We are at one of those moments in time where we are about to step into the unknown.
Lionel Messi has signed a two-year deal with Paris St-Germain to end a 21-year relationship with his beloved Barcelona. We are officially in an era of Messi post-Barca.
Of course we have been here before as we have seen many tearful farewells from star men as they moved on to pastures new — be it for age, finances or fallouts.
However, Messi’s departure from Barcelona is water under the bridge and after a sobbing goodbye and a private jet flight to Paris, we must now look forward. And as we see who the Argentina and Barca record scorer is linking up with, it is pause for thought.
The fascinating thing is PSG now possess possibly one of the most potent attacks in the current game.
It is almost mind-boggling to thing the GOAT Messi, Brazil’s finest Neymar and France’s superstar Kylian Mbappe, the boy that lit up the last World Cup and has helped PSG to a hatful of trophies, will all be lining up for the same team.
With Messi on board, few will argue that this PSG ‘MNM’ trio are formidable at worst. They may well be the best in the world. A quick look at what else is on offer can put that in perspective.
Could Liverpool’s stuttering triumvirate of Salah, Mane and Firmino compete? Doubt it. Could the all-round stars of Manchester City (in no particular order: Foden, Bernardo, Stones, Sterling, Gundogan, Jesus, and now Grealish) keep up on the scoring rate? Lot’s of pressure there.
Over in Germany, Lewandowski is a man-machine, but Bayern — who have dominated the titles so often for the past decade — cannot keep it up with both the Poland captain and strike partner Thomas Mueller both approaching 40.
Italy sees Serie A champions Inter Milan shorn of top scorers Romelu Lukaku, who is off to Chelsea, and Lautaro Martinez, who could be at any of a number of clubs by the end of the transfer window. Juventus have little to offer, and even the ageing Ronaldo (Juventus) and Ibrahimovic (AC Milan) are looking at jobs elsewhere before retirement, which means there is little threat upfront to get near Messi and his new pals.
England’s Manchester United are reeling with the long-term loss of Marcus Rashford, and Anthony Martial is out of form, with Edinson Cavani not getting any younger — and having earlier been deemed surplus to requirements at PSG before his move to Old Trafford. Possibly Chelsea could mount a challenge, but that will be a big ask for Havertz and Mount to step up alongside Lukaku after a goal-shy season last time out, despite winning the Champions League.
Where else? Spain: Hmm, with both Real Madrid and Barcelona in financial trouble, maybe the best pairing is at Atletico, where Suarez and Correa have upset the La Liga applecart by getting into the title race mix. Still, they would struggle to keep up with the rotating front three of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe.
Now, where could MNM stand in the all-time greats? That is impossible to tell until they get up and running, so let’s take a look at the competition in the lethal striking forces that we have seen before. It is a stellar crop (in no particular order).
Michael Owen & Emile Heskey (Liverpool)
The guys changed the game with their different playing styles, earning the name ‘Little & Large’ as they banged in the goals for the Reds. I think 171 goals in five seasons between then earns them a spot. Heskey got flak for his England performances, which was a shame.
Luis Suarez & Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Suarez is one of the most undersung strikers, despite his time at stellar clubs such as Barca and Liverpool. His link-up with England star Sturridge was exceptional, at the Anfield club that prides itself on striking prowess.
Hulk & Radamel Falcao (Porto)
These unlikely lads bagged a treble for Porto before the game fell apart in Portugal and they fell off the pace. In 2010/11 they were almost unbeatable in terms of goals.
Romelu Lukaku & Lautaro Martinez (Inter)
Sadly both look like departing for English clubs just when Inter had got back on their feet. But these two managed to shatter records as Inter grabbed the title and end a decade of Juventus dominance only a few months ago.
Kevin Keegan & John Toshack (Liverpool)
Liverpool again, but I did say they were proud of their strikers. These guys in the early 1970s put the Reds back on the map with domestic and European titles.
Ronaldo & Raul (Real Madrid)
After he left United, Ronaldo had a big challenge, which he lived up to with aplomb alongside club hero and veteran Raul, with the pair bagging goals for fun.
Marco van Basten & Ruud Gullit (AC Milan)
It would e criminal to miss out the resurrection of Milan in the mid-1980s and it was down to these two dutch masters. Everyone was tuning in to Italian football just to watch their electric pace, brilliant touches and clinical finishing in black and red
Wayne Rooney & Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Back in England and before Ronaldo had nipped off to Spain to become a Galactico, a brilliant partnership was born after a young upstart was signed from Everton. The pair thrived to grab all the goals and glory, but both were really down to coach Alex Ferguson’s eye for a young talent, bagging Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League.
Kenny Dalglish & Ian Rush (Liverpool)
One for the older generation, but these two were brilliant for the Reds and are heroes to this day at Anfield. Scotland and Wales dominated England in the 1980s in front of the Kop after the groundwork of Keegan a few years earlier.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
A three-pronged attack. They are rare and this might be what MNM will be compared to. Ronaldo was thriving, Frenchman Benzema clicked like clockwork and the arrival of Bale from Tottenham produced a perfect foil on the left, who also banged in the goals. Great to watch.
Thierry Henry & Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)
How Arsenal would love this up front right now. Madness from the Invincibles as — after the departure of club top scorer Ian Wright — French wizard Henry took it into overdrive. The 2003/04 season will forever be remembered for these two.
Dwight Yorke & Andy Cole (Manchester United)
An amazing 53 goals in the 1998/99 season were down to these two men. They easily helped United’s dominance and only age stopped them taking the Red Devils further.
Mo Salah, Sadio Mane & Robert Firmino (Liverpool)
Guess what? Anfield again but in more recent times. Only last year, this trio broke every club goalscoring record on their way to a first title in 30 years. Defenders did not have a clue where to look as they were torn apart on the left, right and middle by the unlikely treble stars.
Alfredo Di Stefano & Ferenc Puskas (Real Madrid)
Last mention must go the guys that started it all (I know I said in no particular order): Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas. This pair essentially created the legend that is Real. They would not have their 13 European Cups had it not started somewhere and it started with Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas. Back in 1953 a revolution began as Di Stefano signed on and by 1958 history was made. No one has been better, yet.