With the first international break done and dusted, many are now concentrating back on their league football.
However, for the elite crop of teams in Europe, this also signals the arrival of the UEFA Champions League as the early stages kick off in the middle of the week.
The best players from different countries in Europe clash for the chance to be called the best in the continent, and lift the prestigious Champions League crown over their heads.
When choosing clubs, players often make sure that the team they play for is vying for a spot in the competition and it just goes to show how truly important this cup battle is for players and teams alike.
With legends being born in the competition, there are still some who have missed out and have never lifted the coveted trophy. They have made their way to legendary status in football but have missed out on the chance to win a final in the UCL.
Here are five of the best players who missed out on the UEFA Champions League.
One of the best defenders in the game, Italian star Fabio Cannavaro has won numerous league titles across his illustrious career including a FIFA World Cup and a Ballon d’Or.
With incredible football IQ, Cannavaro played in big teams like Real Madrid, Juventus and Inter Milan, while also making a Champions League appearance with a smaller club in Parma.
Oddly, Cannavaro has never even played in the UEFA Champions League final as the farthest he’s gone in the competition was in the semi-finals playing with Inter Milan. They were eliminated by Serie A rivals AC Milan in 2003.
Ironic that Cannavaro was part of the Galactico era of Madrid but never tasted Champions League triumph.
RUUD VAN NISTELROOY
One of the competition’s most prolific goal scorers, Ruud Van Nistelrooy unfortunately makes the list. While there are other bigger names who missed out on the UEFA Champions League triumph like Patrick Vieira of Arsenal, Van Nistelrooy makes the cut as he always seemingly saved his best performances for the competition.
Having represented PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United and Real Madrid in the competition, the Dutchman’s 56 goals out of 73 appearances lists him fourth highest goalscorer in the competition’s history.
With an incredible ratio of goals to appearances, it is also surprising that Van Nistelrooy never made it to the final of the competition. A semi-finals appearance back in 2002 was the closest he was to European glory when he played for Manchester United and were eliminated by German club Bayer Leverkusen.
Easily considered one of the best goalkeepers in the history of the game, it’s a shame that Gianluigi Buffon has yet to taste glory in the UEFA Champions League.
The Paris Saint-Germain shot-stopper will make his appearance in the competition with the French side soon, but has represented two other teams in the competition in his career; Parma and Juventus.
An 11-time Serie A winner, Buffon has also lifted the FIFA World Cup back in 2006 but has been thwarted three times in the UEFA Champions League final. He also holds the unfortunate record of playing the most UCL games without winning at 125 appearances.
Those three finals losses were heartbreaks, with the first in 2003 against AC Milan, the next was 2015 against FC Barcelona and the freshest was in 2017 against Real Madrid.
Before Buffon, Zlatan Ibrahimovic held the record for the most UEFA Champions League appearances without winning the trophy.
The Swedish superstar has had plenty of opportunities to win the title, playing in seven different teams while featuring in the competition.
Zlatan played in the European competition representing Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain but the closest he’s gotten was in the semifinals in the 2009-10 season when he was with the Catalan club. They were eliminated by his former team in Inter Milan.
Ibrahimovic is the only player to score with six different teams in the competition – with his only barren spell being with Manchester United. Some even call him unlucky as Inter and Barcelona won the trophy the season following his departure.
Easily one of the best players to grace the game, it is surprising that Brazilian striker Ronaldo has never won the UEFA Champions League.
His list of accolades is endless as he is a two-time Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Cup winner, among others. He has played with some of the best players in the world both in club and international fixtures.
Unfortunately, the Brazilian never fared well in the Champions League despite playing for big teams like Inter Milan, AC Milan and Real Madrid.
Just like many on the list, Ronaldo’s best work was to reach the semi-finals of the competition as a player of Real Madrid but they lost to Juventus in the competition.
Ironically, a team was able to win a UEFA Champions League title with Ronaldo in the line-up back in 2007 with AC Milan, but the Brazilian was cup-tied after joining the team in the middle of the campaign and already playing in the UCL with Real Madrid.