Unarguably one of the most lethal attacking trios in modern day football, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr had the world of football on their feet for almost three years. Messi was already reigning supreme at Camp Nou, his greatness reaching new heights every time he took to the field, but Barcelona longed for a stronger attack.
The plan was put into motion when Neymar was brought onboard in 2013 from Brazilian club Santos. His arrival was welcomed by the fans with arms wide open, who hoped that the then 21-year-old would make their team an unstoppable force in Europe. However, still adjusting to life in Spain, his first season didn’t garner much attention, but his blistering speed and Brazilian flair were duly noticed.
In the subsequent season, the Catalan giants pulled Luis Suarez toward the prospect of forming an indomitable force at Barcelona. The ex-Liverpool forward obliged, packed up his belongings to become one of the founding members of the Messi-Suarez-Neymar (MSN) era.
The impact was immediate. Barcelona prospered in the 2014/15 season under the guise of their potent attacking trident. Luis Enrique, Blaugrana’s manager at the time, utilised the resources at his disposal to near perfection. With Messi playing in his usual false nine role until the arrival of Suarez, the Spanish manager made a slight alteration upfront to maximise his returns.
Messi was moved to the right, Neymar took the left and Suarez was deployed as the true number nine. This slight adjustment worked its magic, as the trio ended up netting 122 goals in the 2014/15 season across all competitions.
It was Barcelona’s most successful season since 2008/09 and they became the only European team to lift a continental treble twice after their triumphant endeavours in Spain (La Liga and Spanish Cup), and Europe (Champions League).
Messi was the leading scorer of the pack, with 58 goals to his name, with Suarez scoring 25 and Neymar ending up with 39 goals for the 2014/15 season across all competitions. Their dominance was established, and the Catalan giants believed that they have found the winning formula which other teams across Europe lacked – a midfield maestro in Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets dictating the play through his swift passing, and an attack that wreaks havoc at will.
The following season in 2016, Suarez ended up with the much acclaimed Pichichi award as La Liga’s top scorer, with 40 goals and scoring 59 in 53 games across all competitions. Neymar added 31 goals in 49 games while Messi managed 41 in 49 games - giving them a grand total of 131 goals across all competitions.
The 2015/16 season was a testament to their improving strengths as they lifted the domestic double in Spain (La Liga and Copa Del Rey), the FIFA Club World Cup, and the Spanish Super Cup.
The pace of Neymar, the unparalleled dribbling skills of Messi, and the venomous striking abilities of Suarez, left the opposition in shambles. This was evident in their historic comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the 2016/17 Champions League campaign, when the Brazilian led the charge to overturn a 4-0 deficit from the first leg.
🗣️ Luis Suárez: "We spoke with Neymar when he first wanted to leave Barcelona. Everyone knew he wanted to leave. Messi and I said to him that he will not have a better club or more chance to win prizes than here." [fox sports] pic.twitter.com/TO3t640oj8— FC Barcelona Fl (@FCBarcelonaFl) September 4, 2019
Although, since his move to France, Neymar has always reminisced about his time in Spain, speaking publicly about how he adored the companionship of Messi and Suarez both on and off the pitch. The Brazilian has modestly stated his desire to move back to Camp Nou at times. Amidst all the transfer rumours pertaining to Neymar, we can only look back at the feat he accomplished at Barcelona and the innumerable memories he made enroute to becoming a part of the most renowned attacking trio in football history.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Lluis Gene