Regarded as the pinnacle of club football, winning the UEFA Champions League is the ultimate dream of any club footballer. Though some coaches might say winning the League takes more perseverance and consistency across 12 months, nothing can quite match the feeling of becoming “Continental Kings”. This is because of the huge amount of money and fame the coveted UCL trophy brings and also the prestige of beating the best in Europe. In this article we will look at five world class footballers who sadly never won the UCL.
5. Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Although not as famous as the other names on this list, the Dutchman was absolutely lethal in front of the goal throughout his career. He played for many clubs across Europe but reached his peak during his spell at Manchester United. He scored 95 goals in 150 appearances for Manchester United and was the UEFA Champions League top scorer in three separate seasons. Only Ronaldo and Messi have finished more times as the top scorer in a single UCL season and only five players have scored more than his tally of 56 goals in UCL. His best chance to claim the trophy was in 2001-02 UCL season when Bayer Leverkusen knocked out Manchester United in the semi-finals.
4. Dennis Bergkamp
The man with the golden touch, Dennis Bergkamp was revered by his team mates and feared by his opponents during his spells at Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal. An absolute magician with the ball at his feat, Bergkamp is a legendary figure in North London but he fell short of two major achievements in his glittering career. Bergkamp was outstanding in the 1998 FIFA World Cup but Brazil Knocked out Netherlands in the semi-finals to end his run. Similarly, He was part of the Arsenal team that reached the final of the 2005-06 UCL season, where they lost to Barcelona. Sadly, Arsenal are yet to win the UCL while the Dutch are still waiting to get their hands on the World Cup.
3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ibra has won the league in three different countries but his impact has been minimal when it comes to the Champions League. He left Inter Milan for Barcelona in the the summer of 2009 and Inter Milan claimed the treble the following season. A similar script followed as Barcelona claimed the UCL after Zlatan’s departure to AC Milan in 2010. He has 48 goals in the Champions League and his best finish in the competition came with Barcelona in their run to the semi-finals in 2010.
2. Gianluigi Buffon
One of the greatest shot stoppers of all time, the highlight of Buffon’s career has been his 2006 World Cup victory and three Champions League final heartbreaks. The first one was in 2003 when AC Milan won the final in penalty shoot-out. The defeats in 2015 and 2017 would have been even harder, considering Barcelona and Real Madrid completely outplayed Juventus. After a one year spell with PSG, he is back with the Old Lady, hoping for a perfect farewell to his remarkable career.
1. Ronaldo Nazario
The Brazilian is an inspiration for so many footballers around the world and he would have probably won the UCL if not for injuries. He moved to Real Madrid in the summer of 2002 and a hat-trick at Old Trafford for which he got a standing ovation led many to think that he will finally win the tournament. He did score in the 2003 UCL semi-final against Juventus but was not fully fit for the second leg which Madrid lost eventually.