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The greatest strike partnerships of all time - ranked

Mitchell Wilks
Few goals there
Few goals there / Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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Right. Enough of this one striker, ultra tactical system nonsense. It's boring and outplayed.

Football is infinitely better when teams use two striker formations. Them's the rules. The following list ranks 30 of the greatest strike partnerships the sport has seen, and celebrates the two striker system for its newfound hipster status.

Consider this the unofficial campaign to bring back two striker systems and ban the bores that don't comply.


30. Luis Suarez & Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax)

Ajax Amsterdam's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (R)
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar has a feisty scoring record / MARCEL ANTONISSE/Getty Images

In one of the greatest teams of recent times to win absolutely sod all, Suarez and Huntelaar were on fire for Ajax in 2007/08.

Lining up together, a young Suarez banged in 22 goals and assisted 14 times, while Huntelaar racked up an unworldly 36 goals and ten assists in all competitions. They missed out on the Eredivisie. Don't ask.

29. Demba Ba & Papiss Cisse (Newcastle)

Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba
Once upon a time in Newcastle / Julian Finney/Getty Images

Ah, the streets won't forget.

The Senegalese duo were a hit on Tyneside and gave English football fans some proper prime Barclays stuff. Ba had started the 2011/12 season with two hat-tricks for Newcastle, but kicked into overdrive when Cisse joined that January as the pair ran rings around the league's defenders.

28. Robbie Keane & Dimitar Berbatov (Tottenham)

Dimitar Berbatov, Robbie Keane
Quietly prolific / Julian Finney/Getty Images

An underappreciated duo, Keane and Berbatov were polar opposites on the field. But opposites attract.

Keane did the relentless running, providing outlets and creating space to be found in. Berbatov did the technical stuff; bringing play together, picking the pass or flicking it round a defender, or finding a goal from any angle. See Spurs battering Fulham 4-0 in the FA Cup as the example. Class.

27. Michael Owen & Emile Heskey (Liverpool)

Michael Owen, Emile Heskey
Heskey was once a top striker / GERRY PENNY/Getty Images

The ultimate little and large duo. Heskey has become one of the game's disrespected greats, which is completely unwarranted.

A traditional little and large combo, Heskey was an elite target man and Owen moved off him in sync. The two were electric and bagged 171 goals together in five years.

26. Alexis Sanchez & Antonio Di Natale (Udinese)

Alexis Alejandro Sanchez, Antonio Di Natale
Early on in Sanchez' career, he enjoyed a fine partnership at Udinese / Dino Panato/Getty Images

Sanchez arrived in Italy as an unproven youngster from Chile, but found his feet alongside Di Natale in a menacing strike partnership.

Their partnership was on show when Udinese smashed Palermo 7-0 in 2011. Sanchez bagged himself four goals, while Di Natale scored the other three.

25. Luis Suarez & Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)

Daniel Sturridge, Luis Suarez
Two great strikers, neither of which were wearing the number nine / Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Having already struck up a strike partnership and become a nearly man with Ajax, Suarez had done it again at Liverpool with Sturridge.

The Reds should have won the Premier League in 2013/14 and we all know why they didn't. But don't let that detract from the fact that the SAS (Suarez and Sturridge) were ripping teams apart for fun. So close.

24. Hulk & Radamel Falcao (Porto)

Radamel Falcao, Givalnildo Vieira 'Hulk'
An unforgettable pairing / Angel Martinez/Getty Images

A time before Falcao's knees had been blown to bits and Hulk had wandered off to play everywhere except a top league.

In Portugal, the pair were electric together. Powerful, athletic and intelligent, the two linked up mercilessly and blitzed their way to a treble in 2010/11.

23. Marcelo Salas & Ivan Zamorano (Chile)

CUP-FR98-ITA-CHI-SALAS-ZAMORANO-JUBO
Salas and Zamorano balled out at national level / JACQUES DEMARTHON/Getty Images

A national team entry, Salas and Zamorano struck up a bond for Chile throughout the 90s that cannot be forgotten.

After not appearing at any of Mexico 86, Italia 90 or the 1994 World Cup, Chile were dragged to the 1998 finals thanks to Salas and Zamorano. The experienced Zamorano worked tirelessly, while a young Salas exploited defenders with pace.

22. Romelu Lukaku & Lautaro Martinez (Inter)

Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez
A throwback duo / Lars Baron/Getty Images

Honourable mention to Inter and Antonio Conte for successfully bringing back a two striker system and winning a league title with it in 2021.

Lukaku's move to Italy was always going to suit his style, but turning into the target man for Inter has given him a new lease of life, while boosting the stock of Lautaro Martinez even further. Your dad loves it. Proper football.

21. Grafite & Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg)

RESTRICTIONS / EMBARGO - ONLINE CLIENTS
Dzeko and Grafite fired Wolfsburg to the league title / MICHAEL GOTTSCHALK/Getty Images

Before the Bundesliga title became exclusive property of Bayern Munich, a strike force that cost less than £10m won Wolfsburg the league.

The pair scored a combined 54 league goals, which was enough for Dzeko to swiftly earn a move to Manchester City in 2009. Cult heroes.

20. Wayne Rooney & Dimitar Berbatov (Manchester United)

Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov
An unlikely duo / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It's a duo that sounds like it shouldn't really work all that well; too similar. But after Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez left Man Utd, Berbatov and Rooney kept on scoring.

The two were on a similar wavelength, making the right run patterns, and had enough ability to pick each other out with passes. A forgotten duo amid United's dominance, but a seriously fun one.

19. Diego Tristan & Roy Makaay (Deportivo)

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS LEAGUE-DEPORTIVO DE LA CORUNA
Super Depor / JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images

Back in the days of Super Depor, Tristan and Makaay ran the streets in La Liga.

The pair fired Deportivo to their first and only league title in 1999/00, scoring goals for fun, and almost did the same again the following season before the wheels slowly fell off.

18. Sergio Aguero & Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid)

Atletico Madrid's Uruguayan Diego Forlan
The streets won't forget Diego Forlan / MIGUEL RIOPA/Getty Images

Aguero and Forlan joining forces at Atletico to rip it up was simply meant to be.

Four seasons together saw the two South Americans forge a fine partnership. In 2008/09, they scored a combined 49 league goals as Forlan won the European Golden Shoe. Underrated.

17. Alan Shearer & Chris Sutton (Blackburn)

Alan Shearer
Alan Shearer's only league title was with Blackburn / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Before Suarez and Sturridge, Shearer and Sutton were the original SAS.

Shearer bagged for fun in the Premier League, while Sutton ripped it up in the cups. They moved intelligently and operated on the same wavelength, proving endlessly fruitful as Blackburn won the 1994/95 Premier League.

16. Diego Milito & Samuel Eto'o (Inter)

Diego Milito, Samuel Eto�o
Eto'o's positional tweak was key / Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

The one season Eto'o was prepared to surrender his central position for Jose Mourinho was the season it all came together.

Eto'o was a menace from the left flank and the ideal wide forward for target man Diego Milito. Inter were a force to be reckoned with and bullied their way to a treble, with the pair scoring a combined 48 goals. A short but insanely sweet time.

15. Romario & Hristo Stoichkov (Barcelona)

Romario
Romario and Stoichkov humbled Manchester United / Chris Cole/Getty Images

The two greatest strikers on the planet join forces at one of the biggest clubs in the world. What could go wrong?

Humbling Manchester United in the Champions League said it all about Romario and Stoichkov. The former bagged one and the latter two as United visited the Nou Camp, with the pair able to dismember any opposition. The catch? We only got one season of an excellent yet explosive duo.

14. Kevin Keegan & John Toshack (Liverpool)

Kevin Keegan, Dave Clement
Keegan was immense and linked up with John Toshack / Getty Images/Getty Images

After the highs of the resurgent 1960s, Liverpool needed to build a new strike force the following decade. Enter Keegan and Toshack. Batman and Robin. Magnet and steel.

Keegan - an unknown quantity upon his signing in 1971, was the perfect partner for Toshack, and the two formed an unbeatable little and large duo that saw Liverpool lift league titles and European trophies.

13. Andriy Shevchenko & Filippo Inzaghi (Milan)

Andriy Shevchenko, Filippo Inzaghi
Shevchenko and Inzaghi became European champions together / Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Milan were responsible for bringing together two of Europe's brightest forwards and creating an obscene duo out of them.

Shevchenko became a hero with the Rossoneri following his 1999 signing, but found new levels when Inzaghi joined two years later. Together, the pair scored goals for fun as Milan regrouped under Carlo Ancelotti and won the 2003 Champions League.

12. Filippo Inzaghi & Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus)

Parma v Juventus x
Endlessly cool / Grazia Neri/Getty Images

Before Inzaghi's move to Milan, the Italian forward had carved out a fine partnership in Turin with fellow Italian Del Piero.

The two were a force in an obscene Juventus team throughout the 90s. Zinedine Zidane flooring defenders and spraying passes in behind them, Juve won back to back Serie A titles in 1996/97 and 1997/98, as well as reaching the Champions League final in both seasons.

11. Ronaldo & Raul (Real Madrid)

Ronaldo, Raul
Ronaldo played alongside Raul, rather than replacing him / Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Heading into the 2000s with a new president in Florentino Perez and a new policy of 'spend and don't look at the bank account', Real Madrid added Ronaldo to their ranks for extra force.

The Brazilian came in alongside club hero Raul and the two hit it off. Both equally as brilliant, Raul took the backseat while Ronaldo shined in domestic and European eyes, but both were equally as deadly. It's criminal that Real didn't sweep up silverware in the early 2000s.

10. Marco van Basten & Ruud Gullit (Milan)

Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit
A monumental impact on the club / Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

After almost a decade of decline with no trophies won, a change of ownership shook things up at AC Milan in 1986. A year later, Gullit and Van Basten arrived at the club to freshen things up dramatically.

While Gullit was an instant hit, Van Basten battled with injuries. But it didn't stop him from scoring the title-winning goal against Napoli in his debut season. The two blossomed together and were world beaters as they retained the European Cup and continued to dominate in Serie A through the 90s.

9. Raul & Fernando Morientes (Real Madrid)

Raul, Fernando Morientes
Before Galactico policies... / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Before the Galacticos era began, it was two Spaniards leading the line for Real Madrid. Raul and Fernando Morientes were inseparable on and off the pitch, which reflected in their play.

Good friends scoring great goals, they won La Liga twice and the Champions League three times as a duo, before Morientes was phased out for bigger names.

8. Wayne Rooney & Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo
These two were a handful in the Premier League / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The combination of Rooney and Ronaldo looked, on paper, like a a tireless Englishman feeding an eccentric and flamboyant foreign star. It was that to an extent, but also so much more.

Rooney was electric and could match Ronaldo in his prime, which is why the pair were so good for United. They operated on the same wavelength and complimented each other's strengths and weaknesses perfectly as the Red Devils dominated the Premier League and won the 2008 Champions League.

7. Kenny Dalglish & Ian Rush (Liverpool)

Ian Rush, Kenny Dalglish
Rush and Dalglish complimented each other perfectly / Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Replacing Kevin Keegan looked an impossible task come 1977, but Dalglish's legacy would have you convinced otherwise.

Rush arrived three years later and the pair formed the ideal duo; Dalglish worked off a young Rush through the 80s as the experienced arm and, while his numbers began to curtail, his influence in the front two was equally as important.

6. Cristiano Ronaldo & Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema
Ronaldo and Benzema share a strong relationship / Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Four Champions Leagues together and an amount of goals and assists that would make you feel sick to your stomach. No, Ronaldo and Benzema didn't operate as a front two, but their bond was special.

Throw Gareth Bale into the mix and it was a front three that would score on any planet. Ronaldo and Benzema were unplayable, passing, running and feinting their way around defences domestically and in Europe. Modern football in an art form.

5. Thierry Henry & Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)

Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp were unrelenting / Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

Invincible. After Ian Wright had already whipped up a fine partnership with Dennis Bergkamp in earlier years, Frenchman Thierry Henry took it into overdrive in the 2000s.

The pair moved off each other like nobody's business and scored the most disgusting of goals, plenty coming in the season when Arsenal went unbeaten as they won the Premier League in 2003/04.

4. Dwight Yorke & Andy Cole (Manchester United)

Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke
A lot of goals / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Marginally squeezing past Henry and Bergkamp, Yorke and Cole were doing it for United first.

The pair bagged 53 goals between them in 1998/99 and were pivotal as the Red Devils became the first English side to win the treble. Even if it wasn't them scoring in the final, United simply wouldn't have gotten anywhere near without the relentless goalscoring from the pair.

3. Pele & Garrincha (Brazil)

Garrincha
Garrincha became a solid partner to Pele for Brazil / STAFF/Getty Images

International football and much older football is a touch tricky to judge, but never as tricky as Pele and Garrincha were in Brazil's golden era.

After Pele carried them to the 1958 World Cup aged 17, he suffered with injuries four years later, paving the way for Garrincha to come into the spotlight. Together, the pair were out of this world. Talent that nobody had ever seen before, culminating in Brazil capturing the 1970 World Cup with some of the finest football you could watch. Mesmerising.

2. Lionel Messi & Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez
Good luck / Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Sure, Neymar had a part to play in Barcelona's electric front three, but it was the genius and pure wizardry of Messi and Suarez doing the heavy lifting.

It was perfect. Messi the creator, combining with the most unapologetic, relentless goal getter on the planet, both hungry for never ending success. The pair racked up over 800 goals when combining their tallies for Barcelona. Eight hundred.

1. Alfredo Di Stefano & Ferenc Puskas (Real Madrid)

Jose Santamaria, Luis Del Sol, Francisco Gento, Rogelio Dominguez, Canario, Jose Maria Zarraga, Pachin, Jose Maria Vidal, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas
Di Stefano and Puskas took Real to new heights and made them the club they are today / Central Press/Getty Images

The two that popularised the movement. Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas can never be forgotten.

Di Stefano arrived to Real Madrid in 1953 and took them from average to instant world beaters with his revolutionary, Argentine style. Adding Ferenc Puskas in 1958 was the icing on the cake; Los Blancos were complete and the pair were inevitable. In their 1960 European Cup final win, Puskas scored four goals and Di Stefano bagged three as they won 7-3. Ridiculous.

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