The 2020-21 Champions League campaign is underway, and, after just two game weeks, it’s impossible to tell who is going to win this year’s competition – even if the bookmakers are backing Bayern Munich to win back-to-back titles in the Champions League odds. As the thrills and spills of Europe’s biggest competition unravel over the coming months, let’s take a look at the best five-a-side team of players who failed to get their hands on the big-eared trophy – we’ve even thrown in a manager. Read on to find out more!
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has had a glittering 25-year career. He has won a whopping 25 trophies with Italian sides Parma and Juventus, along with French giants Paris Saint-German, as well as the FIFA World Cup with Italy, in 2006. However, the Champions League has eluded the 42-year-old throughout his lengthy career. After winning the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) with Parma in 1999, Buffon moved to Juve, where he spent the next 18 years. In almost two decades at the Old Lady, Buffon reached three Champions League finals – losing to AC Milan (2002-03), Barcelona (2015-16), and Real Madrid (2016-17).
Defender: Fabio Cannavaro
Another member of the ’06 Italian World Cup winning squad who never got his hands on the Champions League is, Fabio Cannavaro. As a teammate of Buffon at Parma, Cannavaro also won the UEFA Cup, before moving to Inter Milan in 2002. In his first season at the San Siro, Cannavaro helped Inter reach the semi-final of the competition, but they were knocked out by Italian rivals Juve. Cannavaro’s second season wasn’t as successful, the centre-back was injured for large parts of the season and Inter failed to make it out of the Champions League group stages. Despite two stints at Juventus and three years at Real Madrid, the Ballon d’Or winner was never able to take home the title.
Defender: Patrick Vieira
Despite being one of the best centre-backs of all time, and playing for some of Europe’s top clubs, Patrick Vieira was never able to lift the Champions League trophy. Vieira made 76 appearances in the tournament for Arsenal, Juventus, and Inter, and left the Gunners just one year just before their Champions League defeat to Barça in 2006. With Juve being relegated to Serie B, Vieira moved to Inter. In January 2010, after three-and-a-half years at the club, the centre-back moved to Manchester City, agonisingly, Inter went on to win the Champions League later that season.
Midfielder: Michael Ballack
Like Buffon, Michael Ballack has lost multiple Champions League finals. His first was back in 2002, with German side Bayer Leverkusen. The Bundesliga team lost 2-1 to Real Madrid, as Zinedine Zidane’s winning volley was voted the best Champions League goal ever. Six years later, and now at Chelsea, Ballack was back in the Champions League showcase. However, after the match finished 1-1, the Blues lost to English rivals Manchester United on penalties.
Brazil legend Ronaldo is arguably the best player to have never won the Champions League. The Ballon d’Or-winning striker started his European journey with Dutch side PSV, before stints at Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and AC Milan, where he won nine trophies – including the UEFA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. Despite never winning the Champions League, Ronaldo won two World Cup’s with Brazil, so we guess he’ll just have to settle with that.
Manager – Arsène Wenger
His final years at Arsenal may not be the most memorable, but Arsène Wenger has to be considered as one of the best managers to have never won the Champions League. The French gaffer modernised the Premier League, winning three Premier League titles – one unbeaten, of course – and seven FA Cups with the Gunners. He lost two European finals during his 22-year tenure in North London, losing the UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray in 2000, and the Champions League final in 2006.