Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar is one of the greaestt front threes ever assembled. Well, on paper at least.
At the expense of stating the obvious, football is a team game and cramming together some of the best individuals in the sport isn’t necessarily the best way to create a coherent line-up or system.
And that certainly appears to be the case at Paris Saint-Germain this season as Mauricio Pochettino desperately tries to find a way for the star-studded trio to start clicking.
Messi, Neymar and Mbappe
Besides, the flaws in PSG’s current approach couldn’t have been clearer than in the 2-1 Champions League defeat to Manchester City with the tight scoreline more than flattering the French giants.
In fact, the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Jamie Carragher picked up on how Messi, Mbappe and Neymar contributed to the embarrassment with neither player consistently tracking back or defending.
Several clips and images from the game show the PSG superstars remaining stapled to City’s back-line desperate an increasingly cavernous gap forming between them and the retreating defence.
Man City 2-1 PSG Match Reaction (Football Terrace)
Struggling to click at PSG
And what makes those worrying tactical trends so unsustainable is the fact that Messi, Mbappe and Neymar aren’t counterbalancing it with the sort of goalscoring output that we’d expect from them.
Messi has been uncharacteristically slow out of the blocks with just four goals this season, Neymar has been in dreadful form on just four strikes and Mbappe is frankly carrying them with nine goals.
But that cumulative tally of 16 strikes is really nothing to write home about because it sees PSG’s front three rank as just the 18th-most effective goalscoring trio in Europe’s top leagues this season.
Comparison with other front threes
Yes, that’s right, when we used Transfermarkt data to rank the most prolific goalscoring trios across Europe’s top five leagues, the Champions League and Europa League in 2021/22, PSG finished all the way down in joint 15th.
‘Wait, I thought you said 18th?’ we hear you ask. Well, remarkably, PSG’s most prolific trio so far this season actually includes Idrissa Gueye whose four goals sees him get in ahead of Neymar.
Thus, once we swap out the defensive midfielder for Neymar, their goalscoring tally drops back down to 18th and sees them rubbing shoulders with Strasbourg and bellow Hellas Verona. Crazy.
Most prolific goalscoring trios (2021/22)
So, be sure to get a clearer idea of just how much Mbappe, Neymar and Messi have been struggling as a front three in 2021/22 by checking out Europe’s most prolific goalscoring trios so far below:
=18. Nice – 16 goals
Amine Gouiri (8), Andy Delort (5) and Kasper Dolberg (3)
=18. Paris Saint-Germain – 16 goals
Kylian Mbappe (9), Lionel Messi (4) and Neymar (3)
=18. Atletico Madrid – 16 goals
Luis Suarez (8), Antoine Griezmann (5) and Angel Correa (3)
=18. Strasbourg – 16 goals
Habib Diallo (7), Ludovic Ajorque (5) and Adrien Thomasson (4)
=15. West Ham United – 17 goals
Michail Antonio (7), Said Benrahma (6) and Pablo Fornals (4)
=15. Hellas Verona – 17 goals
Giovanni Simeone (9), Antonin Barak (5) and Gianluca Caprari (3)
=15. Lille – 17 goals
Jonathan David (12), Burak Yilmaz (3) and Jonathan Ikone (2)
=10. Napoli – 18 goals
Victor Osimhen (9), Lorenzo Insigne (5) and Piotr Zielinski (4)
=10. Borussia Dortmund – 18 goals
Erling Haaland (10), Marco Reus (5) and Jude Bellingham (3)
=10. Manchester United – 18 goals
Cristiano Ronaldo (10), Bruno Fernandes (4) and Mason Greenwood (4)
=10. AS Monaco – 18 goals
Wissam Ben Yedder (9), Sofiane Diop (5) and Kevin Volland (4)
=10. Real Betis – 18 goals
Juanmi (7), Willian Jose (6) and Borja Iglesias (5)
=8. Atalanta – 19 goals
Duvan Zapata (10), Mario Pasalic (5) and Josip Ilicic (4)
=8. Lazio – 19 goals
Ciro Immobile (11), Felipe Anderson (4) and Pedro (4)
7. Inter Milan – 20 goals
Edin Dzeko (10), Lautaro Martinez (6) and Joaquin Correa (4)
=5. Bayer Leverkusen – 21 goals
Patrik Schick (8), Florian Wirtz (7) and Moussa Diaby (6)
=5. Lyon – 21 goals
Karl Toko Ekambi (10), Lucas Paqueta (6) and Houssem Aouar (5)
4. RB Leipzig – 22 goals
Christopher Nkunku (12), Emil Forsberg (6) and Andre Silva (4)
3. Real Madrid – 29 goals
Karim Benzema (15), Vinicius Junior (10) and Marco Asensio (4)
2. Liverpool – 32 goals
Mohamed Salah (17), Sadio Mane (9) and Diogo Jota (6)
1. Bayern Munich – 38 goals
Robert Lewandowski (23), Serge Gnabry (8) and Leroy Sane (7)
Not a good look for PSG
We’re just three months into the season and despite Mbappe, Messi and Neymar having the star powers of dreams, they find themselves 22 goals behind Bayern’s front three already. Madness.
Now, to be fair, the Bavarians really are in a league of their own with six more strikes than Liverpool in second courtesy of the absolutely freakish goalscoring of Lewandowski this season.
It wouldn’t be a shock if the Polish star were to bag the Ballon d’Or and FIFA ‘The Best’ award in the coming days because his record of 25 goals in just 19 appearances in 2021/22 simply isn’t human.
Further down the list and it’s interesting to see that the Ronaldo-led United trio aren’t faring much better in 10th, while neither Manchester City to Chelsea appear despite their strong starts in the Premier League.
But above everything else, you can’t help reading through those trios and wondering how a line-up containing Mbappe, Neymar and Messi could possibly find themselves behind West Ham.