The 10 Best Partnerships in Premier League History:
Ever since the Premier League as we know it today’s inaugural season in 1992–1993, there have been more than several stand-out individuals. The likes of Ronaldo, Shearer, Henry, Giggs, Lampard, Gerrard, Terry, Scholes… the list goes on. However, some of these players went on to form terrific partnerships with teammates, making them world-beaters even more so than they would be individually. In this countdown, I will attempt to go through a top ten of the all-time deadliest Premier League duos.
10. Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)
Starting the countdown with two of the finest players the Premier League has ever seen, ‘Wazza’ and ‘CR7’ won three league titles during their time together at Manchester United; before the latter left to join Real Madrid in 2009.
The pair were at the centre of a well-covered highly controversial incident at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, when Ronaldo was accused of getting his United teammate sent off which temporarily threatened to ruin the chemistry and friendship these pair had wearing the red jerseys. However, this did not stop the pair from scoring a combined 155 Premier League goals while playing together at the Old Trafford Club.
Not a conventional strike partnership, with Ronaldo playing as a winger during his six years at United, but an effective one nonetheless.
In a recent interview, the Portuguese 2014 Ballon d’Or winner has said that he ‘misses’ playing with Rooney. How touching.
9. Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
Staying in the North-West, this time from Liverpool, comes another midfielder-striker double act who linked up delightfully to score an abundance of goals during their time at Anfield.
In his prime, Fernando Torres, El Niño, was one of the best number nines the Premier League has seen, up there with the likes of Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler so on and so forth.
However, many of the 81 goals he bagged for The Reds were thanks to their influential talisman and captain, Steven Gerrard. To have someone of Gerrard’s caliber playing behind you is any striker’s dream, with the range and quality of passing he possesses.
This partnership also provided no shortage of goals with the pair scoring 146 goals between them during Torres’ four-year stay on Merseyside before controversially moving to Chelsea for a massive £50m.
8. Sol Campbell and Kolo Touré (Arsenal)
Moving further back the field, we delve into defensive partnerships for the first time, and the first centre-half duo to feature is what was heartbeat of the defence that won the title for Arsenal in their ‘Invincibles’ 2003–2004 season.
The pairing was an unorthodox one, as Arsène Wenger signed Kolo Touré with the intention to play him at right-back, but instead ended up slotting him in next to Gunners hero Sol Campbell, and, as it turns out, it worked an absolute treat.
The duo helped Arsenal keep 19 clean sheets, just two off the record held by both Chelsea and Manchester United, which was hugely significant in seeing that the Gunners avoided defeat all season.
Touré and Campbell cemented themselves as the North London club’s first-choice centre-back pairing before the latter left the club in 2006 to join Portsmouth.
7. Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)
We’ve covered the defence that saw Arsenal claim the 2003–4 season unbeaten, but to win the title you need a half-decent strike force to go with the solid defence, and boy, did the Gunners have one…
Thierry Henry sits fifth in the all-time Premier League scorers charts with 175 goals and undoubtedly, many of these came whilst playing alongside Dutch legend Dennis Bergkamp who bagged 87 himself. Not bad.
The pair scored 35 of Arsenal’s 73 league goals between them to ensure Arsenal became the first team since Preston North End in the 1880s when football was played by mainly mustached men in pyjamas who were probably mostly miners.
Henry and Bergkamp scored an astonishing 262 league goals during their eight seasons leading the line together for Arsène Wenger’s side, and the pair will live long in the hearts of every Arsenal fan for sure.
6. Eidur Gudjohnsen and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink (Chelsea)
Another partnership at the spearhead of attack, nicknamed ‘Fire and Ice’ messrs Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen combined to form another prolific striking duo.
During their first season together at Stamford Bridge, the pair netted 50 times between them in all competitions propelling Chelsea to future domestic success, perhaps they are what entised Roman Abramovich to the club…
Under Claudio Ranieri, now working wonders at Leicester City, Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen led the Blues to a second placed finish, their best league result since 1954–1955.
The Dutchman and the Icelandic combined to score 147 during their time together at The Bridge before Hasselbaink left the club as José Mourinho took over in 2004.
5. Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
The countdown gets a little more interesting now as we progress into the top five, and this place in the list is reserved for another partnership emanating from the red part of Merseyside.
Suárez and Sturridge were nicknamed the new ‘SAS’ taking the title from the legendary double act of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton in their Blackburn days.
The pair steered Liverpool, under Brendan Rodgers, to a second place finish in the 2013–2014 season, their highest in the Premier League era, narrowly losing out to Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City. This brilliant season came as a result of Suárez and Sturridge scoring a whopping 52 times, nearly half, of Liverpool’s league goals for the entire season. Remarkable.
Despite only spending a season-and-a-half together at Anfield, ‘SAS’ bagged an impressive total of 78 league goals, this was in lieu of a rumoured rift in the strikers’ relationship. The pair split up when the Uruguayan joined Catalan giants F.C Barcelona in 2014.
4. John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)
Like Arsenal, Chelsea have won titles by being as incredibly strong at the back as they are going forward, and Terry and Carvalho will be regarded as one of the best centre-back pairings in footballing history, certainly in Premier League history anyway.
Petr Čech, Paulo Ferreira, John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, and Wayne Bridge. A truly brilliant all-round defence of pace, strength, and most importanly just general footballing nous. It’s no wonder Chelsea went onto win the Premier League in the 2004–2005 season under the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ with that back line.
Not only did Terry and Carvalho play a huge part in Chelsea lifting the league trophy, they did so by keeping an all-time record of 21 clean sheets, a title they share with Manchester United.
The Englishman and the Portuguese formed a formidable and telepathic relationship and they would be somewhat a mainstay in the Chelsea defence until 2010 when Carvalho departed to join Real Madrid. I like to think they remained a strong duo thanks to JT honourably deciding to stay away from Mrs Carvalho…
3. Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton (Blackburn Rovers)
Ah, finally, the original ‘SAS’, none of this Sturridge and Suárez malarkey, but the good old fashioned strike partnership of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton.
Sutton arrived at Ewood Park from Norwich City in 1994 to join up with one of the hottest prospects in English football at the time in Alan Shearer. The pair scored 49 league goals between them leading to an unlikely and heroic title-winning season for Blackburn Rovers. The glory days no doubt for a side who now face Championship obscurity.
Despite being a benchmark of deadly striking partnerships, this one was short-lived as Sutton lost his way during the next season failing to score in the league. Meanwhile Shearer netted a total of 31 that same season.
‘SAS’ scored a total of 93 goals in all competitions whilst playing together at the Lancashire club. Not bad for two seasons’ work.
2. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić (Manchester United)
For me, these two are the absolute benchmark of a defensive pairing. They made over 700 Manchester United appearances between them, and were undoubtedly the defensive duo most strikers despised facing.
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidić only missed 45 games combined in United’s three successful title-winning campaigns between 2006 and 2009, being a hugely influential force in keeping the opposition, particularly in the 2007–8 season when they steered the Red Devils to a Premier League and Champions League double.
They also played in front of one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League history in Edwin van der Sar who kept a joint record of 21 clean sheets in the 2008–9 season, a run which lasted in total 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal.
Ferdinand and Vidić both departed in the summer of 2014 for pastures new at Queens Park Rangers and Inter respectively. The loss of the pair as well as Patrice Evra, is cited as being one of the many key reasons behind United’s dramatic fall from grace over the last couple of years.
1. Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke (Manchester United)
At last, the number one spot, the pinnacle of Premier League partnerships. Like the runner-up, the winning pair of this countdown again come from Manchester United.
It’s hard to forget United’s 1998–1999 treble-winning side, full of stars such as Schmeichel, the Neville brothers, Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Butt, Sheringham, Solskjaer, and of course the legendary strike partnership of Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole.
During their time together at United, messrs Cole and York scored 129 goals in all competitions and significantly assisted the Red Devils to assert their dominance on English football under the great Sir Alex Ferguson.
They were known for their telepathy and understanding of each other’s games that had rarely been seen before. Some even described it as ‘eerie’ how well they knew where, when, and how the other would run and move.
For what they have achieved and the way they played football together, Cole and Yorke have to be considered the best strike partnership in Premier League history.