As the World Cup is becoming more and more of a reality each day, the number of clip shows and ‘best of’ World Cup compilations increases, we here at the Transfer Tavern thought it fitting to pay tribute to those players who haven’t been able to showcase their skills on the biggest footballing stage.
The World Cup can make or break reputations, think Pele, Maradona and Zidane, but a plethora of gifted footballers have been unable to add their names to the list. With the 2010 edition of the competition being held in Africa for the first time, there is special significance on this tournament. But thoughts must be spared for those who did not partake in the greatest footballing experience.
Here are the top five players never to have played in a FIFA World Cup.
5. ERIC CANTONA
Made his France debut in 1987. A year later he was indefinitely banned from all international matches after making a derogatory remark about the then manager Henri Michel.
Returning to the international fold three years later, but missed out on the 1994 World Cup after France lost at home to Bulgaria in their final qualifying match, when they only required a draw to qualify.
Cantona was appointed France captain a year later but the infamous karate kick and subsequent nine-month ban cost him his place at France ‘98 as Aime Jacquet built his side around Zinedine Zidane.
4. GEORGE WEAH
During his glittering career Weah was named FIFA World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, and African Footballer of the Year and won League titles with Paris Saint Germain and AC Milan.
However, it wasn’t a similar story in his international career – Weah played, coached and even financed Liberia but never they have never reached a World Cup.
3. RYAN GIGGS
Eleven League titles, two Champions Leagues, four F.A Cups, three League Cups, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one Club World Cup. PFA Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year… I could go on, but never an appearance at the World Cup. A real shame.
2. GEORGE BEST
Named European Football of the Year and lifted the European Cup in 1968 but he was unable to lead Northern Ireland to the finals despite being capped 37 times and scoring nine goals between 1964-77. One of the finest ever players who would surely have lit up any of the World Cups Finals he missed.
1. ALFREDO DI STEFANO
It seemed the world conspired to stop this most fantastic of players from appearing on the most fantastic of stages.
The first World Cup in which he would have been able to participate was the 1950 tournament. As Argentina refused to participate, di Stéfano missed his first chance at playing in the World Cup. For the 1954 World Cup, Argentina did not enter.
He acquired Spanish citizenship in 1956, and played four World Cup qualifying matches for Spain in 1957, but the team failed to qualify for the 1958 World Cup.
In 1961, di Stéfano, who had won 5 European Cups, helped Spain qualify for the World Cup of 1962. A muscular injury just before the competition prevented him from playing in the finals. He retired from international play after that.
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