Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s career has been one to marvel at: with clubs like Barcelona, Manchester United and Inter Milan on his CV.
He also has quite the trophy cabinet, with 33 major trophies to his name.
Ibrahimovic has won everything at club level. Everything except the Holy Grail of club football: the Champions League.
The Swedish striker has delivered success to every club he’s turned out for, including Ajax, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, but he hasn’t managed to bring home Europe’s most sought-after prize, despite being in some remarkable teams.
In fact, Ibrahimovic has the unwanted record of being the player with most appearances in the competition without ever winning it. Here are a few other notable superstars who’ve never won the Champions League.
That’s right. One of the best strikers of our time has never won the Champions League. Ronaldo spent almost all of his professional career playing for Europe’s top clubs after joining PSV as a teenager. Despite a truly blistering sole season at Barcelona as a 19-year-old and spearheading Real Madrid’s Galacticos, the Champions League trophy eluded the Brazil legend.
Like Ibrahimovic, Buffon has won (almost) everything there is to win at club level. Unlike Zlatan, he’s even got a World Cup-winners medal after Italy won the tournament in 2006. But the legendary Juventus goalkeeper has never won the Champions League. Most of the world wanted the Old Lady to beat Real Madrid in last season’s final, but Real Madrid went and spoiled it by thumping Buffon’s side 4-1. Michael Oliver received an earbashing from Buffon in this season’s quarter-final against Real after sending the Italy legend off in the dying moments.
Vieira is another player who played most of his career at Europe’s best clubs. An iconic Arsenal captain, the Frenchman was unable to guide the Gunners past Barcelona in the 2006 final, and his attempts at Juventus and Inter Milan were also fruitless. Compatriot and former Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry joined Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side, ensuring he was nowhere near this list.
A Ballon d’Or winner in 2006, the former Italy captain will go down as one of the game’s greatest centre halves. Cannavaro captained his country to World Cup glory but could never claim the Champions League, despite playing for Real Madrid, Juventus, Inter Milan and Parma at the peak of their powers.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
What a player. Van Nistelrooy was an instant hit at Old Trafford and was the focal point of Sir Alex Ferguson’s attack between 2001 and 2006. He arrived two years too late for United’s treble-winning season and departed two years before they won the Champions League in 2008. He did score 56 Champions League goals, mind.
Nedved was one of the best players to feature in a stellar Juventus team, including Edgar Davids, Alessandro Del Piero and the aforementioned Buffon. The closest Nedved came was in 2003, when Juve were cruelly beaten on penalties by rivals AC Milan in Manchester.
A runner-up with Nedved in 2003, Thuram was another colossus of the game who hasn’t won the Champions League. An integral player for Juventus, Thuram also won the World Cup with Vieira and Henry in 1998. It seems a travesty that a player who looked so assured on the European stage never won its most prestigious prize.
Ballack has finished runner-up in the Champions League twice. With two different clubs. The German midfielder was on the losing Bayer Leverkusen side when Zinedine Zidane scored his wonder goal in the 2002 final to propel Real Madrid to glory. He also was in the Chelsea side six years later who were beaten on penalties by Manchester United. Always the bridesmaid…
Team-mates with Cannavaro, Juan Veron, Lilian Thuram and Co in that wonderful Parma team, Crespo is another massive name who hasn’t won the Champions League. Like Ronaldo, Crespo featured for some of Europe’s biggest clubs at the peak of their powers. He bagged two goals against Liverpool in the 2005 final. We all remember what happened in the second half of that one. Crespo departed Inter Milan two seasons before Jose Mourinho delivered it to the San Siro.