Few things are as revered in football as winning a trophy is. Trophies are just reward for all the work put into a season, signifying that you've been better than the rest of the competition. For this reason, footballers go all out to win as many significant trophies as they can, so they can look back on a career well-spent, while also cementing their legacy in the annals of the sport.
It is a well-established fact that the greatest names in the sport often play for the most prominent teams who, more often than not, end up winning trophies. Usually, the trophy cabinets of leading players are bigger than those of less-established teams.
However, this is not always the rule. Not every great footballer won a trophy during their playing careers. The reasons could range from unwavering loyalty to plain bad luck, which has resulted in some genuinely legendary players retiring without ever getting their hands on a trophy.
In this piece, we make a rundown of five great footballers who retired without winning a trophy.
#5 Matt le Tissier
At a time when English midfielders were known for their grit and industry, Matt le Tissier stood out with his technique, skill, and vision. It was perhaps for his exceptionalism that he did not make more of an impact with the national team, winning just eight caps.
Le Tissier was also exceptional from the penalty spot, having converted 47 of his 48 attempted spot-kicks. The Englishman, who was the first midfielder to reach a century of goals in the Premier League, was voted PFA Young Player of the Year in 1990.
Despite reported interest from the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, and Arsenal, Le Tissier stayed true to his roots and spent the entirety of his 16-year professional career at Southampton. The midfielder made a total of 540 appearances for the Saints, scoring 209 goals.
Sadly, his loyalty to Southampton meant that he never had a real shot at competing for major trophies. Most of his career was spent either fighting off relegation or stuck in mid-table mediocrity.
#4 Johnny Haynes
To this day, the late Johnny Haynes is regarded as the most exceptional player in the history of Fulham. A statue of him graces the entrance of Craven Cottage to serve as a reminder of his exemplary service to the club for almost two decades.
Haynes was also established at the international level and made 56 appearances for England, of which 22 of those came as captain. The Englishman scored 18 goals, participated in two World Cups, and was expected to lead his team at the 1966 World Cup only for a disastrous injury that hampered his career.
Renowned for his two-footed passing ability, Haynes was nicknamed 'the maestro' for his grace on the ball. However, a ghastly accident suffered in 1962 broke his legs and made him miss a full year of competitive action. He was never the same player again.
Haynes became the first player to be paid £100/week in 1962 after the abolition of the £20 wage cap which was indicative of his value at the time. He retired at Fulham after making 657 appearances, scoring 157 goals. The closest he came to winning a trophy was when he reached two FA Cup semifinals. Although Haynes did win the South African National Football League in 1970-71, this was not recognized as a major competition by FIFA at the time.
#3 Guiseppe Signori
The name Guiseppe Signori might not ring a bell to even the most ardent football fans, which is rather a travesty considering how consistent he was in front of goal.
Perhaps this is because he did not represent top-tier teams in his heydey, although there was a five-year spell at Lazio between 1992 and 1997 where he scored 107 league goals from just 152 games.
Signori won the Capacannoniere (Serie A Golden Boot) on three occasions. His record of 188 goals from 355 matches sees him placed 9th on the list of all-time Serie A goal-scorers, ahead of more acclaimed players like Gabriel Batistuta, Filippo Inzaghi, and Hernan Crespo.
He also represented Italy on 28 occasions, although the rise of players like Alessandro del Piero and Francesco Totti, as well as a fallout with coach Arrigo Sacchi, limited his contributions. Signori was not called up for national duty after 1995.
The former Bologna man was also adept in taking set-pieces. Signori and Sinisa Mihajlovic are the only players in Serie A history to score a hat-trick of freekicks in a game. The striker also holds the top two records for most consecutive away games with a goal in Serie A, doing so ten times between 1991 and 1992, and nine times in 1992-1993 (shared with Cristiano Ronaldo).
Unfortunately, Signori departed Lazio just before their golden era arrived under Sven-Goran Eriksen. The Italian striker spent the rest of his career at lower clubs without lifting a major trophy.
#2 Tom Finney
Sir Tom Finney was arguably the standout player of his era and to this day is regarded as one of the greatest ever to play the game. His performances for Preston North End as well as for the England national team especially stand out.
Finney's early career was severely hampered by the outbreak of the Second World War. But he still made a name for himself in wartime tournaments. Upon resumption of footballing activities, Finney soon rose to become one of the best players in the country.
Preston were so dependent on him that newspapers jokingly suggested that he should be collecting income tax relief from his team-mates' salaries for carrying them single-handedly on his back. A proof of this dependence lies in the fact that Preston were relegated the season after Finney retired, and did not return to the top-flight for another three decades.
Finney was capped 76 times by England, with the Englishman scoring 30 goals, a national record that stood for a while before Bobby Charlton went past the former's tally. Finney was named FWA Player of the Year in 1954 and 1957, becoming the first player to win the award twice).
The Englishman spent the entirety of his professional career with Preston North End which meant that he did not get his hands on a trophy, although he still enjoys the admiration of the Preston faithful to this day. For his contributions to football both on and off the field, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1961. Finney passed on in 2014 at the age of 91.
#1 Antonio di Natale
Unlike most top-tier footballers who flourish early in their careers, Antonio di Natale was a late bloomer who did not blossom until he was past the age of 30.
With 209 goals, the former Italian international is the sixth-highest goalscorer in Serie A history. A two-time Capocannoniere winner, Di Natale was named the Serie A Italian Footballer of the Year in 2010 and was voted into the Serie A Team of the Year on three occasions.
The 42-year-old began his career in the Empoli youth ranks, and helped the club secure promotion to the top-flight. Di Natale then moved to Udinese in 2004 where he spent the next 12 seasons, becoming the Udine-based club's highest appearance maker and scorer in the competition.
The closest Di Natale came to winning a trophy was when he finished on the losing side in the final of the 2012 European Championships in Kyiv where Spain decimated Italy 4-0.Published 16 Apr 2020, 21:57 IST