25-1: Best players never to win Champions League

25-1: Best players never to win Champions League

Sky Sports continues its countdown of the 50 best players never to win the Champions League

Sky Sports continues its countdown of the 50 best players never to win the Champions League

They came, they saw and they didn’t conquer.

Today should have been the Champions League final in Istanbul, so Sky Sports have decided to look at the best players who never got their hands on the famous trophy.

Here we continue our countdown to No 1…

25 – Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini loves himself and there is a lot to love. He looks like a film star, he’s won 20 major honours and he is now the manager of Italy. Not bad for an altar boy who was born in a small town near Ancona.

Sampdoria recently put Mancini’s best three goals for them on social media and they are some of the most incredible goals scored in the history of football. Three volleys which are guaranteed to leave you thinking “How did he do that?”

Mancini was a fabulously talented forward and he brought out the best in his team-mates. His career was full of trophies and individual honours but the closest he came to lifting the European Cup was when Sampdoria lost 1-0 to Barcelona after extra time in the 1992 final at Wembley Stadium.

He did win two European trophies though – the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990 with Sampdoria and in 1999 with Lazio.

24 – Dimitar Berbatov

Dimitar Berbatov has been in and around the Champions League final three times.

Unfortunately for him, the outcomes were the same – his team lost. What was different though, was Berbatov’s involvement in the games.

In 2002, he came off the bench in the 39th minute for Bayer Leverkusen. Six minutes later, he had a great view of Zinedine Zidane’s incredible volley as Real Madrid won 2-1 at Hampden Park.

Dimitar Berbatov did not enjoy the best of luck when it came to Champions League finals

Dimitar Berbatov did not enjoy the best of luck when it came to Champions League finals

In 2009, he had less time – the final 24 minutes for Manchester United against Barcelona. Within four minutes of his appearance on the pitch in Rome, Lionel Messi scored to make it 2-0 and that was that.

Then 2011. That was painful. Berbatov was top scorer in the Premier League but he was left out of the 18-man United squad to face Barcelona at Wembley.

Sir Alex Ferguson chose Michael Owen as his striking substitute. Ferguson later said Berbatov didn’t deserve that. Berbatov is philosophical. He says Barcelona were so good he wouldn’t have made a difference.

23 – Fabio Cannavaro

There’s a famous clip on YouTube of Fabio Cannavaro, Patrick Vieira, Martin O’Neill and Adrian Chiles in the ITV studio at the 2014 world cup.

The rest of the panel are making fun of O’Neill when he reminds them that he won two European Cups as a player. While he acknowledges that Cannavaro and Vieira are world cup winners, he asks how many European Cups they’ve won. Silence.

Cannavaro is an Italian legend who led his country to world cup glory, but when it came to the European Cup he was an also-ran. He won the UEFA Cup at Parma and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League with Inter Milan.

The less said about his European record at Juventus and Real Madrid the better though.

Fabio Cannavaro captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006

Fabio Cannavaro captained Italy to world cup glory in 2006

At Juventus, he lost two quarter-finals and in Madrid he was knocked out three times in the last 16.

His European career ended in ignominy in 2010 when he was sent off in a Europa League last-16 second-leg tie against Fulham. Juventus had won the first leg 3-1 but were knocked out after losing 4-1 at Craven Cottage.

22 – Hernan Crespo

There were six minutes of the first half to go in the 2005 Champions League final in Istanbul. AC Milan led Liverpool 1-0. Hernan Crespo scored two quick goals to make it 3-0 at half time.

Game over? Not quite.

In six crazy second half minutes, Liverpool scored three times and eventually won on penalties.

He couldn’t even take part in the shoot-out because he had been substituted for Jon Dahl Tomasson.

Crespo never got close to winning the Champions League again.

21 – Paul Pogba

world cup winner – check. Domestic title winner – check. Domestic cup winner – check. Europa League winner – check.

Champions League winner – computer says no.

Paul Pogba – a man who divides opinion. But the fact is he’s only made one Champions League final – the 2015 defeat to Barcelona for Juventus.

Paul Pogba consoles Andrea Pirlo following Juventus' 2015 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona

Paul Pogba consoles Andrea Pirlo following Juventus’ 2015 Champions League final defeat to Barcelona

That final aside, the furthest Pogba has got is the last eight.

At 27, he still has time to fulfil that ambition. The question is where?

20 – Michael Ballack

Ask Michael Ballack about his close calls in the Champions League and he will say: “That’s football”.

In 2002, he was part of the Bayer Leverkusen team called “Neverkusen” because they finished runners-up in the Bundesliga, German Cup and the Champions League – as if that wasn’t bad enough he also reached the world cup final with Germany that year but was suspended as they lost 2-0 to Brazil.

When he joined Chelsea in 2006, he turned down the chance to go to Manchester United. In his second season at Stamford Bridge, United beat Chelsea in a dramatic penalty shootout in the Champions League final in Moscow.

Michael Ballack collapses to the floor in Chelsea's penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final

Michael Ballack collapses to the floor in Chelsea’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final

A year later, Ballack infamously chased referee Tom Henning Ovrebo across the Stamford Bridge pitch as Chelsea were denied what appeared to be a number of clear-cut penalties in a tense semi-final against Barcelona.

Chelsea had drawn 0-0 in Spain and were leading 1-0 at home with seconds to go when Andres Iniesta scored to take Barcelona into the final on the away goals rule.

19 – Robert Pires

Robert Pires was 32 when he played in his only Champions League final – Arsenal vs Barcelona in Paris in 2006.

It would be his last game in an Arsenal shirt, and it could have been a fitting end to a glorious six year spell at the club. It didn’t end as he had hoped.

The Champions League was one of only a few prizes that eluded Robert Pires during his career

The Champions League was one of only a few prizes that eluded Robert Pires during his career

He was the Arsenal player sacrificed by Arsene Wenger following Jens Lehmann’s red card after 18 minutes. Barcelona went on to win 2-1.

Pires was an Invincible who won the world cup, the European Championship, two Premier League titles and two FA Cups but he still hasn’t forgotten that night in Paris.

He says it was “a nightmare” and his “worst memory”.

18 – George Weah

Surely George Weah can have anything he wants?

He is the only player in history who has gone on to become a president. And we’re not talking president of a football club.

Since January 2018, George Manneh Oppong Weah has been the President of Liberia.

Very impressive but that doesn’t change the fact that he never won the European Cup.

He won eight trophies at Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Chelsea, but nothing in Europe.

17 – Ruud van Nistelrooy

Only five players have scored more Champions League goals than Ruud van Nistelrooy but he has never even played in the final.

Van Nistelrooy joined Manchester United two years after their treble triumph in 1999, and he left Old Trafford two years before they won the European Cup again in 2008.

Ruud van Nistelrooy never got to a Champions League final despite spells at Manchester United and Real Madrid

Ruud van Nistelrooy never got to a Champions League final despite spells at Manchester United and Real Madrid

The semi-final stage was as good as it got for Ruud – and that was in his first season at Old Trafford.

At Real Madrid, he never won a knockout tie.

16 – Gabriel Batistuta

Gabriel “Batigol” Batistuta was a goal machine.

He was the player everyone in Italy and Argentina wanted to be. He looked like he was in Bon Jovi and he finished like Alan Shearer.

Legendary Argentina striker Gabriel Batistuta never achieved the ultimate success in European club football

Legendary Argentina striker Gabriel Batistuta never achieved the ultimate success in European club football

His loyalty to Fiorentina meant that he didn’t win as many trophies during his career as his talent deserved but who needs trophies when you’ve got a bronze statue of yourself outside the Stadio Artemio Franchi?

During the 1990s he could have left Fiorentina for virtually any big club in Europe but he stayed for nine seasons until he moved to Roma in 2000.

He helped Roma win the Serie A title in 2001 but he never won a European trophy during his career.

15 – Gianfranco Zola

Gianfranco Zola is no stranger to success in European competition.

He’s won the UEFA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Gianfranco Zola had limited opportunities in the Champions League during his career

Gianfranco Zola had limited opportunities in the Champions League during his career

But while it’s not a total shock that club footbal