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10 of the Greatest Players to Never win a World Cup


10 - Socrates

Much like his ancient Greek namesake, Socrates was a genius both on and off the pitch. The Brazilian icon played 60 games for the Seleção and scored 20 goals from the heart of their midfield.

However, the former national team captain failed to steer his side to World Cup glory in the two occasions he featured, in both 1982 and 1986 where he reached the second round and quarter-finals respectively. Socrates will go down as one of the best of Brazil’s endlessly talented players, nevertheless, as one of the few who failed to lift the most prestigious title in International football.

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Harry Kane @ 7/1

9 – Paolo Maldini

The Italian stallion needs no introduction. In a career that spanned across 24 gruelling seasons, it comes as a surprise to many that the powerhouse of a left-back was never part of Italy’s 4 World Cup-winning teams.

In four attempts the tackling mastermind and his Italian teammates never managed to lift the esteemed trophy.

However, with five European trophies and seven Italian Scudetto’s won with AC Milan, it's not as though his trophy cabinet was left to amalgamate dust like a locker room in White Hart Lane.

8 – Oliver Kahn

To many, the only thing preventing Kahn from going down as the greatest goalkeeper of all time is his lack of success on the World Cup stage.

As the only keeper to ever win the Adidas Golden Ball for best player in the tournament, he clearly had the talent, though his mistake in the 2002 World Cup final against Brazil which saw the German keeper gift the ball to the grateful feet of a one R9 Ronaldo, who coolly slotted home what went on to be the winning goal.

However, despite this, his legendary status in the game is second-to-none he will go down as one of the all-time greatest goalkeepers and to many, the Bayern Munich shot-stopper is an undisputed number one.

7 – Eusebio

The Mozambique-born Portuguese superstar was one of the most efficient strikers in the history of football. The frontman only managed one World Cup finals appearance, but in that managed an impressive nine goals, four of which came in the quarter-finals.

The one-time Ballon d’Or winner and two-time runner up scored a staggering 424 goals in just 436 appearances for a range of European and North American teams and was the first-ever player to win the European Golden Boot.

He has gone down as Benfica’s greatest ever player and to many old school football fans, he is seen as Africa’s greatest ever player despite playing his international football with Portugal.

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Kylian Mbappe @ 8/1

6 – Ferenc Puskas

So incredible they named one of the most prestigious awards in world football after him. The award for the most beautiful goal in World football is a very appt name for one of the most gracious and talented players of a generation, his unbelievable strike rate for both club and country across an illustrious career cannot be unfathomed.

514 goals in 530 club games as well as 84 in 85 appearances for his country, the Hungarian goes down as one of the greatest finishers in football history. His energy and talent propelled Hungary to a surprising World Cup final in 1954 where they were beaten by West Germany 3-2 where Puskas scored the opener.

5 – George Best

The marvel that was George Best was a standout winger in his time, justifiably winning the 1968 Ballon d’Or as a result. While his off the field antics infamously led to him missing out on a call up to Northern Ireland’s squad for the only World Cup they qualified for in his playing days, his skill and talent could not be understated.

The Ex-Manchester United man was named the sixth-best player of the Century and while he has gone down as Northern Ireland’s greatest ever player (by some distance) there is no doubt were he playing for a more prolific footballing nation he would’ve shared the same success, and potentially individual awards, as his counterparts.

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Karim Benzema @ 14/1

4 – Alfredo Di Stefano

Di Stefano led Real Madrid to five successive European cup victories and formed a lethal partnership with the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas in the Spanish capital.

Di Stefano finished fourth in the aforementioned greatest players of the Century list, falling behind only Pele, Maradona and Johan Cruyff.

His success with Real Madrid could not however be transferred to the international stage. After four caps with Colombia, six with Argentina and 31 with Spain, the forward finished his international career with an impressive 29 goals but no World Cup.

He also scored in all five consecutive European cup finals, highlighting his importance to one of the most successful and dominant teams of all time.

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Romelu Lukaku @ 16/1

3 – Johan Cruyff

Cruyff was as monumental a player as he was later a manager. The Dutch wizard transformed modern football. While predominantly a winger, the dutchman was able to player without fault almost anywhere on the park, something he later carried into, with ultimate success, his managerial career.

Ask almost any former footballer older than the age of 45 who they believe was the greatest player of all time and many would throw Cruyff’s name into the mix. It’s a marvel how he, along with a very talented Dutch side, never won a World Cup.

Cruyff was voted the winner of the European player of the century award in 1999 and came second to Pele in the World player of the century award.

Cruyff led the Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final and was awarded the Golden ball after the tournament ended, it was during these finals that the Cruyff turn was born, a skill used by so many in the modern era.


2 – Cristiano Ronaldo

While it’s a toss-up of opinions between him and the number one, there’s no doubt he places in the top two.

After winning almost everything possible with both a Manchester United of old under Sir Alex Ferguson and one of the most dominating sides of all time in Real Madrid, as well as a European Championships and Nations League trophy in 2016 and 2019 respectively, he is yet to win arguably the most prestigious of them all – a World Cup title.

There is still hope for Ronaldo this December though, as the first player on this list who is still active, he has the chance to take home the World Cup in Qatar later this year.

However, following a poor showing in the European Championships last summer, few are holding out hope for Ronaldo and his Portuguese team-mates... with that in mind and although at the ripe old age of 37, as he has proven for Manchester United as one of their only competent players this season, never bet against him.

Ronaldo Euro 2020 Germany Portugal

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Cristiano Ronaldo @ 12/1

1. Lionel Messi

It just had to be, hadn’t it? Much like his Ronaldo, his long time rival for stats, titles, European club glory, Ballon d’Or trophies and everything else to do with football, Messi is yet to achieve World Cup greatness with Argentina.

His biggest international success came just last year as he, the eventual player of the tournament, guided La Albiceleste to the Copa America title.

Messi came agonisingly close back in 2014, when Argentina fell short 1-0 to an extra Mario Götze strike in a fiercely contested final against Germany.

Much like Ronaldo, many are pinning their hopes on Argentina in the World Cup finals this December, and following their success in the Copa America, as well as comfortably topping their group, many are hoping this could be the fairy-tale ending to Lionel Messi’s otherwise lacklustre international career.

Could we see a monumental Portugal vs Argentina final in the last dance of all last dances? Only time will tell.

Lionel Messi Argentina

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Lionel Messi @ 14/1