Winning an International cap is the pinnacle of a footballer's career. When a football player signs his first professional contract, his eyes become set on representing his nation. However, winning an international cap for traditional powerhouses like Brazil or Germany is much tougher than winning one for San Marino. Having said that, if a player is good enough, he is bound to rise to the top and receive international recognition, regardless of the strength of competition.
Predictably, all the players in this list come from footballing powerhouses, each of whom has won a world cup. Some of the players mentioned on the list missed out on International recognition since they broke into the scene when their teams already had outstanding players in their positions. In contrast, others fell victim to national rules and requirements.
Here is a look at 5 of the best players who never got capped by their national teams. It is a list that contains league winners as well as some most technically gifted players.
5. Jimmy Case (England)
Quite possibly the greatest uncapped Englishman, Case was a part of the all-conquering Liverpool side of the 70s. Being an integral part of such a dominant team, there was a great chance that international recognition would soon follow, yet it never happened for the midfielder.
Unsurprisingly, three of Case's Liverpool midfield teammates, Terry McDermott, Ian Callaghan, and Alan Kennedy, were a part of the English squad, yet Case wasn't even considered for the national team.
Liverpool's then-manager Bob Paisley criticized Case's absence from the national team by saying, "it forced the other three in doing jobs they weren't used to doing in Case's absence." Despite no call-ups to the national team, the Englishman won 4 league titles, 3 European Cups and one UEFA Cup in an incredibly successful career at Anfield.
4. Dario Hubner (Italy)
Hubner was eligible to represent both Italy and Germany, given that his father was a German but having been born and raised in Italy, Hubner considered himself much more of an Italian. Poor work-rate and behavioural issues (he was sent of 10 times in his career) meant Italian managers did not want to risk selecting the temperamental forward.
The lanky forward, however, scored 217 goals in 436 career appearances, having achieved the rare distinction of winning the Golden Boot in all of Italy's top three divisions. This included winning the Serie A golden boot at the age of 35, a record that was broken by Luca Toni.
During that period, Italy had no shortage of firepower upfront with the likes of Filippo Inzaghi, Christain Vieri, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero leading the line. This meant that the Azzurri had no vacancy for a player of Hubner's quality.
Hubner played for the likes of Cesana and Brescia, mid-table sides at best. This was a major hindrance for the big lumbering striker as his goals would have more or less guaranteed at least a cap had he played for one of Italy's more illustrious teams.
3. Paolo Di Canio (Italy)
The second Italian on this list, Paolo Di Canio, unlike his compatriot Hubner had played for some of the most illustrious clubs in Italy including the likes of Juventus, Napoli, Milan and Lazio as well as lit up the premier league for more than half a decade.
As crazy as he was brilliant, Di Canio was a self-affirmed fascist, who sported a tattoo of Benito Mussolini on his back. Therefore, few can question his loyalty towards his country and would have taken great pride in representing the Azzuri.
Di Canio played his best football during his four years with West Ham in the premier league. But had he replicated that success in the Serie A, Di Canio would have stood more of a chance of earning that elusive international call-up. Similar to that of Hubner, competition for the striker's role in the 90s proved too big a step for the maverick Italian.
2. Bert Trautmann (Germany)
A Nazi sergeant during the 2nd world war and consequently a prisoner of war once the Germans were defeated, Bert Trautmann was the greatest goalkeeper to have never represented his nation.
Manchester City fans got agitated when the club decided to sign the former Nazi sergeant and as a result twenty thousand season ticket holders threatened to boycott the club in protest. However, Trautmann soon won over the supporters with his brave performances, even winning the FWA player of the year award in 1956, the first goalkeeper to do so.
Perhaps, Trautmann's greatest moment came two days later in the FA Cup final. Leading 3-1, in the 75th minute, the German was hit on his neck by the knee of Birmingham's Peter Murphy. As substitutions were not allowed in those days, Trautmann, with dazed vision, carried on heroically for the rest of the game, lifting the FA Cup in the process.
Trautmann's zero caps for the Die Mannschaft was not due to the presence of better players but due to a bizarre rule implemented by the German FA, which prevented non-domestic based players from representing their country at the time. It was the same rule that saw Franz Beckenbauer dropped from the team once he left the Bundesliga.
1. Steve Bruce (England)
Probably the only player on the list who can claim to have suffered due to the poor decision making of the English managers of the late 80s and early 90s. Steve Bruce had all the elements to earn not one but a century of caps for the Three Lions. He was the leader of a Manchester United side, which at the time was simply the best in the country. Yet the average Carlton Palmer managed to accumulate 18 England caps during the same period.
Bruce was the Manchester United Captain who led his side to 3 premier league titles, 3 FA cups as well a European Cup winners cup, yet no English manager could care less to select Bruce for the national side. No wonder the English team fared poorly during that era, with non-qualification for the 1994 World Cup being the lowest point.
Nowadays, an average English player playing for one of the top-six sides accumulates a fair number of international caps. In contrast, Bruce, a wonderful defender, and leader of the all-conquering Manchester United side of the early 90s could manage none.