The Champions League is the most sought-after price in club football, often regarded as the pinnacle reward for any player to lift- excluding the World Cup or other continental international tournament. A host of world-class players have put their name in history by winning this accolade but there is plenty of others who haven’t been fortunate enough.
With the Champions League match-week in full swing, we decided to run down the top eleven players who have remarkably never won club football’s premier competition- despite winning a wealth of honours elsewhere and establishing themselves as greats in world football and their respective club sides.
A number of these players will certainly surprise you!
Spending 15 years at Juventus after making a name for himself at Parma, Gianluigi Buffon is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers ever to play football. However, the Italian legend has never managed to lift Europe’s most prized trophy- finishing runner-up in the tournament twice; in 2003 and 2014.
A World Cup winning captain that has played for three of Europe’s elite sides in Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid, the Italian centre-back cannot boast a Champions League title to his name. Despite 113 appearances in UEFA’s continental competition, Cannavaro never reached a final with any of his clubs.
An icon of Germany football, and the winner of the inaugural World Player of the Year award in 1991, Lothar Matthaus is another legend of the game that saw the Champions League slip between his grasps. He was runner-up twice with Bayern Munich, first in 1987 and then again in 1999 when Manchester United turned their tie with the Bavarian giants around thanks to a late comeback.
Another German footballer who was defeated in two Champions League finals is midfielder Michael Ballack. With Bayer Leverkusen, he lost the 2002 Champions League final, partly due to a wonder-goal from Zinedine Zidane, and was disappointed again in 2008 when Chelsea were defeated by Manchester United. It was part of many disappointing finals for the player, having finished runner-up in the 2002 World Cup.
The most famous player in Czech Republic’s history, Pavel Nedved was an iconic figure in a dominant Juventus side between the years of 2001 and 2009. He won the Ballon D’Or in 2003 ahead of the likes of Thierry Henry and the closest he came to lifting the Champions League with Juventus was in 2003, when the Turin giants lost to Serie A rivals AC Milan.
It’s a well documented fact that Arsenal have never won the Champions League but Patrick Vieira wasn’t even a part of the side that reached the final in 2006, as he moved to Juventus- who the Gunners knocked-out during their run to the final in Paris. His move away from North London was pretty disappointing, as a short spell with Juventus was ended due to the Calciopoli scandal, and he couldn’t crack the European nut in his following spell with Inter Milan.
The Argentine legend admittedly didn’t have too many chances to win the Champions League during his time in Europe but did play in the competition, prior to it’s rebranding, with Napoli. A World Cup winner, Maradona did manage to win Europe’s second-tier competition, the UEFA Cup, but he never got his hands on the biggest prize in the European game.
No, not that one. The original Ronaldo remarkably never got his hands on Europe’s biggest honour despite playing for the likes of Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid- moving to the latter the summer after they won the Champions League, a trophy Los Blancos wouldn’t win again until Carlo Ancelotti guided the team to La Decima three years ago. Still, we doubt he has too much to complain about as he lifted the World Cup twice.
Winner of the Ballon D’Or in 1993 and undoubtably the greatest player during the mid-1990’s, Roberto Baggio is still an unlucky man. Despite a career that saw him play for three of Italy’s biggest clubs, Juventus, Inter and AC Milan, Baggio never won Europe’s biggest prize. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t even the biggest trophy he missed out on- as he finished third-placed in the 1990 World Cup and runner-up in 1994, missing the decisive penalty in a shoot-out against Brazil after guiding Italy to the final.
Lilian Thuram was a world-class full-back in his heyday but again never managed to win the Champions League, despite featuring for Juventus and Barcelona. With the Turin giants, Thuram finished runner-up in the competition in 2003 and his career at Barcelona started just after the Spaniard’s 2006 success and ended in 2008, the season before they lifted the title once again!
Playing for the likes of Juventus, Barcelona and AC Milan, Zambrotta is another player who missed out on Europe’s elite competition by the skin of his teeth. Like Thuram, his Juventus side was defeated by AC Milan in the 2003 final and he joined Barcelona just after their 2006 success, before leaving in 2008 to join AC Milan- missing out on Barcelona’s next European crown by a single season!