There’s nothing every elite footballer on the planet wants to achieve more during their playing career than to lift the prestigious Champions League trophy. Of course, that’s easier said than done and plenty of fantastic players have hung up their boots without adding a European Cup winners’ medal to their collection.
With the shock retirement of Manchester City legend Sergio Agüero recently, who was forced to call time on his playing days just months after joining Barcelona due to cardiac issues, another top-level footballer has quit the game without a Champions League title on his glittering resume.
Agüero, who won the Europa League and UEFA Super Cup with Atlético Madrid in 2010, scored an impressive 41 goals in 79 appearances in Europe’s premier club competition, with his best chance of winning the tournament coming last season as Man City reached the final for the first time in their history.
Pep Guardiola’s men were the massive favourites in the Champions League betting as they went head-to-head with their Premier League rivals Chelsea in Porto, but Thomas Tuchel’s side ran out 1-0 winners at the Estádio do Dragão — crushing City’s and the 33-year-old’s dream of finally lifting the big-eared trophy.
Agüero, who has picked up lots of major honours during his career, including five Premier League titles, a Copa América and even an Olympic gold medal, is undoubtedly one of the best players to have never won the Champions League. But, let’s take a look at a few others.
It’s hard to believe that the Champions League can elude someone who played at the top level for over 20 years, but that is what exactly what has happened to Gianluigi Buffon. The 43-year-old, who is still playing for Serie B side Parma, has won 10 Serie A titles, the UEFA Cup, Ligue 1 and even the World Cup to name just a few of his major honours. He reached three Champions League finals during his two-decade stint with Juventus — losing them all.
Patrick Vieira plied his trade for the likes of Arsenal, Juve and Inter Milan and made over 70 appearances in the competition, but never got his hands on the Champions League trophy. He left the Gunners for The Old Lady one year before the London side reached the final in 2006, which they lost to Barcelona, and spent just a single season with Juve as they were relegated to Serie B. After three and a half years at Inter, Vieira moved to Man City in January 2010 and, agonisingly, the San Siro outfit went on to win the Champions League just five months later.
Another player who has reached multiple Champions League finals, Michael Ballack has suffered the pain of losing the showpiece match on two occasions. Firstly in 2002 as Bayer Leverkusen were beaten 2-1 by Real Madrid, with Zinedine Zidane’s stunning, match-winning volley voted the competition’s best goal ever, before returning for the Moscow-based final in 2008 — where Chelsea were beaten on penalties by their Premier League counterparts Manchester United.
In our opinion, the best player to have never won the Champions League is Brazil’s Ronaldo. The Ballon d’Or-winning striker appeared on European shores at Dutch side PSV before enjoying stints at Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan — unsurprisingly winning plenty of trophies, including the UEFA Cup, but never the Champions League. In fact, he never made it past the semi-finals! Ronaldo did win two World Cups with the Seleção though. So, he was able to showcase his ability to the planet!