Winning the world cup is the dream of every footballer since the inception of his career. Every four years many of those players participate in the FIFA World Cup while some propel their national teams to win the greatest prize in international football and fulfill their dream, some keep trying to no avail.
However, it is not fair to forget the ones who have had only despair at the highest level of international football - the FIFA World Cup. There has been many prolific players who never laid their hands on the world cup trophy. Here are the top five players who never won a world cup. (Considering only players that have retired from international football)
#5 Michele Platini
Platini is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time and his three Ballon d'Or wins in three consecutive years (1983, 1984, 1985) is enough to validate the claim. In his 72 appearances for France as an Attacking Midfielder, he scored 41 goals.
Platini's first world cup in 1978 ended in a first round exit losing to Italy and hosts Argentina, who went on to win the tournament. In 1982, defying expectations, Platini's French side qualified for the semifinals against West Germany in Seville.
Here, many would agree that Platini's side was unfairly robbed of a chance to proceed in the tournament.
As the German goalkeeper, Harald Schumacher had infamously collided with Patrick Battiston, leaving him unconscious, the referee did not give them a penalty. Which resulted in the game being tied 3-3 after extra time and eventually France losing on penalties.
Platini's final world cup came in 1986 Mexico. Where he scored once against defending champions Italy and once against Brazil but also infamously sent one over the bar in the penalty shootout with the Brazilians which the French eventually won. However, for the second time in a row, they lost in the semifinals to West Germany.
Platini's career had it all - success at club level, success at the Euro '84 but it lacked the crowning jewel, the World Cup. Nevertheless, that leaves him no less of a player.
#4 Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff, the most famous advocate of the philosophy of Total Football, is regarded as one of the best footballers to ever grace the pitch and almost nobody would deny that. Like Platini, Cruyff was also awarded the Ballon d'Or thrice in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
Cruyff in his 48 appearances as an Attacking Midfielder for the Netherlands, scored 33 times. With Cruyff leading the attack, the Oranje took 'Total Football' to the World Cup in 1974.
They dominated every game and reached the finals, in the process, knocking out Argentina 4-0, where Cruyff scored twice, East Germany 2-0, and defending champions Brazil 2-0, where Cruyff scored once again.
He would have got the first goal of the final if not for a penalty-yielding tackle inside the box that ultimately led to a Dutch goal by Johan Neeskens.
The World Cup, however, went to West Germany as they won 2-1 and Cruyff, one of the greatest players ever, and the Oranje, one of the greatest teams ever were left without a World Cup. Cruyff won the Golden Ball for his performance throughout the tournament.
Zico was an Attacking Midfielder from Brazil. The small and slender attacker was known for his dribbling skills and his ingenious playmaking abilities.
Eighth in the list of 100 best players of the century, Zico was on top of his game in the late 70s and early 80s. Surprisingly, Zico never won a Ballon d'Or but rarely would a follower of the beautiful game deny that he is one of the greatest playmakers and free kick specialists to have ever played the game.
Zico got three shots at the World Cup. His first chance came in 1978 where the Brazilian team were knocked out in the semifinal and won the third-place playoff to end up as bronze medalists.
In 1982, one of the greatest Brazilian squad featuring Zico crashed out of the World Cup when they lost the final match of the second round group stage 3-2 to Paolo Rossi's Italy who went on to become champions.
Finally, in 1986, an injured Zico missed a regular time penalty against France at the quarterfinals and then Socrates missed another spot kick in the tiebreakers to crash out of the tournament.
Thus, the elegant Zico never got to lay his hands on the World Cup.
Eusebio, (arguably) the greatest Portuguese player is also known as the 'Black Panther' was a striker who scored 41 goals in 64 appearances for Portugal. He won the Ballon d'Or award for the European Footballer of the year in 1965.
He led Portugal to the third place in the 1966 World Cup - in the process giving the world, one of the greatest comeback performances as Portugal came back to win 5-3 from 3-0 down against North Korea, Eusebio scored four consecutive goals to bring Portugal back. He also scored twice to defeat defending champions Brazil in the group stage.
Portugal eventually lost to England in the semifinal match where Eusebio scored their only goal from the spot to lose 2-1 to England. The game is known as the Game of Tears in Portugal.
Eusebio was one of the greatest strikers who never won the world cup.
#1 Ferenc Puskas
The prolific forward scored 84 goals in 85 international matches for Hungary. And was recognised as the top goal scorer of the 20th century.
In the 1954 tournament, he scored four goals in the three matches that he played and was awarded the title of the player of the tournament. He scored twice in Hungary's 9-0 drubbing of South Korea and then once in their 8-3 win over West Germany in the Group stage.
However, Puskas' Hungary then went on to lose the finals 2-3 against West Germany. Thus, one of the most dangerous strikers of all time with all his speed and skills could not win the World Cup.