Top 20 Greatest Players Who Never Won a Champions League
The Champions League trophy is the pinnacle of European soccer. Ranking the 20 greatest players never to win the Champions League trophy.
Winning the Champion’s League trophy is the pinnacle of European soccer at club level. All of the continent's best clubs come together each year for the ultimate competition. This level of contest has meant that many of the world's best soccer players have missed out on winning this prestigious trophy.
In today's article we’ll look at some of the most famous soccer players who never won the trophy. Has Zlatan won the Champions League? Has Ronaldo Nazario won the Champions League? Soccer fans might be surprised to see some of the names on this list. Let’s find out who they are.
- Roberto Baggio – Striker
Teams: Vicenza, Fiorentina, Juventus, AC Milan, Bologna, Inter Milan, Brescia
Closest to win: 1999 Champions League Quarter Finals
Roberto Baggio is one of Italy’s finest strikers, who scored 220 goals in his career for various clubs, including Italian giants Juventus and AC Milan.
It was while playing for Milan that he came closest to the Champions League trophy, reaching the quarter final stage before being knocked out by Manchester United.
- Ruud van Nistelrooy – Striker
Teams: Den Bosch, Heerenveen, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Hamburger SV, Malaga
Closest to win: 2002 Champions League Semi Finals
Ruud van Nistelrooy was one of the all-time greatest finishers of his generation, playing out a long career including long stints with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
The Dutch striker scored 150 goals in 219 games for Manchester United, and made it all the way to the Champions League semi final with them too, but that was as far as they managed to get.
United were knocked out by Bayer Leverkusen in the semi final in 2002, and wouldn’t make the final until van Nistelrooy had moved on.
- Giorgio Chiellini - Center Back
Teams: Livorno, Roma, Juventus, Fiorentina, LA Galaxy
Closest to win: 2017 Champions League Final
Giorgio Chiellini is a Juventus legend who only recently wrapped up a career with the Italian giants that started back in 2004. The maestro center back has won pretty much everything in a widely successful career, but never the Champions League.
In 2015 Juve made the final but Chiellini missed out due to injury, and then two seasons later they got another swing at it when they made the final against Real Madrid. Madrid won the game 4-1 during a run of three straight Champions League wins, leaving Juventus empty handed.
- George Weah – Striker
Teams: Bong Range United, Mighty Barrolle, Invincible Eleven, Africa Sports, Tonnerre Yaounde, Monaco, PSG, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester City, Marseille, Al Jazira
Closest to win: 1995 Champions League Semi Finals
George Weah was one of the great strikers of the 90s, and one of the greatest African born strikers of all time, but the Champions League Final eluded him despite coming extremely close.
While playing for PSG, Weah and the French club were knocked out by AC Milan in the 1995 semi final, the club that Weah would go and play for the following season.
- Cesc Fabregas – Midfielder
Teams: Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Monaco, Como
Closest to win: 2006 Champions League Final
Cesc Fabregas grew up in the academy at Barcelona, and would return there later in his career, but he would first have his heart broken by his boyhood club in the 2006 Champions League Final.
Fabregas was a star talent for Arsenal, and they made the final against Barca in ‘06, only to come up short with a 2-1 loss to the Catalan giants.
- Hernan Crespo – Striker
Teams: River Plate, Parma, Lazio, Inter Milan, Chelsea, AC Milan, Genoa, Parma
Closest to win: 2005 Champions League Final
Hernan Crespo was on the wrong end of the 2005 UEFA Champions League final stunner, which is most certainly the greatest final the tournament has ever seen.
He was playing for AC Milan at the time on one of the greatest soccer teams ever built, and with Milan taking an early lead it was Crespo who made it 3-0 to the Italian giants with a crisp finish over Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek.
What followed was the best comeback in any Champions League final, with Liverpool scoring three goals in 10 minutes in the second half, ultimately winning on penalties.
- Michael Ballack – Midfielder
Teams: Chemnitzer FC, FC Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Chelsea
Closest to win: 2002 Champions League Final
Michael Ballack played for several top clubs and won several league titles, four in Germany and one in England with Chelsea. However, he never won the Champions League, despite coming close to it before his career really took off as a younger player with Bayer Leverkusen.
Ballack helped the German side to a final against Real Madrid, where they would lose 2-1 in May 2002. He would make it to the semi finals twice with Chelsea, but they crashed out on both occasions.
- Eric Cantona - Center Forward
Teams: Auxerre, Martigues, Marseille, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Nimes, Leeds United, Manchester United
Closest to win: 1997 Champions League Semi Final
Eric Cantona got his big break when he moved to England and his career really took off at Manchester United. He won five Premier League titles, one with Leeds and four with Manchester United, but fell one stop short of the Champions League 1997 final.
Man United lost to Dortmund in the semi final, who would go on to win the tournament.
- Sergio Aguero – Striker
Teams: Independiente, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona
Closest to win: 2016 Champions League Semi Final
Sergio Aguero is a club hero for Manchester City, who had some magical moments in a sky blue shirt including the unforgettable finish to the 2011-2012 Premier League season in which he scored the title clinching goal in the final seconds of the final game of the campaign.
He was a prolific goal scorer for Atletico and for Man City in the Champions League, netting 41 times in the competition, but never got further than the 2016 semi final against Real Madrid.
- Francesco Totti - Center Forward
Closest to win: 2007 Champions League Quarter Final
Francesco Totti is an Italian soccer legend, who spent his entire career at Roma, playing in 619 games for the club and scoring 250 goals. He was with the team from 1993 to 2017, making him one of the most loyal players in history. During his time with Roma, he won an Italian league title and two cups for his club.
He won the World Cup with Italy too, but is missing a Champions League title from his illustrious career. Roma never quite made it far enough to be a contender, with their furthest attempt being the 2007 quarter final against Manchester United.
- Dennis Bergkamp - Center Forward
Teams: Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal
Closest to win: 2004 Champions League Quarter Final
Dennis Bergkamp is one of Arsenal's all time treasures, who is honored with a statue outside the Emirates Stadium in London for his immense contribution to the club.
The Dutch forward scored 87 goals and was one of the best Arsenal players the team has ever seen, but never made it further than a 2004 quarter final in the quest for the UCL finals.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Striker
Teams: Malmo FF, Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG, Manchester United, LA Galaxy
Closest to win: 2010 Champions League Semi Final
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the world's all time greatest goalscorers. He has proven his talent in the top leagues around the world, including being a five-time league top scorer across the French and Italian leagues. He’s performed at the highest level throughout his career and managed 48 Champions League goals, but has never made it to the competition's final.
The Swedish star has been a major contributor in the tournament for Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and PSG, but the final has always eluded him.
- Romario – Striker
Teams: Vasco de Gama, PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Flamengo, Valencia, Fluminense, Al Sadd, Miami FC, Adelaide United
Closest to win: 1994 Champions League Final
One of Brazil's finest strikers of all time is Romario, who was sensational in Brazilian club soccer and helped his national side win the World Cup in 1994.
Before taking part in the World Cup though he featured in the 1994 Champions League Final for Barcelona. Barca came up against AC Milan, and despite being the favorites they were bounced in the final in a 4-0 thrashing.
- Patrick Vieira – Midfielder
Teams: Cannes, AC Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan, Manchester City
Closest to win: 2001 Champions League Quarter Final
Patrick Vieira is an Arsenal icon and was a part of the Invincibles era at the club, but never made it beyond the Champions League quarter final with the team.
He was a member of the Inter Milan squad in the 2009-2010 season before making a move to Manchester City in the January transfer window. Inter went on to win the Champions League that season under Jose Mourinho.
- Pavel Nedved – Midfielder
Teams: Sokda Plzen, Sparta Prague, Lazio, Juventus
Closest to win: 2003 Champions League Final
Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved is one of his home nations most successful talents, who won the Ballon d’or, three Italian league titles and 91 caps for his country.
Not many came as close to the UEFA Champions League trophy without winning it as Nedved, who scored five goals in the 2002-2003 campaign as Juventus made the final. The kicker was that he got suspended in the final minutes of the semi final leg against Real Madrid, which meant he had to leave the 2003 Juventus roster to try to win it without him.
Juve lost to AC Milan on penalties, and the question will always be ‘what would have happened had he played?’. Nedved has been open and honest about how bitterly disappointed he was to have missed out for a silly foul, which has to be a total killer for a player who was at the very top of the game at the time.
- Fabio Cannavaro - Center Back
Teams: Napoli, Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid, Al-Ahli
Closest to win: 2003 Champions League Semi Final
Fabio Cannavaro was one of the greatest defenders of his generation, and one of Italy’s all time talents. He is one of just three defenders in the history of the game to win the prestigious Ballon d’or, and led Italy to a World Cup win as the captain of his international side.
Despite spending most of his career playing for some of world soccer's best teams, including Juventus and Real Madrid, Cannavaro never made it further than the 2003 Champions League semi final while playing for Inter Milan, who lost out on a trip to the final in a tight contest with rivals AC.
- Gianluigi Buffon – Goalkeeper
Teams: Parma, Juventus, PSG
Closest to win: 2003, 2015, 2017 Champions League Finals
Gianluigi Buffon is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, and one of the most successful Italian soccer players in history. He won 10 league championships in Italy, won a World Cup for his country and is one of the most decorated keepers in history, but despite three finals appearances he was unable to win the Champions League.
Buffon first appeared in the 2003 UEFA Champions League Final, where Juventus lost 3-2 to fellow Italian side AC Milan on penalties. He then lost two further Champions league finals in both 2015 and 2017, and remains one of the best players without the Champions League on his resume.
- Lothar Matthaus - Center Back
Teams: FC Herzogenaurach, Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, New York Metrostars
Closest to win: 1987, 1999 Champions League Finals
Lothar Matthaus' career was littered with trophies. He won a World Cup and a European Cup with Germany during one of the nations most dominant eras, as well as seven league titles with Bayern Munich, three German cups and many more titles. He also claimed the Ballon d’or in 1990, but the Champions League eluded him.
In 1987, before the tournament was rebranded, Matthaus lost to Porto in the final while playing for Bayern Munich. Over a decade later in the twilight of his career he got a second attempt at the trophy, but was on the wrong side of the dramatic finish that saw Manchester United claim the trophy in the dying seconds of the 1999 Champions League final.
- Ronaldo Nazario – Striker
Teams: Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Corinthians
Closest to win: 2003 Champions League Semi Final
Ronaldo Nazario is one of the most legendary soccer players of all time. He scored 280 club goals as well as 62 for Brazil, winning two World Cups and a wealth of domestic trophies.
The Brazilian striker claimed two Ballon d’ors while being one of the most prolific strikers in the world in the prime of his career. Despite having one of the greatest careers any striker has ever managed, he didn’t win the Champions League.
Ronaldo played up front for Real Madrid in their Champions League defending 2003 season, but they were eliminated in the semi final against Juventus. He is one of the greatest players to never win a championship in the tournament.
- Diego Maradona - Attacking Midfielder
Teams: Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla
Closest to win: 1990 Champions League Last 16
Diego Maradona is one of Argentina’s all time soccer legends, and one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen. Maradona’s magic has inspired generations, including Lionel Messi, but the Argentine legend never won a Champions League title.
Maradona won the World Cup with Argentina, and while he played the majority of his European soccer with Napoli, he didn’t come close to a Champions League. Despite being one of the game's greatest icons, Maradona only got as far as the last sixteen of the European Cup in 1990.
The Argentinian superstar might be the greatest player of all time who never won the tournament's trophy.
Parameters for rankings
These all time soccer talents have been ranked based on their abilities and achievements throughout their pro careers. Both domestic and international achievements and trophies have been taken into account as well as personal accolades such as the Ballon d’or.
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