This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper. These famous lines from T.S. Eliot’s poem ‘The Hollow Men’ perfectly sum up the time of the highly successful MSN trio in Barcelona.
It all started in the summer of 2014 when Luis Suarez came to the Catalan capital from Liverpool in an €82.3 million move to join Lionel Messi and Neymar in La Liga.
What followed were three years of goals galore as the Blaugrana embarked on one of their most successful runs in club football with the MSN troika spearheading the attack for Barcelona.
But, in the last five years, bit by bit, the players who formed the fearsome triumvirate in Barcelona have all left the club starting with Neymar’s world-record move to PSG in 2017.
As two of those trio, Messi and Neymar, combine with Mbappe to terrorise Ligue 1 defences, FootTheBall takes a trip down memory lane to pay tribute to perhaps the greatest trio of forwards ever assembled in the beautiful game.
MSN: Trio that light up the beautiful game
The first-ever time that the entire golden trio played in the same match was during the first El Clasico of the 2014-15 season in the Spanish capital.
Luis Suarez was making his debut for Barcelona after having served a biting ban for biting Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup and assisted Neymar for the opening goal, even though Barcelona lost 3-1 eventually.
The first time that all players of the trio got on the scoresheet in the same match was in the UEFA Champions League against Paris-Saint Germain in the last group game.
After the French club had gone ahead in the 15th minute, Messi, Neymar and Suarez scored to put the Catalans 3-1 ahead and end the group stage as group winners.
The 2014-15 season hit its lowest point after Barcelona slumped to defeat to Real Sociedad away at the Anoeta Stadium in January 2015 due to a Jordi Alba own goal, but after that, the MSN trio helped the club rise from the ashes as the Catalans won an unprecedented second continental treble in June 2015.
Two more years of success followed as Barcelona won one more La Liga title and two more Copa del Rey before Neymar decided to go to Paris to sign for Paris-Saint Germain in a world record €222 million move that brought an end to their exploits with each other.
During their time together, Messi, Suarez and Neymar combined to play a staggering 450 games for Barcelona, scoring a combined 364 goals in three seasons together which comes down to an impressive average of 0.81 goals per game.
If one digs deep into the statistics, Messi leads the way in terms of the highest number of goals scored by a player in the trio with 153 goals.
He is closely followed by Luis Suarez who scored 121 goals followed by the Brazilian attacker who got on the scoresheet 90 times for the Catalans.
In addition to this, all the components of the MSN triumvirate also notched up a mind-boggling number of assists between them in 450 games as they set up 173 goals, many times assisting each other in Spain and Europe.
If one comes to analysing their league statistics alone, then one will find that they scored an astonishing 250 goals in 299 games in the three seasons from 2014 to 2017 in La Liga.
The gradual departure of MSN
The beginning of the end started in August 2017 when Neymar left for Paris, leaving Messi and Suarez in Spain. The Uruguayan was effectively ousted from the team set-up three years later in 2020 on the pretext that he could not compete at the highest level anymore.
The former Liverpool player went to Atletico Madrid and helped Diego Simeone’s side win their second La Liga title and first in seven years as he ended up as Atletico Madrid’s top scorer with 21 goals.
His double-figure statistics included a crucial last-gasp winner on the penultimate matchday of La Liga against Osasuna as Atletico Madrid maintained their two-point lead over crosstown rivals Real Madrid.
And just one year later after Suarez’s departure, Messi, who is perhaps the greatest football player to ever step on the pitch, was on his way out of Barcelona as the Azulgrana revealed that it was impossible to extend the Argentine’s contract given the strict financial fair play rules in La Liga.
Therefore, it ended the last remnant of the iconic trio in Barcelona, one that captured the imagination of fans and pundits alike and always had something in their hats to surprise opponents with.
Football can only be grateful to each one of them for lighting up the game with their incredible and otherworldly skills to delight spectators in the stadium and viewers watching on TV sets around the world.
In the end, one can only say that the years of MSN can be termed as a once-in-a-lifetime event that will live long in the memories of football fans and enthusiasts all around the world. Can MNM repeat it? The start this season has been good, but the sheer longevity and raw stats puts MSN into a bracket of their own.