This summer, Lionel Messi and Giorgio Chiellini finally ended their dream of winning a major international trophy. While Messi finally lay his hands on Copa America with Argentina, Giorgio Chiellini’s spectacular performance for Italy saw them claim Euro 2020. Both the legends of the game ended a career full of heartbreak with their nations this summer.
While both of these players enjoy their vacations after finally tasting victory, there are a lot more modern greats who never tasted glory with their national teams. Here, we’ve tried to make a team of some of the greatest names in this century who never won a senior international trophy. (We’re not considering age-restricted events like the Olympics, Pan-American Games, and youth competitions).
Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
Keylor Navas has won many titles in his time at Real Madrid including the Champions League and in his time at PSG. The Costa Rican has astounding reflexes to make some of the most difficult saves. But for all his goalkeeping genius, he has never won an international accolade with his country. His 3 clean sheets and 3-man of the match awards in 5 appearances at the 2014 World Cup were also not enough. The closest he’s come is the 2 runners-up places Costa Rica managed in the now-defunct UNCAF Nations Cup (2009, 2011).
Others on the waitlist: Jan Oblak, Thibaut Courtois, David de Gea
Right-back: Javier Zanetti (Argentina)
Javier Zanetti dominated the footballing world for nearly two decades. His expertise in the right side of the pitch for Argentina and Inter Milan was absolutely incomparable. But even with his consistency and 143 caps for Argentina, he secured no senior trophies.
Others on the waitlist: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gary Neville, Cesar Azpilicueta
Centre-back: Rio Ferdinand (England)
A player, on whose back England’s “golden generation” was built. Rio Ferdinand is no stranger to winning trophies when it comes to his club career at Manchester United. Although unfortunately, his defensive excellence was also not enough to win one of the best Three Lions’ side a taste of glory.
Others on the waitlist: Ricardo Carvalho, Nemanja Vidic, Roberto Ayala
Centre-back: Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)
Virgil van Dijk is an outrageously brilliant defender, perhaps one of the greatest of the modern era of football. His prowess on the deck and in the air turned Liverpool and the Netherlands into a force to reckon with. Yet the Dutch have failed to win a trophy with Van Dijk who is at the peak of his career.
Others on the waitlist: Sol Campbell, John Terry, Walter Samuel
Left-back: Ashley Cole (England)
Another extremely consistent player from the golden generation of England. He was world-class as a defender and dangerous when he penetrated down his flank. Yet, no trophies.
Others on the waitlist: Eric Abidal
Defensive midfield: Claude Makélélé (France)
Claude Makelele was a brilliant midfielder. He took France almost all the way in their 2006 World Cup miss. He remains one of the game’s great defensive shields to have never tasted international glory.
Others on the waitlist: Ivan Rakitic, Owen Hargreaves, Edgar Davids
Central midfield: Luka Modric (Croatia)
Luka Modric is a Ballon d’Or winner. That pretty much explains his brilliance on the pitch. After a heartbreaking exit in the Euro 2008, he, along with Ivan Rakitic, led Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final only to lose to a brilliant French side. Having numerous titles at club levels, the midfield maestro still misses an international trophy.
Others on the waitlist: Clarence Seedorf, Paul Scholes, Michael Ballack, Deco, Frank Lampard
Attacking midfield: Juan Roman Riquelme (Argentina)
Riquelme was a force to reckon with during his time at both Boca Juniors and Argentina. Being Argentina’s main man, he was often pointed out for being too slow. But his elusive and phenomenal passes made up for that. His set-piece prowess was second to none. Yet despite all his genius, he couldn’t win Argentina any silverware. (Not counting the 2008 Olympics win.)
Others on the waitlist: Rui Costa, Kevin De Bruyne, Wesley Sneijder, Steven Gerrard
Right-wing: Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
Arjen Robben is a footballing legend. Recently taking retirement from football for the second time he was once one of the most threatening players. He nearly always looked unplayable but even with many chances ahead of him, he couldn’t take the Dutch over the line.
Others on the waitlist: Mohamed Salah, David Beckham, Figo, Gareth Bale
Left-wing: Neymar (Brazil)
Neymar’s skill and production are second to none. One of the most underappreciated players of his generation, the Brazilian has managed even more goals for Brazil than Pelé! Yet, he has never won a senior trophy with his country. He could have actually won the 2019 Copa with Brazil if he wasn’t ruled out due to an injury.
Others on the waitlist: Pavel Nedved, Ryan Giggs, Eden Hazard, Sadio Mané, Franck Ribery
Striker: Didier Drogba (Ivory Coast)
65 goals in 105 caps for Ivory Coast. Two-time African Footballer of the Year. The colossal Didier Drogba is one of the greatest (and most lethal) strikers the footballing world has seen. He led Ivory Coast to 3 consecutive World Cups (their only 3 World Cup appearances). Drogba lost not one but two Africa Cup of Nations finals on penalties. He remains one of the most influential and potent strikers to be trophyless on the international stage.