We welcome another guest writer to The Football Attic as Jonathan Roberts reminds us of some of the great players that never qualified for a major competition...
Rather arrogant, yes, and although one of football’s most charismatic and admired stars was denied a place at the tournament in Brazil, it isn’t inconceivable to think that he may not have made it anyway. Football can be a cruel sport and it often doesn’t matter who you are; if your name’s not down, you’re not coming in.
Football history is littered with tales of top players who have never played in international finals. Today, we’re going to look at who we think are the top five players never to have made it to international finals.
5. Ryan Giggs
Manchester United’s rock. More league and European titles than you can count on two hands. In fact, at the time of writing, Giggs is still the most decorated player in the history of the English game but never made it to an international tournament with Wales. If only he’d still been playing in 2015! The highlight of his international career was probably becoming captain for Team GB at the 2012 Olympics.
4. Ian Rush
‘It’s what Ian Rush drinks!’ Remember that advert? Yep, most of us do. Remember Ian Rush at the World Cup? Er... no. Another Welsh legend, despite multiple domestic and European titles, Rush never featured on the biggest stage of all. The current Welsh team have made it to the finals of Euro 2016, but are likely to face some difficult opening fixtures.
3. Alfredo Di Stefano
Diego Maradona once described Di Stefano as the best player to ever have graced a football pitch. Oddly, despite having played for Argentina, Spain and Colombia, a mix of bad luck and injury meant he never reached the ultimate football stage.
2. Eric Cantona
When he wasn’t launching himself into the stands to ‘confront’ angry fans, Cantona was simply a magician on the pitch. Unfortunately, it was that very temper which rendered him ineligible to compete for France at international tournaments. Twelve months after making his international debut in 1987, Cantona made a derogatory remark about the France manager, Henri Michel, and was subsequently banned indefinitely. A brief return in the early 90's saw him narrowly miss out on the 1994 World Cup following defeat at home to Bulgaria in the qualifiers. The infamous karate kick was the final nail in the coffin, preventing him from appearing at France ’98.
1. George Best
Perhaps the greatest international no-show tragedy of all was the inconceivable fact that Manchester United and Northern Ireland genius, George Best, never made it to the World Cup with his beloved home country, despite gaining 37 caps. Northern Ireland did qualify for the World Cup in 1982, but by then Best was 36 and a shadow of the player he used to be.