These players had a lot of success in their careers but continental supremacy eluded them.
Winning the UEFA Champions League remains a dream for any player in club football. The competition sees the best teams and players on the planet compete to be crowned the creme-de-la-creme of European football.
Players have made themselves into greats and have continued to make themselves into legends through this competition. However, despite achieving a lot of success otherwise, a few players have missed out on lifting this trophy in their career. It remains a small black mark in their otherwise trophy-laden career. So we bring to you 10 legendary players who missed out on lifting the biggest prize in club football.
10. Fabio Cannavaro
The Italian defender established himself as one of the best of his generation. The Azzurri legend won seven trophies in his career but never the UEFA Champions League. He won the UEFA Cup in 1998-99 (currently UEFA Europa League), which remains his only continental triumph.
Cannavaro’s biggest moment came when he led the Italian national team to win the FIFA World Cup in 2006. His inspired defending led the Azzurri to lift their fourth title. As a result, he won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year in 2006. He became only the second defender after Franz Beckenbauer to win football’s biggest individual prize.
9. Roberto Baggio
If Cannavaro established himself as one of the best defenders, Baggio established himself as one of the best forwards of his generation. The Divine Ponytail, as he was fondly called, won the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993.
Baggio represented the likes of Fiorentina, Juventus and the two Milan clubs. But his goalscoring returns never diminished despite changing clubs regularly.
Like Cannavaro, Baggio also could only win the UEFA Cup in 1992-93. He never got to taste UEFA Champions League success. He also heartbreakingly missed out on winning the FIFA World Cup when he missed a crucial penalty in the shootout of the 1994 edition.
8. Dennis Bergkamp
Bergkamp represented three of the biggest clubs in Europe in Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal. But it was with the Gunners that he became a household name. Bergkamp scored 120 goals in 423 games for Arsenal and was part of the legendary “Invincibles” in 2003-04. Sadly, Champions League success wasn’t destined for the Dutch legend.
Bergkamp won two UEFA Cups with both Ajax and Inter Milan. He also came runners-up in the 1999-00 UEFA Cup with Arsenal. Bergkamp’s best chance came in 2005-06, when Arsenal reached the final of the UEFA Champions League. However, the Gunners were beaten 2-1 by Barcelona.
7. Francesco Totti
A symbol of loyalty and passion, Totti is another legendary Italian who never won the UEFA Champions League. Totti represented Roma a whopping 786 times, scoring 307 goals.
But for all his longevity and efforts, Totti could only win six trophies in his career. But his biggest moment would definitely be the 2006 World Cup win with Italy. Totti ended up as the highest assist provider in the competition. But unlike the other great Italians in this list, continental success forever eluded the Roman Gladiator.
6. Giorgio Chiellini
Continuing the list of great players who never won the UEFA Champions League is Giorgio Chiellini. The defender has made close to 550 appearances for Juventus and 114 for Italy and is still going strong at 37.
Chiellini’s CV boasts of 21 trophies for club and country. The latest of his 21 titles came when he led his national team to the UEFA Euro 2020 title.
But the only major piece missing from his set is the UEFA Champions League. Chiellini came the closest on two occasions in 2014-15 and then 2016-17, when Juventus reached the final. However, they were beaten FC Barcelona and Real Madrid sides respective years. But nonetheless, the fact that Juventus were able to challenge these sides is in itself merit to Chiellini’s efforts with the record Italian champions.
5. Lothar Matthaus
The legendary German is the highest-capped player for Die Mannschaft with 150 appearances. He also won everything in club football representing Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. But once again, he never won the UEFA Champions League. Similar to Chiellini, Matthaus came close to winning the title on two occasions.
Matthaus was a losing finalist in 1986-87 when FC Porto defeated the record German champions and he was also on the receiving end of bitter defeat in the famous 1998-99 final when Manchester United scored two late goals to break the Bavarians’ hearts. But that takes away no merit from the 16 trophies he won in his career including the EURO 1980 and the 1990 World Cup.
4. Gianluigi Buffon
The legendary keeper rounds off the list of Italians among great players who never won the UEFA Champions League. Buffon made his name with Juventus, making 685 appearances for them. He is still going strong at Parma at 43 and is closing in on 1000 appearances in club football.
Buffon has lifted an astonishing 28 trophies in his professional career. He made it to three Champions League finals with Juventus in 2002-03, 2014-15 and 2016-17. But sadly, he was on the losing side on all three occasions. It is a rather unfair return that Buffon never got to win a single Champions League considering his quality and success. However, the Italian had his crowning moment as he played with Totti and Cannavaro in the 2006 World Cup-winning squad.
3. Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero was a cornerstone of Manchester City’s ascendancy in global football domination. The Argentine won 15 trophies with the Cityzens but the UEFA Champions League eluded him. It seemed like he could finally break the curse last season, his final one with Manchester City, as they reached the final for the first time.
But the man who led the Sky Blues to five Premier League titles couldn’t get them over the line. Manchester City lost to Premier League rivals Chelsea on the night. Aguero later had a sweeter end to the season as he won the Copa America with Argentina.
Recent reports emerged that Aguero could retire from the game due to a curtailing heart condition. Therefore, it could well mean he would end up becoming another great player who never won the Champions League. A sad end to what has been a glorious career for Aguero for both club and country, a UEFA Champions League title could have been a crowning moment for him.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has represented some of the biggest clubs in the continent including the two Milan clubs, Barcelona, Ajax, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Manchester United. He’s also the 11th highest goalscorer in the history of the UEFA Champions League and is still going strong at 40 for club and country.
It is staggering that despite his history with the competition, Zlatan has never won the UEFA Champions League. In fact, the closest he ever came was the quarter-final in 2015-16 with Paris Saint-Germain. But otherwise, Zlatan has still had a phenomenal career winning a massive 30 trophies and scoring 507 goals in 846 games at club level and 62 in 120 games for Sweden.
1. Ronaldo Nazario
Considered by many as the greatest striker of all-time, Ronaldo Nazario had everything you needed from a striker and more. The Brazilian won everything in football, individually and collectively, except the UEFA Champions League.
Ronaldo’s trophy cabinet boasts 18 trophies for club and country. This tally includes two FIFA World Cup and Copa America trophies, a La Liga title with Real Madrid and a Copa del Rey with FC Barcelona among others. Not to mention, he won three FIFA World Player of the Year and two Ballons d’Or. Ronaldo is also the only player to represent the two Milan clubs along with Spanish giants Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
El Fenomeno scored 352 goals in 518 games in his club career and 62 goals in just 98 games for Brazil, the third-highest in Selecao history. But despite all these records and his unbelievable quality, Ronaldo could never win the UEFA Champions League trophy in his career. Therefore, he is by far the most high-profile player who never won the competition.