The feeling of being a Champions League winner is quite extraordinary. There are so many trophies to contest for in Europe yet the most skillful footballers weigh their success with a Champions League medal. The fans know it and the players do too. To ensure one’s status among the best in the game, a Champions League medal is considered necessary.
For this reason, every year clubs contest fiercely as if they will not have another Champions League to contest for. The result? It only makes the Champions League better, the fans crazier and the players hungrier. Over the years, some legends of the game have absolutely lit up the stage of Europe’s most prestigious competition and won it deservedly.
The pursuit of the Champions League title never gets dull
But there are those as well who have cemented their status as modern-day greats without a Champions League medal. Though their journey is not yet over and they compete with the hope that maybe, just maybe this will be their year. The following is a list of the greatest players contesting for the 2021-22 Champions League, but are yet to claim the prestigious winners' medal:
It has taken some time, but the fact that Marquinhos is hugely underrated has started to sit well with football fans around Europe. For a few years now, Marquinhos has been integral to both Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain. He has been such a significant figure for the French club that his teammates call him Kaiser Franz, after Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer, one of the greatest defenders in football.
The Brazilian is a natural centre-back but has also adapted brilliantly to the central defensive midfield role at PSG on certain occasions. Thomas Tuchel rated him highly when he was in charge of the Ligue 1 side. In 2020, Marquinhos didn’t make it to the FIFA FIF Pro Team of the Year which was amusing and unconvincing for his manager.
Tuchel after a game against Lille in December 2020 said:
"Tonight, Marquinhos is Ballon d'Or level. I don't understand his absence in the FIFA XI of the year."
Fast forward to 2021, Marquinhos captains a dressing room including Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos and Gini Wijnaldum, all experienced customers when it comes to winning the Champions League. Surely this has to be the year when the eternal wait comes to an end for PSG and Marquinhos.
#6 Marco Reus
If Marco Reus had any less sentiment towards Borussia Dortmund and decided to give up on being a one-club man, he could have bagged some serious honors. But football is a game of emotion and there is no doubting that the Dortmund fan base absolutely adores their captain. In his 218 appearances for the Black and Yellows, Reus has netted a century of goals and counting.
Reus’ status as a club legend has been strengthened due to the fact that fellow teammates who had similar potential left the club for Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. He could have followed the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and Mario Gotze to the Bavarians but Reus only wanted to challenge for the trophy with Dortmund.
It is unfortunate that the Dortmund star is yet to win not only the Champions League trophy but also hasn’t won a Bundesliga title. He came agonizingly close to winning the Champions League in the 2012-13 season as Dortmund finished runners-up to Bayern.
Time and again Reus has emerged as a true leader on and off the pitch. Although the only silverware he’s won are the German Cup (DFB-Pokal) twice and the German Super Cup thrice, his individual quality never fails to amuse.
Marco Reus made the Bundesliga Team of the Season five times in a row. He was also chosen as the Bundesliga Player of the Year on three occasions. At 32, Reus is still going strong and looking to keep himself injury-free this season by taking a break from his national side.
New manager Marco Rose likes to play attacking and free-flowing football at Dortmund. Erling Haaland is stacking goals for fun. It wouldn't be wrong for Marco Reus to hope for a Champions League miracle.
#5 Jan Oblak
That Jan Oblak is the best goalkeeper in the world is a contentious claim. The standard of guarding the goal in Europe has been pretty high. With Ederson, Alisson Becker, Manuel Neuer, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Edouard Mendy and others around, taking a side is not as easy as it seems.
The Atletico Madrid goalkeeper has a habit of defying norms and logic and can often be seen pulling out some unreal saves.
He also reached the milestone of a century of clean sheets faster than any other keeper in La Liga. There is no doubting that Oblak is one of the first names on the teamsheet for Atletico.
The Slovenia captain has been with Los Rojiblancos since 2014. He came closest to winning the trophy in 2015-16 when Atletico lost to their city rivals Real Madrid. Oblak has made the cut to the Champions League team of the season thrice.
Last season when Atletico were crowned the Champions of La Liga, Oblak was declared the Player of the Season in the Spanish top-flight. He has also been awarded the La Liga Best goalkeeper award four times.
Diego Simeone’s defensive style of play is sometimes criticized as it hasn’t worked on the big stage in the Champions League. However, the start to this season’s campaign has been pretty eventful for Los Rojiblancos as they have been lucky to win a few games deep in injury time.
The Madrid side will hope that luck favors them and in turn Oblak will pick up his first Champions League trophy.