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Ranking 5 greatest players to have never played in the FIFA World Cup

Ryan Giggs and Dimitar Berbatov played at the highest level of club football but never appeared at the World Cup
Ryan Giggs and Dimitar Berbatov played at the highest level of club football but never appeared at the World Cup
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Sulayman Salahudeen

On the international stage, the FIFA World Cup is the single most important event on the calendar. Most players dream of participating in the competition for its rich history and prestige.

Many football players have gained stardom through their performances in the FIFA World Cup. Examples include James Rodriguez in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Pele in the 1958 World Cup, and Thomas Muller in the 2010 World Cup. Other notable examples include Lukas Podolski, Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney.

The FIFA World Cup provides the perfect stage for players to impress

While some players enjoy the benefit of having the opportunity to play on the biggest stage, others do not have that opportunity. Several of the world's greatest players were unable to feature in the World Cup during their careers due to several reasons.

Without further ado, here is a list of five of the greatest players to have never played in the FIFA World Cup.


#5 Dimitar Berbatov

Italy v Bulgaria - FIFA 2010 World Cup Qualifier
Italy v Bulgaria - FIFA 2010 World Cup Qualifier

Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov is widely remembered for his time in the English Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United. The striker enjoyed a successful playing career before his retirement in 2019. He was part of the Spurs side that won their last major title, the League Cup, in 2008.

Berbatov is one of the greatest Bulgarian players ever. He made his international debut in 1999 at 18 and later featured at Euro 2004. Euro 2004 was incidentally his only international tournament for his country. He played on the same team as Stiliyan Petrov and Martin Petrov, both of whom played in the Premier League at the time.

Berbatov is his country's all-time leading scorer, with 48 goals in 78 appearances. He captained his country for four years between 2006 and 2010 before his eventual retirement. He overtook Hristo Stoichkov to become the player with the most 'Bulgarian Player of the Year' award wins.


#4 Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs of Wales battles with Christian Panucci of Italy
Ryan Giggs of Wales battles with Christian Panucci of Italy

Manchester United and Premier League great Ryan Giggs enjoyed the highest level of success possible at club level. On the international front, however, he failed to dazzle with Wales up until his retirement from professional football.

Despite representing England as a youth player, Giggs became a full Wales international in 1991. He played alongside Liverpool legend Ian Rush in his early years as an international. Giggs has never represented his country in an international competition despite coming close on a number of occasions.

Giggs made only 64 Wales appearances before choosing to retire in 2007 to focus on his club football. His commitment towards his country was often criticized due to the sheer number of fixtures he made himself unavailable for.


#3 Eric Cantona

Cantona Scores For France
Cantona Scores For France

Legendary Manchester United midfielder Eric Cantona is remembered for his antics as much as he is remembered for his quality. The Frenchman enjoyed a better career playing for his clubs than for his country.

Cantona made his international debut in 1987 before a falling-out with manager Henri Michel saw him dropped from the national team. He would return to the national team years later after Michel was replaced by Michel Platini.

However, the kung-fu kick incident at Manchester United cost him his place. He received an eight-month ban from all football and before his return, Zinedine Zidane had established himself as a star. He made only 45 appearances for Les Bleus.

#OnThisDay in 2โƒฃ0โƒฃ0โƒฃ5โƒฃ, France - with Eric Cantona as player-coach - won the inaugural #BeachSoccerWC in Brazil ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ†๐Ÿ–๏ธ https://t.co/lXH6jgNLN4

Cantona retired from professional football in 1997 at only 30 years of age. He was part of the French side that failed to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. He, however, won the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup as a player-manager with France in 2005.


#2 George Weah

George Weah, Garba Lawal
George Weah, Garba Lawal

Still the only African ever to win the Ballon d'Or, George Weah's exploits at club level never really translated into international success. Weah played for some of Europe's top sides, including AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG, and Manchester City.

Weah made his international debut for Liberia in 1986 and went on to make 75 appearances for his country. Weah was never able to take his country into the FIFA World Cup, coming closest in 2002. Liberia finished one point behind Nigeria in their qualifying group that year. He led them to two Africa Cup of Nations appearances.

From 1999-2001, George Weah financed Liberia's World Cup qualifying efforts.He set up training camps in neighbouring countries, paid his teammates' travel expenses and bought shoes and uniforms for them.He also paid for his teammates' uniforms and bills at the 1996 AFCON. https://t.co/dunNNv49VL

Weah is the only player ever to hold the African Footballer of the Year and World Footballer of the Year awards simultaneously. He has gone into politics since his retirement and is presently the president of Liberia.


#1 Alfredo Di Stefano

Alfredo Di Stefano remains one of the all-time greats in football history
Alfredo Di Stefano remains one of the all-time greats in football history

Despite appearing for three different national teams, Alfredo Di Stefano did not appear in a single edition of the FIFA World Cup. The Real Madrid legend played for Argentina, Colombia and Spain.

Di Stefano got his first taste of international football in 1947 when he played for his native Argentina. He scored six goals in six appearances to help them win the Copa America. Argentina withdrew from the 1950 FIFA World Cup, thus depriving Di Stefano of an appearance. The crisis that rocked Argentinean football saw the forward move to Colombia, where he played four unofficial matches.

Upon resolution of the crisis in Argentina, Di Stefano was banned from playing for the country because of his matches for Colombia. This forced him to take up Spanish citizenship. He featured for them as they missed out on the 1958 FIFA World Cup. He helped the country qualify for the 1962 edition of the football Mundial aged 36 but an injury saw him miss out on the competition. He retired from international football immediately after the FIFA World Cup.


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Edited by Puranjay Dixit
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