It’s a dying breed, is the two-striker setup. Certainly at football’s very top level.
With all the focus on pressing, shape and midfield battles, the extra body is often utilised somewhere else. It’s gotten to a point where teams actually find it more efficient to play without a designated striker at all sometimes, never mind two of them.
Without sounding too preachy about things, the times when two-striker systems dominated the top of football was way more fun. Every kid wants to grow up and form a prolific strike partnership with their best friend, and they still do.
There are still plenty of sides committing to the strike partnership philosophy in more modernised ways, however, and we salute those clubs and coaches. Two-striker systems are still prevalent throughout France and Italy, with plenty of managers making the most of them in Ligue 1 and Serie A respectively.
But, in order to truly celebrate the dying art, we at GIVEMESPORT have compiled a list of the greatest strike partnerships to blossom within the 21st century.
15. Alexis Sanchez & Antonio Di Natale – Udinese
One that flies under the radar, a young Alexis Sanchez made waves with Udinese while plying his trade alongside iconic forward Antonio Di Natale between 2008 and 2011.
The pairing thrived together as Sanchez became one of the hottest young talents in Europe, combining with Di Natale over 39 goals in 2011 before leaving for Barcelona that year.
14. Luis Suarez & Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool
Ah yes, SAS. Suarez and Sturridge ran riot on the Premier League in the early-to-mid 2010s, firing Liverpool agonisingly close to the Premier League title in 2013/14.
It’s easy to forget just how lethal Sturridge was alongside the Uruguayan, having never really recovered from injuries and inconsistencies in the coming years, while Suarez became one of the world’s best.
13. Sergio Aguero & Diego Forlan – Atletico Madrid
A young up and coming Sergio Aguero combined with a prime Diego Forlan at Atletico Madrid and it was absolutely beautiful.
Two forwards who actually very much needed each other to get the best out of themselves at the time, the master and the apprentice linked up tremendously. Their partnership saw them bag 41 goals between them in 2008/09 as Forlan won the European golden shoe.
12. Demba Ba & Papiss Cisse – Newcastle
The streets won’t forget.
Might be because social media simply won’t allow you to forget, but it’s for good reason. Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse ran the Barclays in the early 2010s, firing Newcastle to the dizzying heights of European competition with a catalogue of goals, ripping defences apart for fun.
11. Harry Kane & Son Heung-min – Tottenham
A modern pick, Harry Kane‘s development into a more rounded forward who is now consistently creating opportunities has only helped his relationship with Son Heung-min.
Now, under Antonio Conte, the two look deadly. Son’s technique sees him able to finish from just about anywhere, while Kane plays scorer or provider. Endlessly complimentary, the two hold the Premier League record for goal combinations.
10. Edin Dzeko & Grafite – Wolfsburg
Ripping the Bundesliga to shreds in 2008/09, Edin Dzeko and Grafite cemented themselves as Wolfsburg legends by firing the club to their maiden Bundesliga title.
The pair were literally unstoppable, scoring a combined 54 goals in the league to secure the title. The only issue is that Dzeko was swiftly snapped up by Manchester City. Short but sweet.
9. Romelu Lukaku & Lautaro Martinez – Inter
After years of high expectation and perhaps unfair scrutiny for his efforts in the Premier League, Romelu Lukaku forged a partnership in Milan that ensured he was adored forever by Inter fans. Until he left for England again, anyway.
Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were electric as a front two, firing Antonio Conte’s Inter to the 2020/21 Scudetto in supreme style with 41 goals between them.
Ralf Rangnick slams Man Utd players (Football Terrace)
8. Wayne Rooney & Dimitar Berbatov – Manchester United
An underrated duo, Wayne Rooney linked up tremendously with the endless composure and technique that Dimitar Berbatov provided.
Perhaps a little like chalk and cheese on the surface, the duo worked tremendously in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence at United and guaranteed goals and creativity in the Autumn of Sir Alex Ferguson’s career.
7. Thierry Henry & Dennis Bergkamp – Arsenal
Plenty of English football fans still have nightmares about these two running rings around their favourite team.
Thierry Henry proved the perfect partner to a veteran Dennis Bergkamp at Arsenal as he geared up towards his prime. Pure technical excellence, the duo were insatiable every weekend. Invincible.
6. Samuel Eto’o & Diego Milito – Inter
This partnership is football heritage.
Samuel Eto’o played left wing but forged a tremendous partnership with throwback forward Diego Milito, proving unstoppable as they became treble winners under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho. One of football’s deadliest setups.
5. Andriy Shevchenko & Filippo Inzaghi – AC Milan
Joining forces under the tutelage of Carlo Ancelotti, Andriy Shevchenko reached dizzy new heights when combining with Filippo Inzaghi. Two big name strikers probably shouldn’t have worked together as well as they did, but alas, the partnership blossomed as the Rossoneri ruled European football.
4. Wayne Rooney & Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United
How United fans long for these days once again. Tenacity, technique, aggression, mentality – and a shed load of goals and silverware.
No team was safe from these two when in full pomp. The Premier League couldn’t handle it, and neither could the Champions League.
3. Ronaldo & Raul – Real Madrid
In a time before social media and the unfathomable superstardom of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and the modern day galacticos within football, R9 and Raul were striking fear through Europe in just as mesmerising style.
Upon his signing in 2002, Ronaldo provided an extra layer of edge and flair to an immense Real Madrid side, linking up seamlessly with local hero and gunman Raul as the two played off each other and dazzled spectators around Europe.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo & Karim Benzema – Real Madrid
A link-up that resulted in European domination we are very unlikely to see be repeated in the near future.
Ronaldo was now the main event man in Madrid, while Karim Benzema quietly operated at a level that only the game’s elite could find. The Frenchman played creator and scorer, while Ronaldo popped up in the big moments when needed most. Four Champions League titles, back to back. Incredible.
1. Lionel Messi & Luis Suarez – Barcelona
Perhaps harsh on Neymar to exclude him from the party, but we’d be lying if we said these two weren’t the ones doing the heavy lifting.
The greatest footballer of all time combining with one of the most ruthless, cold-blooded, technically excellent goal hunters of the modern era. No prizes for guessing that this was a match made in heaven. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez scored a combined 800 goals together at Barcelona. Yeah, eight hundred. Astounding numbers.