For footballers playing in Europe, winning the Champions League is seen as the pinnacle of success. While some of the world’s greatest players have won European football’s Holy Grail, other elite players have failed to do so.
Without further ado, here’s the best XI to have never won the Champions League. The formation used for is 4-1-2-1-2 narrow.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
One of the best goalkeepers of the modern era, Gianluigi Buffon has lost three Champions League finals with Juventus.
The veteran is a World Cup winner with Italy in 2006 and has won the Serie A title nine times.
Buffon is considered an icon in Turin as he chose to stay with Juventus even after they were relegated, following the match-fixing scandal.
The 42-year-old is probably playing his last season in a top European league and might not get another chance to win the Champions League.
Right-back: Lilian Thuram
Lilian Thuram is a World Cup and Euro winner with France in 1998 and 2000 respectively.
He was a versatile defender who could play both as a right-back or a centre-back. Thuram was part of the Juventus team which lost the Champions League final against AC Milan in 2003.
Some of the Frenchman’s achievements in Italy were revoked due to the match-fixing scandal in the mid-2000s, but he is still considered a Juventus legend, having won two Serie A titles legitimately.
Despite making 69 Champions League appearances in his career, the former Barcelona defender never won the competition.
Centre-back: Laurent Blanc
A key member of the France side which triumphed at the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship two years later, Laurent Blanc won league titles in France and England with Auxerre and Manchester United respectively.
He was, however, unable to win the Champions League, despite playing for the likes of Inter Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United.
Centre-back: Fabio Cannavaro
One of the greatest centre-backs of the generation, the Italian World Cup winner had no luck in the Champions League. Despite playing for the likes of Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid – three European heavyweights – the furthest he went in the competition was a semi-final appearance with Inter in 2003.
Left-back: Gianluca Zambrotta
Gianluca Zambrotta was a versatile defender who could play in different positions across the backline. The full-back enjoyed successful stints with Juventus, Barcelona and AC Milan, but missed out on Champions League glory like the other great Italians on the list. The Italian World Cup winner was a mainstay for the clubs he played and it’s rather surprising to see him without a Champions League winners medal to show for his efforts.
Defensive midfielder: Lothar Matthaus
World Cup winner, German Footballer of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, World Player of the Year, seven-time Bundesliga winner, Germany’s most-capped player of all time – Lothar Matthaus has just about done it all except winning the Champions League. Bayern Munich and Matthaus were within two minutes of lifting the trophy before Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won it for Manchester United in the 1998-99 Champions League final. Although the German legend does have some fond European nights to look back on, having won the UEFA Cup twice, the agony of his lost chance in the final against Manchester United will forever be etched in his memory.
Central midfielder: Michael Ballack
Michael Ballack, who was one of the most skilful midfielders of his generation, made two Champions League final appearances but lost on both occasions. In the first instance, his Bayer Leverkusen side lost 1-0 to Real Madrid in the 2001-02 final. The former German captain then moved to Bayern Munich and won several trophies except for the Champions League. He again made a Champions League final appearance in 2007-08, this time for Chelsea, who lost to Manchester United on penalties.
Central midfielder: Pavel Nedved
Pavel Nedved was signed by Juventus from Lazio in the summer of 2001 after Zinedine Zidane left for Real Madrid, with the ex-Czech Republic international making sure that the mercurial Frenchman was not missed much in Turin. Nedved, who is considered one of the greatest midfielders of the modern era, made over 100 appearances in Europe during his time in Italy but never even played in a Champions League final. He was suspended for the final in 2003, with AC Milan edging out Juventus on penalties to lift the trophy.
Attacking midfielder: Francesco Totti
One of the greatest Italian players of his generation, Francesco Totti never even came close to winning the Champions League. The main reason behind his unfruitful Champions League campaigns was his loyalty towards Roma. However, the 2006 World Cup win provided some relief to the Roma legend, who made 786 appearances for his boyhood club.
One of the best strikers to ever grace the game, Ronaldo won almost every trophy except for the Champions League, despite playing for some of the most illustrious clubs in Europe such as Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan. Ronaldo, who won the Ballon d’Or in 1997 and 2002, never even played in a Champions League final.
Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will probably be better remembered for his skills and personality rather than his tangible achievements. The Swede holds the unwanted record of making the most Champions League appearances (124) without ever lifting the trophy. Now 37, and playing for a struggling AC Milan side who are even struggling to qualify to the Champions League, Ibrahimovic has run out of time to get his hands on Europe’s biggest prize.
Ruud van Nisterlooy