There have been famous attacking trios in the history of football. The rivalry between Barca’s MSN (Messi-Suarez-Neymar) and Real Madrid’s BBC (Bale-Benzema-Cristiano Ronaldo) had set Europe on fire for the past decade. It ended in 2017 when Neymar chose to leave Barça for PSG. The same year, Mo Salah joined Liverpool. We did not necessarily suspect it then, but the trio that the Egyptian had just completed with Sadio Mané (arrived in 2016) and Roberto Firmino (arrived in 2015) would also leave its mark on the Old Continent.
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The numbers are already remarkable. Between them, the Egyptian (156 goals), the Senegalese (120 goals) and the Brazilian (98 goals) weigh the trifle of 374 goals for the Reds. But the stats only symbolize the impact this trio has had on Liverpool’s return to the top. It is inseparable from the title of European champion won by the Reds in 2019, the first for the Mersey club since the magic night of Istanbul in 2005. It is just as much the title of champion of England taken away in 2020. A trophy that Liverpool have been waiting for for 30 years.
So much will remain of this trio
Two titles that owe nothing to chance. They came to concretize this regularity which put Liverpool back in the forefront. These Reds, systematically on the Premier League podium for the past three years, but also three times Champions League finalists in the last five editions, have marked the history, however rich in success, of the Mersey club. A legendary page that does not owe everything to the Salah-Mané-Firmino trio. Other individuals were essential like Virgil van Dijk in particular. Jürgen Klopp remains the essential architect. But Liverpool wouldn’t have written it if they hadn’t had those three strikers to tip so many matches in favor of the Reds.
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Of this trio, there will not only remain figures, a prize list and a glorious period of a legendary club. There will also remain a style, an idea of football made concrete by Klopp. There were few people to bet that Firmino, Mané and Salah would together dominate England and Europe when they arrived respectively from Hoffenheim, Southampton and Roma. Klopp made it a magical, ultra-complementary triplet, where everyone enhanced the other without ever distorting their own style. It is the success of a strategy to which Liverpool have not finished attaching themselves.
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His recruitment first signals the Mersey club’s ability to anticipate. He would not necessarily have consented to this heavy investment this summer without the prospect of Mané’s departure. The Senegalese is ever closer to joining Bayern Munich. His arrival in Bavaria is becoming clearer day by day, even if there is still an agreement to be found between Liverpool and the Bavarian club. This is, a priori, the meaning of the story. The formalization of his probable transfer will only confirm the end of an era at the Reds. And the beginning of a new period that Liverpool hopes will be just as glorious.
A revolution in offensive animation
But the arrival of Nuñez also implies a technical evolution in the form of a revolution for Liverpool. Firmino was more of a facilitator, a center forward intended to make Salah and Mané shine with his creativity and his ability to free up space, than a real scorer at heart. Mané, often aligned at the forefront this season, is also in a totally different register, all in speed and percussion. Nuñez, on the other hand, is both a modern and classic nine, a surface player with individual qualities that also offer him the prospect of creating his chances on his own. His profile dramatically changes the face of the Reds’ attacking animation.
Of course, Salah is still there. The Egyptian remains Liverpool’s absolute icon. Until when ? That’s the whole question, as the future of the idol of the red people, at the end of the contract in a year, is still uncertain. Liverpool have already changed eras anyway. The irresistible rise of Luis Diaz, established by Klopp in the Champions League final, was already going in this direction. The recruitment of Darwin Nuñez, pending the departure of Mané, is only further proof of the turn taken by Liverpool. The glorious days of this magical trio are over. But the Reds may still have other bright days ahead of them.
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