Top five: Striking partnerships in Europe

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As the first half of the European summer transfer window draws to a close, we can take a moment to look back at the completion of what have proved to be some of the biggest transfers in recent memory.

Clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have spent tens of millions of euros on strengthening their attacks, buying players of the highest international quality.

This frenzied activity has no doubt caused some prolific offensive partnerships to be created. Carlos Tevez's understanding with compatriot Sergio Aguero at the Etihad comes to mind, but one look at the clubs that the world's top strikers have joined leaves the lasting impression, that we could just be in store for a few special attacking affiliations this season. 

 This article takes a look at the five most promising partnerships in Europe:

1) Lionel Messi - Neymar, Barcelona

This one had to be at the top of this list for it to retain any ounce of credibility. Brazilian sensation Neymar signed for Barcelona for a mammoth fee of €57 million on May 24 amidst a whirlwind of media attention, and then went on to justify the attention by winning the Golden Ball at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil after a series of electrifying performances. Messi's credentials, on the other hand, need no introduction; crowned the world's best player for four years running, he is a living legend at 26.

Neymar's best work is done down the left side of a three-man attack, and this suits the traditional tactical set-up at Barcelona to perfection. It can be easily assumed that Lionel Messi will resume his role of the central-striker in the team, and there is seemingly endless potential in the prospect of him linking up with Neymar and playing one-twos off each other.

Neymar has shown his ability to cut in from the flank to deadly effect, either setting up team-mates or going for goal himself (and to deadly effect, most of the times), and it seems like the Brazil and Argentina nationals will complement each other's styles perfectly. 

Training with the likes of Pedro, Christian Tello and Alexis Sanchez will help Neymar adapt to the style of play that Messi thrives on, and with the creative talents of Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings from midfield, you can expect Messi and Neymar to keep up their incredible goal-scoring form at club level.

2) Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Edinson Cavani, Paris Saint-Germain

Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani's €64 million move from Napoli to Paris Saint-Germain united the top goal-scorers in Serie A and Ligue 1, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic (30) and Edison Cavani (29) scored 73 goals between them in all competitions in the 2012-2013 season.

Both strikers are capable of manning the frontline on their own, and to great effect, and it will be intriguing to see how they fare together. They both boast immense physicality, athleticism, natural ability and an eye for goal that cannot be learned. Supported by the creative qualities of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Lucas Moura and Marco Verratti, the two strikers will be assured quality delivery on a regular basis. 

Given PSG's preference for a 4-2-3-1 system, Cavani could be pushed out to either flank, making way for Ibrahimovic in the middle, but his pace and tendency to get into the box on a regular basis will mean that it will be very difficult to keep the Uruguayan away from goal.

If the egos of the duo are handled with care, the understanding between them could blossom into something truly awe-inspiring, in which case PSG would be justified in considering themselves as genuine favourites for the Ligue 1 title, and possibly even contenders for the Champions League crown.

3) Stevan Jovetic - Edin Dzeko - Sergio Aguero - Alvaro Negredo, Manchester City

Alright, this is a quartet rather than a partnership, and there is no saying whether Edin Dzeko will remain at the club, following its heavy investments on his three team-mates and rumoured interest from Tottenham. However, there is no denying that the individual quality of these four players means that, if Manuel Pellegrini can find the perfect combination of these strikers, they will be a force to reckon with.

Sergio Aguero developed a very strong understanding with fellow Argentine Carlos Tevez, and on paper the likes of Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo should offer a similar threat to the departed Tevez.

Previous manager Roberto Mancini often shuffled between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-5-2 formation, while Pellegrini's affection for the attacking 4-2-2-2 will mean that he will likely try different combinations of the four (or three) strikers over the season. Judging by his use of Juan Roman Riquelme at Villareal and Isco at Malaga, Pellegrini will favour a second striker, presumably Jovetic or Aguero at City, drifting out wide to support the offensive-minded full-backs, with one striker, Dzeko or Negredo remaining up front. The four strikers he has at his disposal should be able to adapt to his tactics quickly, and are all proven goalscorers.

Given that City boast a midfield overflowing with the creativity of David Silva and Jesus Navas and the workmanlike Yaya Toure and James Milner, the creation of chances will not be a problem at the Etihad Stadium this season, and with four goal poachers available for selection, City should be assured of a steady supply of goals.

4) Cristiano Ronaldo - Karim Benzema, Real Madrid

Admitted, Cristiano Ronaldo is not a striker, but given that he has been used in a central striker's role on more than a few occasions, and has scored a goal a game for 200 games for Real Madrid, it would be fair to add his partnership with French international Karim Benzema to this list. 

Where Benzema is calm in his demeanour, Ronaldo is explosive; while Ronaldo likes to cut in from the left flank, Benzema is not averse to drifting out wide to get the ball. Where Ronaldo likes to hammer in goals from long distances, Benzema is more a penalty-area poacher. Both strikers have impeccable technique, both can head the ball, and they are both privileged enough to play with the nearly unparalleled creative talent that is Mesut Ozil. All in all, Ronaldo and Benzema are a partnership made in heaven.

And Carlo Ancelotti will need them to continue to bang in the goals this season, especially since Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Callejon have moved to Napoli, and Florentino Perez is being quoted a £120 million price tag by Daniel Levy as he continues to attempt to strike a deal for Gareth Bale.

The signing of Isco, another great creative talent and the possible rejuvenation of Ancelotti's old protege Ricardo Kaka will mean that Ronaldo and Benzema, will have no trouble getting the ball at their feet this season, and should continue to be as deadly as ever. 

5) Fernando Llorente - Carlos Tevez, Juventus

Acquired by Antonio Conte for the princely sum of all of 10 million pounds, the duo of Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez are probably--on paper at least--the most compatible partnership on this list. 

Llorente is a behemoth of a presence up front, capable of holding up play for team-mates to make runs off his position; he is surprisingly good with his feet, can head the ball well, and is a great target man overall. Carlos Tevez, on the other hand, gives you 90 minutes of non-stop commitment if his heart is in the cause. Excellent from long range, a tireless runner with an excellent sense of positioning and off-the-ball movement, Tevez is the perfect second-striker.

Backed by the omniscient Andrea Pirlo and the selfless running of Claudio Marchisio, Mauricio Isla and Kwadwo Asamoah, the two strikers should flourish in Turin, and in each other's company. Another factor is that Juventus are so good defensively that they rarely concede, which makes every goal they score that much more crucial. Which is why the Italian giants will need strikers like Tevez and Llorente to score goals on a regular basis.

So there you have it: five partnerships that should provide plenty of goal-mouth action over the next few months. However, here are a few more offensive link-ups that you wouldn't want to miss out on this season:

 Robin van Persie - Wayne Rooney, Manchester United (if the latter is convinced to stay at Old Trafford, he could still be an invaluable player to Old Trafford; however, van Persie is still top dog)

Mario Mandzukic-Thomas Muller-Claudio Pizarro, Bayern Munich (only one of these three strikers might play in a game, to make way for that extra man in midfield, but it will be interesting to see how they are rotated by Guardiola)

Mario Balotelli-Stephane el Shaarawy, AC Milan (the two combined very well for Milan and the Italian side, and should be able to pick up where they left off)

Gonzalo Higuain-Jose Callejon, Napoli (two strikers familiar with each other, but placed in unfamiliar surroundings; we should still see a considerable number of goals)

Romelu Lukaku-Fernando Torres-Demba Ba, Chelsea (Mourinho clearly prefers one striker up front--presumably Lukaku--but has said that Torres and Ba remain crucial to his plans. All three players are capable of getting goals, and we will have to see how Mourinho shuffles between the three)


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Edinson Cavani
Sergio Aguero
Stevan Jovetic
Lionel Messi

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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