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          Our list of Ballon d'Or & World Cup winners all missed out

          The 11 best players to have never won the Champions League

          2020/05/02 18:02
          By Connor Andrews
          E0

          Short of the World Cup, the Champions League is the biggest thing in football, only eclipsed by the Olympics on a global scale.

          And in the last decade it’s become everything for Europe’s biggest sides, trophies no longer matter, just the top four, while the financial rewards for qualifying keep increasing, meaning the stakes have never been higher.

          That’s why, looking at our list of the greatest players to have never won the Champions League, it’s rather shocking this collection of multiple World Cup and Ballon d’Or winners never lifted the greatest prize in club sport.
           



          Goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon (3 finals)

          “He’s got a bin for a heart,” was Gianluigi Buffon’s words as Michael Oliver’s 93rd minute awarding of a penalty pushed him completely over the edge.

          Real Madrid had just come back from a 3-0 first leg deficit to edge past Juventus and into the 2018 Champions League final, thanks to a stoppage time Cristiano Ronaldo penalty and a Buffon red card for nearly eating the referee’s head.

          It was the end of Buffon’s 17-year spell at Juve, where he’d reached three finals, losing all of them, now back after a year at PSG and another dramatic knockout, Buffon might have the chance to capture the crown in his last season before retirement.


          Defender, Diego Godin (2 finals)

          Diego Simeone’s leader on the pitch embodied everything good about peak Atletico Madrid, and more.

          Not only does he tick all the Uruguayan fighter cliches, he has every asset an old school footballer needs to make it in the modern game, and his time taking Atleti to the top of European football peaked when he nodded home an equaliser against Barcelona in 2014 to secure a first league title in nearly 20 years.

          His heroics extended to the Champions League too, where Godin twice played a key role in guiding Atletico to two finals, even scoring in one, where they lost both in brutal fashion to Real Madrid.

          Now at Inter where he’s struggled to find his way into a very talented back line, Godin needs to get things together quickly if he’s to have a chance of competing for a return to the final


          Defender, Fabio Cannavaro (0 finals)

          Only the third defender to win the Ballon d’Or and the last in 14 years, Fabio Cannavaro’s peak was as high as can be, captaining his country to a fourth World Cup win in 2006 and a Galactico move to Real Madrid that saw two league titles.

          But in the Champions League it never quite clicked for Cannavaro, who only ever reached the semis with Inter in 2003. A rare miss for a player who was the standard bearer when it came to defending for some time.


          Defender, Lilian Thuram (1 final)

          One of the most stylish and recognisable defenders of the 90’s, Lilian Thuram’s career path shared similarities with Cannavaro’s, playing together at both Parma and Juventus, while also achieving huge success on the international stage.

          France’s most capped player who lifted the World Cup and European Champion trophies, Thuram missed out in 2003 with Juvenuts, losing to Milan in the final, before joining Barcelona after they won it in 2006.

          ©Getty / Tony Marshall - EMPICS


          Midfielder, Pavel Nedved (0 finals)

          The best player in the Champions League by a distance in 2003, Pavel Nedved guided Juventus to the final and picked up a Ballon d’Or for his troubles. Unfortunately, he also picked up a yellow card too many in the semi and thus missed the climax of the competition.

          Had Nedved featured in the 2003 final, a scoreless game decided on penalties, there’s little doubt he would’ve made the difference and avoided this list.


          Midfielder, Patrick Vieira (0 finals)

          One of the world’s most dominant and skilled central midfielders, Patrick Vieira made a dent on every competition he took part in, including the Champions League.

          A world and European champion with France, Vieira left his beloved Arsenal a year before they made the final in 2006, and then compounded his misery in 2010 when he departed from Inter mid-season as they went on to claim a historic treble under Jose Mourinho.


          Midfielder, Cesc Fabregas (1 final)

          This one requires a slight double take as although it’s well known Fabregas lost the Champions League final in 2006 with Arsenal, he was at Barcelona during some of their very best years.

          The Spanish side won the competition the season before he arrived, and the season after, with a three-year barron spell whilst he was at the club, meaning one of the most prolific assisters the game has ever seen will likely now end his career without old big ears in his collection.

          ©Getty / David Davies - PA Images


          Midfielder, Francesco Totti (0 finals)

          Another example of the extraordinary talent Italy had on offer, but another non Milan/Inter player who missed out, Francesco Totti couldn’t add a Champions League to his World Cup win, only ever reaching the quarter finals with his lifelong club, AS Roma.


          Forward, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (0 finals)

          The one player on this list you know would take it incredibly personally as brand Zlatan will almost certianly retire without a Champions League trophy.

          Now back at Milan for a very outside shot of Europe before retirement, Zlatan missed the boat twice at Inter and Barcelona, who both won the competition the season after he departed.

          When it comes to league football though the Swede is unparalleled, winning an extraordinary 13 out of 19 available league titles from his debut at Ajax before leaving for MLS in 2018.


          Forward, Ronaldo (0 finals)

          If this XI had a captain, it would be Ronaldo, the greatest player to have never won the Champions League.

          In fact, Ronaldo never even reached a final despite playing for the biggest European sides in world football, getting closest with Real Madrid in the semis in 2003.

          Luckily, Ronaldo dominated the World Cup, winning the competition twice with Brazil to confirm his status as one of the greatest players the game has seen.


          Forward, Ruud van Nistelrooy (0 finals)

          One of the most universally hated and loved players football has seen, Ruud van Nistelrooy was a goal machine, even in the Champions League where he was the competitions top scorer in three different seasons.

          With 56 UCL goals, van Nistelrooy has the most of any player to have never lifted the trophy, only making a final in 2002, despite playing for European powerhouses Manchester United and Real Madrid.
           


           

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