Neymar snubbed Real to play alongside Messi
The transfer market has thrown up promising strike partnerships this season. Bikash Mohapatra’s picks six potentially formidable combinations in Europe.
Midway through the transfer season, with a bulk of the big ticket moves over, the starting line-ups of top European clubs look intimidating.
While traditional powerhouses like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus have expectedly gone ahead and strengthened their respective squads, big spending upstarts like AS Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and even Manchester City continue with further acquisitions.
This has led to a few potentially formidable strike partnerships being formed, ones which promise goals galore.
Rediff.com takes a look at some attacking combinations that look set to torment the best of defences.
Lionel Messi – Neymar
Lionel Messi is the world’s best player for a few years now.
And Neymar is, without doubt, the most interesting prospect around.
When the latter snubbed approaches from the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich and joined FC Barcelona, just because he wanted to team up with the Argentine ace, it marked the formation of potentially the most destructive partnership up front.
The Nou Camp club, having suffered a humiliating reverse at the hands of eventual champions Bayern in the Champions League last season, can look forward to the new season with renewed confidence. The Messi-Neymar combination promises to tear the opposition apart.
Image: Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Neymar
Photographs: Messi (REUTERS/Vegard Grott/NTB Scanpix); Neymar (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Cavani and Ibra look potentially destructive
Edinson Cavani – Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Last season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored 30 goals even as Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) won their first Ligue 1 title in almost two decades.
The French club also reached the last eight of the Champions League, falling to Barcelona on the ‘away’ goals rule.
Not content with their exploits, PSG, backed by their Qatari investors, looked to bolster their squad even further.
They turned their attention to a prolific Uruguayan.
Edinson Cavani scored 29 goals last season, taking Napoli to second place in the Serie A, the club’s best ever showing since winning the Scudetto back in 1989.
No wonder the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea tried to secure his signature, and the Napoli owner refusing to compromise on the release clause.
PSG entered the fray much later, but triggered the release clause without much ado, paying the Naples club a whopping £55 million (€63m), thereby making the deal for Cavani the fifth biggest transfer ever.
And with Ibra reassuring Paris fans about his commitment to the club, this combination looks potentially destructive.
Wait and watch!
Image: Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of PSG
Photographs: Cavani (REUTERS/Charles Platiau); Ibrahimovic (Martin Rose/Getty Images)
Negredo, Jovetic good fall back options for City
Alvaro Negredo – Stevan Jovetic
Manchester City was eyeing the likes of Edinson Cavani, Neymar and Robert Lewandowki.
Having failed to defend their Premier League title, and also exiting early in Europe yet again, the Eastland club desperately looked for reinforcements.
That they failed to lure either Cavani or Lewandowski didn’t augur well for the club. Neither did the fact that they lost two of their prolific scorers – Mario Balotelli (to AC Milan) and Carlos Tevez (to Juventus) – this year.
No wonder they seemed more than keen to hand new coach Manuel Pellegrini the resources to launch a renewed charge at the title. So the likes of Jesus Navas (Sevilla) and Fernandinho (Shakhtar) were acquired to strengthen the midfield.
And strengthening the attack was the acquisition of Alvaro Negredo from Sevilla and Stevan Jovetic from Fiorentina, to of the brightest forward in Europe. Coupled with the prolific (and existing) Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, the duo make Manchester City’s forward line look threatening to say the least.
In fact, Negredo and Dzeko have already combined well to earn Pellegrini his first piece of silverware, the Asia Trophy.
Image: The Manchester City pair of Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic
Photographs: Negredo (Victor Fraile/Getty Images); Jovetic (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images for FA Premier League)
Juve has made two smart acquisitions
Carlos Tevez – Fernando Llorente
This is arguably the smartest deal of the summer.
Juventus had little trouble in retaining their Serie A title last term. However, the fact that they lacked a good striker was exposed against Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The likes of Mirko Vucinic, Sebastian Giovinco, Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri were effective but not threatening. So signing a couple of quality strikers became priority for coach Antonio Conte.
And the Turin club made two smart acquisitions, signing Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao on a free transfer and paying Manchester City just £7.6 million (€9m) to procure Carlos Tevez.
Both the Argentine and the Spaniards are proven goal-scorers and by acquiring them the Bianconeri can seriously think of going all the way in Europe.
Image: Juventus' new forwards Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente
Photographs: Carlos Tevez (Dino Panato/Getty Images); Fernando Llorente (REUTERS/Giorgio Perrottino)
Aubameyang will complement Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Robert Lewandowski wanted to leave Dortmund and join Bayern Munich. His club, upset with the manner in which the German champions snared Mario Gotze from the Signal-Iduna Park, didn’t want to sell another of their players to their main rivals. The Pole was left to see out the remaining year in his contract.
Dortmund, on the other hand, proceeded to provide him with an able strike partner.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the second highest scorer in the Ligue 1 last season – behind Ibrahimovic, finding the net on 19 occasions for St Etienne.
Dortmund was quick to sign the Gabon international, fending off interest from Swansea City.
The new combination got off to a great start, with Dortmund thrashing Bayern to win the Super Cup last week.
Image: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Robert Lewandowski of Borussia Dortmund
Photographs: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (REUTERS/Ina Fassbender); Robert Lewandowski (REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)
From Madrid to Naples
Gonzalo Higuain – Jose Maria Callejon
Both were former Real Madrid players.
While Gonzalo Higuain was a prolific goal-scorer at the Santiago Bernebeu, Callejon made the most of whatever opportunities he got in a Real side packed with stars.
This summer both of them have move to Napoli.
The Naples club, buoyed by the sale of Edinson Cavani, didn’t hesitate to splurge £34.5 million (€40m) on Higuain, thwarting interest from Premier League side Arsenal.
They also paid another £8.6 million (€10m) for Callejon.
New coach Rafael Benitez, buoyed by the new signings, can prepare in advance for a title challenge in the coming season.
Image: Gonzalo Higuain and Jose Maria Callejon
Photographs: Higuain (Jamie McDonald/Getty Images); Callejon (Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)