They came, they saw and they didn’t conquer.
This Saturday should have been the Champions League final in Istanbul, so Sky Sports have decided to look at the best players that never got their hands on the famous trophy…
50 – Miroslav Klose
In the Champions League, this man came close, but ultimately it was no cigar for the Germany legend.
He reached the 2010 final with Bayern Munich but he didn’t make Louis van Gaal’s starting XI. He came on as a 63rd-minute substitute when Bayern were losing 1-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan.
Seven minutes later Gabriel Milito scored Inter’s second and that was that. Klose did however go on to win arguably football’s greatest prize, the World Cup in 2014.
49 – Oleksandr Shovkovskiy
When Oleksandr Shovkovskiy started playing for Dynamo Kiev in 1993, Bill Clinton had just become US President. When he retired in 2017, Donald Trump was watching Fox News in the Oval Office.
Shovkovskiy had an extraordinary career as Dynamo Kiev’s goalkeeper for 24 seasons. He won 14 league titles, but it was a different story in Europe.
Shovkovskiy’s 109 Champions League appearances mean only Gianluigi Buffon, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cesc Fabregas have played more games without winning the competition.
His best season was 1999 when Dynamo lost to Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.
48 – Sol Campbell
Cast your mind back to the 2005/06 campaign.
Sol Campbell was part of an Arsenal defence that kept 10 clean sheets in a row in the Champions League.
In the final against Barcelona in Paris, Arsenal were a man down after Jens Lehmann was sent off after 18 minutes.
Arsenal needed a hero. Step forward Sol Campbell.
He headed Arsenal into an unlikely half-time lead – a lead they held until 14 minutes from time. Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti then snatched the glory away.
If VAR was around back then, Campbell might not be on this list. Replays showed Eto’o was offside.
47 – David Ginola
The dashing Frenchman retired in 2002 having won four major trophies – but no European Cup – after a 17-year playing career.
He got to the semi-finals in 1995 with Paris Saint-Germain, but he never really played for a club who were good enough to win the Champions League.
And he didn’t do much better in the French version of Strictly Come Dancing.
46 – Gianluca Zambrotta
Italy’s World Cup winning right-back has played for Juventus, Barcelona and AC Milan. Between them, those three clubs have won the European Cup 14 times.
It was a case of right place at the wrong time for Zambrotta though.
He played in one final when AC Milan beat his Juventus team in 2003 in a penalty shootout at Old Trafford.
He joined Barcelona just after they won the trophy against Arsenal in 2006. He left in 2008. Barcelona won it again in 2009.
45 – Alexis Sanchez
When Alexis Sanchez was good he was very good. When he was bad, he played for Manchester United.
It’s easy to forget what a great player Sanchez was and he still has time to prove a lot of people wrong.
He’s won nine major honours during his career but he’s drawn a blank in Europe.
Two of Barcelona’s Champions League wins came in 2011 and 2015. The years in between coincided with Alexis Sanchez’s time at the Nou Camp.
At Arsenal and United, he has failed to win a knockout tie.
44 – Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie famously moved from Arsenal to Manchester United in 2012 because he wanted to win the Premier League title.
If he had wanted to win the European Cup, he should have engineered a move to Real Madrid or Barcelona.
The closest he came to winning it was an unused substitute in 2006 when Arsenal were beaten 2-1 in the final by Barcelona.
He did win a European trophy in his career though – the UEFA Cup with Feyenoord in 2002.
43 – Paolo Montero
Paolo Montero said he didn’t want to be a role model, he just wanted to win.
If you don’t remember him, he was a legendary rough and rugged, no-nonsense Uruguayan centre-back.
He won four Serie A titles at Juventus but his luck was out when it came to the Champions League.
No one has appeared in more finals (three) without being on the winning side.
He lost in finals with Juventus in 1997, 1998 and 2003. In the 2003 final, he was one of three Juventus players who had their penalties saved in the shoot out by AC Milan goalkeeper Dida.
He is still remembered in Italy though, thanks to his record for most Serie A red cards – an incredible 16.
42 – Vincent Kompany
After everything he did for Manchester City, there’s no question that Vincent Kompany deserves a statue outside the Etihad Stadium.
He could even have one with his 12 trophies at his feet but there wouldn’t be anything with a UEFA logo on it.
Kompany is arguably the best defender to have played in England during the Premier League era. He won four Premier League titles with City and he will always be remembered for his crucial goal against Leicester in May 2019.
The closest Kompany got to winning the Champions League was in 2016 when City reach the semi-finals.
After a goalless draw at the Etihad Stadium they lost the second leg 1-0 in Madrid. Kompany started the game, but went off injured after just 10 minutes.
41 – Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen Klinsmann played for clubs like Inter Milan and Bayern Munich, but he only played in the European Cup three times.
His best season was actually with Monaco when they reached the semi-finals in 1994. They were outclassed though by AC Milan who went on to beat Barcelona 4-0 in the final.
Still, Klinsmann has many great memories to look back on, including the World Cup, the European Championship, two UEFA Cups and a Bundesliga title.
40 – Giorgio Chiellini
How can you play for Juventus for 15 seasons and never win a European trophy? Ask Giorgio Chiellini.
He is a Juventus and Italy legend who is renowned all over the world as being one of the best centre-backs in the game. He has won eight Serie A titles but you should probably never ask him about Europe.
He has reached two finals and he probably wishes he hadn’t.
In 2015, Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in the final in Berlin but Chiellini was forced to miss the game because of a calf injury he picked up in training three days before the big game.
Two years, later he was in the starting line-up in the final in Cardiff when Juventus were beaten 4-1 by Real Madrid.
39 – Cesc Fabregas
Cesc Fabregas had just turned 19 when he played in his first Champions League final. Unfortunately, Arsenal’s 2006 defeat by Barcelona will almost certainly be his last.
Fabregas moved to Barcelona in 2011 – less than three months after they won the Champions League and they won it in 2015, a year after he left.
He has won nine major trophies though, including the World Cup and two European Championships with Spain.
38 – Phillip Cocu
Phillip Cocu was a regular in Barcelona’s first team for six seasons from 1998 and 2004. In all that time he won one trophy – the Spanish title in 1999.
He won four Dutch titles as well in two spells at PSV Eindhoven, but he never had much success in the Champions League. He played 79 times and reached three semi-finals but he was on the losing side in all of them.
In 2001, his Barcelona lost to Valencia and in 2002 they lost to Real Madrid. His most painful semi-final defeat was in 2005. PSV Eindhoven were knocked out on away goals after beating AC Milan 3-1 at home.
37 – Tony Adams
Tony Adams played in four European Cup and Champions League campaigns for Arsenal and he never got past the quarter-finals.
In the 1991/92 European Cup Arsenal were knocked out in the second round by Benfica. In the 1998/99 Champions League Arsenal didn’t even make it out of their group, finishing third behind Dynamo Kiev and Lens.
One quarter-final appearance is a disappointing return for a defender as good as Adams. He was a legendary one-club man who played for Arsenal for 22 years and is widely regarded as one of their best ever players.
He won 10 major trophies at Arsenal, including the 1994 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
36 – Lilian Thuram
This is got to be a joke, right?
The guy who played for France a record 142 times and won the World Cup and European Championship never won the Champions League? Even though he played for Juventus and Barcelona? You have to be kidding?
Unfortunately, we’re not. Thuram may have been one of the best defenders of all time but the closest he ever came to the European Cup was when he reached the 2003 final with Juventus.
AC Milan lifted the trophy after a penalty shoot-out at Old Trafford at the end of one of the worst finals in living memory.
Thuram did win one European trophy during his 17-year career – the 1999 UEFA Cup with Parma.
35 – Lev Yashin
If Lev Yashin was playing today he would be driving a Bentley and earning £500,000 a week.
As it was, he had to make do with playing for Dynamo Moscow and the Soviet Union and being famous throughout the world as the game’s greatest ever goalkeeper.
Yashin won five titles with Dynamo Moscow between 1955 and 1964, but in those days teams from the Soviet Union did not play in Europe. In another era he would have almost certainly played for one of Europe’s biggest clubs and won European trophies.
In 1963 he won the Ballon d’Or. No other goalkeeper has ever won the award.
34 – Pavel Nedved
Pavel Nedved was an incredibly talented midfielder and an integral part of the Juventus side which reached the Champions League final in 2003.
It was just a shame that he was suspended for the final which turned out to be a dire goalless draw at Old Trafford won by AC Milan on penalties.
It may have turned out differently if Nedved had been able to start alongside team-mates such as Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet and Edgar Davids.
Nedved is now the Juventus vice-chairman. He retired as a player in 2009 having won one European honour – the 1999 Cup Winners’ Cup with Lazio.
33 – David Silva
David Silva is on the list – for now.
This is his final season at Manchester City and they are still in the Champions League. They beat Real Madrid 2-1 at the Bernabeu in the first leg of their last-16 tie before football was suspended because of the pandemic.
Even if Silva leaves Manchester without lifting the European Cup he has had a glorious career – four league titles, two FA Cups, five League Cups and the World Cup and two European Championships with Spain.
32 – Gheorghe Hagi
Type “Hagi” into Google and you will get a page of stories about Rangers midfielder Ianis Hagi.
Now Ianis is a good player, but he is nowhere near as good as his dad. Not many players were.
Gheorge Hagi was so good he was known as the Maradona of the Carpathian, The Commader and The King.
Hagi was a ridiculously talented No 10, so much so that he played for Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The closest he came to lifting the European Cup was in 1989 when he reached the final with Steaua Bucharest. Actually he didn’t get that close – AC Milan won 4-0.
He did win one European trophy though – the UEFA Cup in 2000 when Galatasaray beat Arsenal on penalties in the final.
31 – Alan Shearer
When Alan Shearer won the Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers in 1995, little did he know it would be the only trophy he would win in his career.
The Premier League’s all-time top goalscorer had a distinctly unremarkable record in Europe. Shearer never played in a knockout tie in the Champions League.
It could have all been different if he had not turned down Manchester United twice. He says he has no regrets.
30 – Laurent Blanc
Laurent Blanc was so good that they called him Le President. He was an imperious defender and sweeper who helped France win the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship two years later.
He played for clubs such as Barcelona, Marseille, Inter Milan and Manchester United but he only has one European honour to his name.
He was part of the Barcelona squad that won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1997 but he missed the final against Paris Saint-Germain because he was injured.
29 – Michael Owen
Michael Owen won the Ballon d’Or in 2001 after helping Liverpool win a cup treble but he missed out on the European Cup by one year. Liverpool sacked Gerard Houllier in May 2004 and appointed Rafa Benitez.
Owen was wanted by Real Madrid. He couldn’t turn down the chance to play for the Galacticos, but admitted he was crying as he left the airport for Madrid.
There may have been a few tears as well at the end of his one and only season in Madrid – when Liverpool won the Champions League in Istanbul on penalties after coming back from 3-0 down against AC Milan.
28 – Edinson Cavani
Edinson Cavani says his dream is to win the Champions League but he hasn’t won it so far and his time at Paris Saint-Germain is about to end.
In seven seasons in Paris he has won 15 major trophies but nothing in Europe.
With the amount of money PSG have to throw at players it wouldn’t be a surprise if they won it eventually.
As far as Cavani is concerned though, it is likely to be now or never.
His contract is ending this summer and PSG are waiting for the Champions League to restart after reaching the quarter-finals.
27 – Eden Hazard
“I’m joining the European Champions”. The words of Eden Hazard when he revealed in the summer of 2012 that he was joining Chelsea instead of Manchester United.
Chelsea had just won the Champions League by beating Bayern Munich on penalties in Munich but despite Hazard’s best efforts they didn’t win it again during his seven seasons at Stamford Bridge.
They did win six major trophies though and at 29 he still has time on his side. And he’s at the perfect club when it comes to winning European Cups – Real Madrid.
26 – Dino Zoff
Dino Zoff was one of the best goalkeepers the world had ever seen.
His career was full of incredible achievements, including captaining Italy to World Cup glory at 40, but if there was one big regret, it was not winning the European Cup during his 22-year career.
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