The Champions League is a club competition for the best teams in Europe but sometimes the best players of the world just miss to sign for these sides.
In the previous parts we met Roberto Baggio, Michael Ballack, Dennis Bergkamp, Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Eric Cantona and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Seven outstanding footballers, sharing four lost Champions League finals between them. Now we have four more geniuses with one lost European Cup final in total – by the way they won four World Cups together. Two of the remaining gentlemen were considered as the best players in the world at their peak by anyone who bet on sports in the EU. Though they won virtually everything a footballer can win, they came never even close to capture the most important trophy in club football.
8. Diego Maradona
The Golden Boy is regarded by many gamblers betting online as the best player ever kicked a ball in the 20th century. Yet he never won the European Cup or the Champions League though as opposed to fellow South American Pelé, who considered as the other greatest of all time, spent a significant part of his career in Europe. He was the most expensive player in the world twice and he is the only footballer ever to accomplish that.
• True greats of the game
• Legends with no European success
• Legacies still complete
After playing for Argentinos and Boca in Argentina, he spent two difficult and controversial years at Barcelona. He was relieved when joined Napoli in 1984 and catapulted them to the top of Italian football almost immediately. He won two Scudettos with them but Napoli were ineffective in the European Cup. However, they were able to bring home the UEFA Cup in 1989. While playing for Napoli, he helped Argentina to a World Cup and a silver medal in 1986 and 1990, and before returning to Argentina he spent a year in Seville too.
During his career Maradona never played for a team with real chances to reach the final of the European Cup or the Champions League. Napoli wasn’t built for an international campaign while he left Barcelona before something serious would have emerged from the Nou Camp. Nevertheless, the fact that he is worshipped like a god not just in Argentina but in Naples too indicates that his legacy is perfectly complete without capturing the biggest European club trophy.
9. Pavel Nedved
The Czech cannon is an unlucky player when it comes to European finals going to overtime on English soil. He shone at the Euro 1996, after which Lazio bought him from Sparta Praga, but suffered a Golden Goal defeat against Germany in the final at Wembley Stadium. In 2003 while with Juventus, he missed the Champions League final against Milan because of an accumulation of yellow cards. Without him Juve played arguably the worst final in the history of the competition against Milan at Old Trafford and lost on penalties.
Nedved also lost a UEFA Cup final in 1998 with Lazio, but he won the last edition of the Cup Winners’ Cup with them in the following year. Winning three Scudettos, one with Lazio and two with Juve, his career is remembered by the mobile betting audience from his energetic play, the spectacular goals he scored from long distance with both feet and the Ballon d’Or which he received in 2003. He played for Juve in Serie B after they were relegated in court, making him a club legend between the Bianconeri fans.
Regarded as one of the best forwards in football history, Ronaldo won everything a footballer can win, except the Champions League trophy. Okay, he only came third with Brazil at the 1996 summer Olympics, but who cares when it’s about a guy who has two World Cup victories scoring the most goals in the history of the tournament – outside Miroslav Klose of course? Ronaldo started his career with Cruzeiro and was 17 years old when he was named to Brazil’s squad for the 1994 World Cup. He didn’t get any playing time in the tournament but Brazil won and Ronald got his first medal officially.
He played pretty much in the following season for PSV Eindhoven however, and after scoring nearly a goal in a game in his two seasons in Holland, Barcelona bought him. At only 20 he was considered as the best player in the world, songs were sung about his goals and Barca wanted him for life. However, after a season ended with a victory in the Cup Winners’ Cup, Barca failed to meet his demands and sold him for Internazionale featuring Roberto Baggio, Ivan Zamorano and Youri Djorkaeff. Joining Inter in the 1990s usually means you’re career’s going to stall, but injuries were Ronaldo’s real problems during the five years he spent in Milan.
Still he led Brazil to the 1998 and the 2002 World Cup finals winning the latter, he also won the Copa America twice with the Selecao, and managed to secure a UEFA Cup victory with Inter too. In 2002 he joined Real Madrid, the defenders of the Champions League title. But this was actually the dawn of the Galacticos era and after winning La Liga at the end of the season, head coach Vicente del Bosque was fired and the team did not win a thing until 2007. Ronaldo’s only real chance for Champions League glory was in his first season at Real, but Juventus eliminated them with a stunning performance in the semis. Without this trophy, Ronaldo is still one of the greatest forward ever played the game.
11. Francesco Totti
The King of Rome is a living legend as well, becoming the icon of AS Roma since he made his debut for the Wolves in 1992. His two major successes are the Scudetto he captured with Roma in 2001 and the World Cup he won with Italy in 2006. He wrote his name into the books discussing the history of football tactics too, by shining in the newly invented role of the “false nine” in the 2000s, playing a centre forward coming back towards the midfield to pick up balls and creating chances.
Being a technically gifted playmaker with excellent vision and a goal scoring capability, he is best known for his loyalty towards his club however, as he played his whole career at AS Roma. This also means that he was never close enough to fight for the Champions League trophy, as Roma somehow at its latest peak too, was never a considerable power in Europe. At 38, Totti still captains Roma and though he may retire without collecting a European Cup victory, he might have his place in the Roman Pantheon. Gambling news reported that he was considered as the most popular player in Europe in 2011.
While the Champions League is a stage built for the best, this party clearly shows that a player can leave a complete legacy and finish his career as a legend even without coming close to Champions League glory. To achieve this, the players on the list accomplished something unique either by achieving exceptional success with their national teams or doing things on the pitch like no one ever did before.