Greatest Players to Never Win the Champions League

Published 06/04/2015, 10:25 AM EDT

Winning the FIFA World Cup is probably the biggest dream every footballer has but the UEFA Champions League is not far off. The best competition when it comes to club football guaranteeing a place among the stars. With the quality on display being the best in the world, the premier competition of Europe has become one of most fiercest and most glamorous one.


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Players like Xavi and Ryan Giggs have been fortunate enough to win it more than once. Many footballing greats have had hard times winning the competition despite their talent.

Here we present you the 10 of the greats who have never won the famous trophy.


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10. Michael Ballack

His is a perfect example of how a human being never gets everything in his life. The German midfielder was one of best of his time but yet failed to win either of the two most priceless medals that is the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League. But the highly respected former Germany captain has come agonizingly close to winning both on multiple occasions.

He has played in a World Cup Final (2002), a European Championship Final (2008), two Champions League Finals (2002, 2008), but he is as unlucky as unlucky can get as he lost all four of those finals. His first Champions League final was for Bayer Leverkusen in 2002, but they lost out to a magnificent goal by none other than Zinedine Zidane for Real Madrid. Ballack was also a member of the Chelsea team which lost the 2008 Champions League Final on penalties to Manchester united courtesy to the infamous slip from captain John Terry.

9. Patrick Vieira

The 1998 World Cup winner won many titles in his career featuring for famous clubs like Arsenal, Inter Milan and Juventus, but the strong and physical midfielder was unfortunate to never have won the Champions League in his decorated career. Vieira has won multiple league titles in both England and Italy and also won both big trophies for his country – the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and the UEFA European Championship in 2000. The Frenchman is considered one of the hardest tackling midfielders of his time and a true leader. Vieira was the captain of one of the most famous sides in football history – the Arsenal Invincibles of the 2003/04 season.

8. Gianluigi Buffon

Buffon is the only active footballer in the list. The former Parma shot-stopper still has the chance to lift the trophy this Saturday when Juventus will face Barcelona. The World-Cup winning Italian has had a glorious career and is widely considered to be one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. But, the one trophy Buffon is desperately lacking in his trophy cabinet is the Champions League.

The one other time Buffon has come this close to lifting the Champions League was back in 2003 when Juventus faced AC Milan in the final at Old Trafford, but lost out on penalties. Buffon saved two penalties in that match but eventually they were not enough. If Juventus do manage to win it come the weekend, it would be fairy-tale ending to what has been a legendary career.

7. Dennis Bergkamp

Elegant and attractive, the “Non-Flying Dutchman” was an important figure during Arsenal’ss resurgence during the late 90s and early 2000s. He was a key catalyst in the famous ‘Invincibles’ side of the 2003/04 season and formed a deadly combination with Thierry Henry up-front. Bergkamp went on to lift the Premier League thrice (1998, 2002, 2004) and four FA Cups, but never really got his hands around the Champions League trophy, closest to which he came in 2006 when Arsenal lost to Barcelona in the Final.

6. Eric Cantona

Once voted as Manchester United’s greatest ever player, the flamboyant French superstar affectionately nicknamed ‘King Eric’ by United fans is certainly one of the best players to not win the Champions League. He played a key part in United’s resurgence under Sir Alex Ferguson. Although he was spent just 5 seasons at Old Trafford, he won 4 Premier League trophies in that period.

Although his career has been full of controversies, most famously the ‘Kung-Fu’ kick on a Crystal Palace fan for which he was banned for 8 months, his footballing abilities were second to none. He retired early just at the age of 31 in 1997, two years before Manchester United went on to lift the trophy.

5. Roberto Baggio

One of the greatest Italian footballers of all time. Known for his creativity and his set-piece skills, Baggio was a true super-star during the early 1990s and won both the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993. Baggio has played for all of Italy’s Big 3 clubs, most famously for Juventus, whom he joined in 1990 for a then World Record transfer.

He shined in the 1990 World Cup taking them to the Semi-Finals, but his biggest tournament was the 1994 World Cup when he was won the Silver Ball scoring 5 goals, but will always be remembered for missing the deciding penalty in the Final against Brazil. He was affectionately called ‘The Divine Ponytail’. He left Juventus a year before they won the Champions League and it’s a trophy that is sorely missing in his cabinet.

4. Pavel Nedvěd

Yet another Juventus man and a Czech legend. Nedvěd helped Juventus reach the Champions League Final in 2003 beating Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Quarter-Finals and the Semi-Finals respectively but was suspended for Final and he turned out to be the difference as Juventus lost to AC Milan on penalties. He was later awarded the Ballon d’Or in 2003 for a magnificent season.

He is considered one of the greatest Czech player of all time, guiding them to the Final of Euro ’96 and also the Semi-Final at Euro ’04 where they lost to eventual champions Greece. One of the greatest players to have played in the Serie A having guided Lazio and Juventus to league titles. Nedvěd is currently among the Board of Directors at Juventus and will be rooting for his side to achieve what he so nearly missed out on.

3. Lothar Matthäus

One of the greatest German footballers of all time. Matthäus was the inaugural recipient of the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991 and remains the only German to ever win it. Of all the players in this list, he came the closest to lifting the Champions League trophy, having lost the in the Final on two occasions – in 1987 and in 1999. The latter which he was just minutes away from lifting the trophy with Bayern Munich. Before Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjær pulled off one of the most famous comebacks in football history. Diego Maradona once said that Lothar Matthäus was the toughest opponent he faced. Matthaus holds the record for playing the most number of World Cup matches (25) and has 150 caps for Germany and was their captain when they won the 1990 World Cup.

2. Fabio Cannavaro

The former Italy and Juventus man, Fabio Cannavaro is widely considered among the greatest defenders of all time and is a World Cup winning captain when he led Italy to victory in the 2006 World Cup, earning him the nickname of the ‘Berlin Wall’. His magnificent 2006 season earned him both the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or and is one of only 3 defenders to have won the latter. But, Cannavaro has missed out on a trophy he craved for the most at club level and that is the elusive Champions League trophy. The Italian played for big clubs like Juventus, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, but the fact that he could never win a Champions League comes as a shock.


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1. Ronaldo


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Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, or simply Ronaldo, is easily the most shocking name to appear on this list. Believe it or not, he hasn’t won the Champions League. One of the greatest finishers to have graced football. Called “The Phenomenon” who won the World Cup twice and finished Runner-Up once finds the Champions League medal shockingly missing from his cabinet.

The legendary striker played for some of the greatest teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan and AC Milan. Looking back at the teams he played for, he would be disappointed to have not won. A player who is mentioned in the same breath as Pele or Maradona, it’s an unbelievable fact that the 3-time FIFA World Player of the Year hasn’t won club football’s greatest honour. The closest he came was when his hat-trick against Manchester United helped Real Madrid reach the 2003 Champions League Semi-Final, but lost out to Juventus.



Maharshi Jani

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