’s tactical intelligence and unselfishness helps ‘the BBC’ unlocks defences which sit tight. Haters will talk of tactical issues and personality squabbles, but as we speak the BBC remain the best.

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele (MSD)

FC Rank: 2

Even with not in Nou Camp, any strikeforce which features arguably best player in the world is within its right to be considered the game’s best. Lionel Messi has started the season in brilliant form, netting 11 goals in his first seven La Liga games and leading an otherwise unconvincing Ernesto Valverde’s side on a nine-game winning streak. And to that Luis Suarez – a two time European Golden Boot Winner – and you have an extremely enviable forward line. The bring in the man signed to replace Neymar: €145m worth of Ousmane Dembele. The France international is cruelly out injured at the moment, but the talented 20-year-old will bring a sense of unpredictability to Barca’s attack when he’s back. The Barca new MSD doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but if the MSD achieve the same success then Barca will be happy.

PSG: Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani, Neymar (MCN)

The ‘MCN’

FC Rank: 3

No offence but PSG’s front three is the best striker force in Europe, hands down. Costing around €466m (eventually), the trio are in great shape and rarely injured or suspended. Even when one or two are not in form during a match, one among the trio manages to step up and inspire the team to victory in Ligue 1 or Champions League. Despite Neymar and Cavani’s recent penalty issue during the win over Lyon, the MCN are complementary. To date, the prolific MCN still stand the three men in power racked up 22 goals and 11 assist and we are only just entering October; must better than the rest.

TOTTENHAM: Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli (KEA)

FC Rank: 4

In Harry Kane, Tottenham have the most in-form goalscorer in Europe and the only player who matched Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017 (despite an ankle injury and his annual August lack of goals). Behind the England international, there is 21-year-old Dele Alli, the Europe’s best young goalscoring midfielder, who is also developing a Ronaldo-like obsession with goals. Christian Eriksen, 25, has stepped-up a level in the past 18 months and there is a strong case that the Danish attacking midfielder is now the most consistent playmaker in England. What sets the young trio apart, though, is their work-rate. Alli and Eriksen regularly cover as much ground as anyone in the Premier League, while Kane’s ferocious energy never drops. Signing Manchester United’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, to complete an amazing IKEA, would make their acronym a bit better though.

MAN CITY: Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling (GAS)

Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling

FC Rank: 5

Take a look at the nine top scorers in the Premier League and each of the title rivals is represented once in that list, apart from Manchester City who have three representatives. Sergio Aguero is second in the top-scorer list with six goals to his name – one goal behind Man United’s Romelu Luaku, despite playing 163 fewer minutes – Raheem Sterling also has five and Gabriel Jesus four. Pep Guardiola’s forward line have now started to fully implement the Spaniard philosophy, pulling good teams apart and punishing any team not completely switched on. It’s worthy to take note that these goals are coming in the ultra-competitive Premier League where there are no giveaways games to bulk out their statistics, too, which is why they have one of the most dangerous attacking units in Europe. Guardiola’s ‘GAS’ even works if you bring in any of David Silva, Leroy Sane or Bernardo Silva for Sterling.

MAN UNITED: Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata (RLM)

FC Rank: 6

Jose Mourinho’s attack line has almost everything. Romelu Lukaku, quick, strong and good in the air, cannot stop scoring and has already got eleven in 10 games for the Red Devils. Marcus Rashford on the left is lightning fast and skillful, while Juan Mata playing on the right is more subtle, drifting inside to find space to create a pass or shoot with his left. And with conductor Henrikh Mkhitaryan playing in behind too. It is the combination of it all that has made the Red Devils so dangerous this season. Overly-reliant on Ibrahimovic last season, they became predictable in the way they attacked and it cost them points. Lukaku’s ability to hold up the ball and run in behind helps create space for other players, Rashford and Mata included, making United’s RLM a different prospect this season.

CHELSEA: Alvaro Morata, Pedro, Eden Hazard (MPH)

FC Rank: 7

Significant injuries to Eden Hazard and now Alvaro Morata mean fans haven’t actually seen this trio in action together on the pitch yet and it could be some time before we do, but there’s every reason to think that Chelsea’s strongest attacking combination is a match for anything else in the world. Hazard is arguably the Premier League’s best player when fit and firing; Morata is an elite, intelligent focal point who helps those around him shine as well as creating chances for himself. Once you add Pedro’s smart running and lethal finishing with either foot to the mix, you have a front line that can do pretty much anything to any defence. MPH surely has the speed to contend at the highest level.

LIVERPOOL: Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho (Fab Four)

FC Rank: 8

The ‘Fab Four’ is a frontline that plays without a recognized striker but, at times, can be as potent as one with a world-class No. 9 as its figurehead. The trio of Salah, Firmino and Mane all work in tandem and spread out the goal production, with Coutinho playing a leading role behind to assist – hence the borrowing of the Beatles’ famous acronym “Fab Four” moniker. Defensively, they are crucial to Jurgen Klopp’s high-pressing style, but the Reds relentlessness and speed makes them one of the best attacks in European football when it all clicks. Mane is on the pathway to becoming an elite player, while Coutinho continues to show exactly why Barcelona were so keen this summer. After that, defences then have to contend with the pace of Salah and intelligence of Firmino.

BAYERN MUNICH: Robert Lewandowski, Arjen Robben, Thomas Muller (LAM)

FC Rank: 9

Since joining Bayern Munich on a free transfer from Borussia Dortmund, Lewandowski has added three straight Bundesliga titles to the pair he won at the Westfalenstadion under Jurgen Klopp. The Polish striker has scored 30 league goals for the Bavarians in successive seasons – including that remarkable record-breaking five-goal barrage in nine minutes as a substitute against Wolfsburg in 2015 – and remains remarkably injury resistant. The same cannot be said about Arjen Robben, but if fit, the Netherland skipper has consistently shown he is one of the best in the world. Add Thomas Muller to this trio instead of Franck Ribery/James Rodriguez as the Raumdeuter, and the wily “interpreter of space” makes the German champions’ LAM of the most dangerous attacks in the business

JUVENTUS: Mario Mandzukic, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala (MHD)

MHD

FC Rank: 10

Boasting creativity, efficiently and intelligence, Juventus has a frontline that most teams would fear. Working in tandem and inspired by the genius of Paulo Dybala, an Argentine who possesses all the skill and vision required of a future Ballon d’Or winner, Gonzalo Higuain is at his deadliest in front of goal when aided by his Argentine teammate. Dybala and Higuain understand one another, they sacrifice, create opportunities and convert them with blistering efficiency. Supported by Mandzukic, a striker who never misses an opportunity to score on the big scene and is generous all over the pitch to ensure cohesion, Juventus have forged an MHD attack that can terrify the greatest of defences.

DORTMUND: Andrej Yarmolenko, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Christian Pulisic (YAP)

FC Rank: 11

With Marco Reus deeply injured into the season, Dortmund added the physicality and experience of Andrej Yarmolenko to Aubameyang’s deadly instincts inside the box and Christian Pulisic’s pace and skill down the wings. The trio, and Maximilian Philipp, and provided the Bundesliga giants 21 league goals this season. YAP have wreaked havoc on Bundesliga defences. The domestic average of exactly three strikes per match puts them level with Manchester United as Europe’s fifth-best attack, but YAP are hailing from a league which has failed to produce goals for the most parts of this new season.

ARSENAL: Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez (LOS)

FC Rank: 12

Arsenal have had a star duo for the last three years, but have now upgraded that to a terrific trio. While we have yet to see Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette on the pitch together at the same time, it’s easy to envision them wreaking havoc on Premier League defences. With Ozil’s vision, Sanchez’s energy and Lacazette’s clinical finishing, this triple threat has it all. Ozil and Sanchez were hard enough to handle on their own — their new playmate could make them unstoppable. Shame it spells LOS though.

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Bertrand Francois is the editor of Football Weeks. An experienced online and print journalist, Jamie has worked for IRAIW, Arsenal Presser, Soccerlens and countless other media sources over the years. He is from Republic Du Benin and lives in the busiest town Cotonou. - Facebook and Twitter