Champions League, Soccer, Uncategorized

Best XI To Never Win the Champions League

As Mo Salah, Virgil Van Dijk and co. will now finish their careers with Champions League medals, some great players have graced the Champions League without winning it. Here we pick the best players to never win the competition (1992/93 onwards). We have not included players who are still active in the competition which means that Gianluigi Buffon cannot be picked. Also, we will not include players who won the old European Cup and they must have played in the Champions League era.

GK: Jens Lehmann

The two time UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year will be remembered for his sending off in the 2006 Champions League final which Barcelona eventually won 2-1. The German international undoubtedly enjoyed the greatest goalkeeping campaign in the Champions League in the 2005-06 season as Arsenal went a record 10 games without conceding a goal. That saw him go 853 minutes without the ball ending up in his net which is a record to this day. He maintained that record in the final as Manuel Almunia was between the sticks when Barcelona struck twice. Lehmann never got as close to Champions League success again with many Arsenal fans wondering what could have been if he did not get sent off in that final.

Jens Lehmann
Seeing Red. Jens Lehmann’s sending off left Arsenal fans wondering what could have been. Photo By: EPA.

RB: Lilian Thuram

One of the best defenders of his generation, Thuram missed out on Champions League glory with Juventus and Barcelona. A world cup winner who is a record appearance holder for France, he surprisingly ended his career without lifting Europe’s biggest club trophy. He was part of the Juventus side that lost the 2003 Champions League final to a star studded AC Milan side on penalties. He joined Barcelona in 2006 after the Calciopoli scandal saw Juventus relegated to Serie B. He left the club and retired in 2008 before they won the Champions League the year after.

Lilian Thuram
Lilian Thuram was one of France’s finest defenders. Photo by Getty Images/

CB: Laurent Blanc

Le Président was never able to claim the Champions League during a 20 year career which saw him win the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championships alongside the Premier League with Man United. Despite playing for Barcelona, Inter Milan and United, he failed to claim victory in the tournament. The closest he came was when the Red Devils reached the semi finals in the 2001/2002 season when they were defeated by Bayer Leverkusen on away goals. He retired the following season but he did so without lifting the ultimate honour in club football.

Laurent Blanc
Laurent Blanc never claimed Champions League glory. Photo via: www/101greatgoals.com.

CB: Fabio Cannavaro

The great Italian defender surprisingly never claimed the Champions League despite playing with Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid. He captained Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 and helped his side concede only two goals during the whole tournament. Cannavaro claimed the Ballon d’Or the same year but despite this he never reached the final of this competition. He was part of the Inter Milan team that lost to bitter rivals AC Milan on away goals in the semi finals in 2003. It is simply unbelievable that Djimi Traore has won a Champions League while Cannavaro has not.

Fabio Cannavaro
Despite playing for Real Madrid and Juventus Cannavaro never won a Champions League winners medal. Photo By: Getty/John Walton.

LB: Gianluca Zambrotta

The 98 times Italian international failed to win the Champions League despite playing with clubs such as Barcelona, Juventus and AC Milan. Zambrotta played over 200 games for Juventus but he was another member of the side which lost the final to AC Milan in 2003. He reached the semi final with Barcelona in 2009 when they lost 1-0 to Man United on aggregate. Zambrotta successfully kept Cristiano Ronaldo quiet during the second leg but it was his poor clearance which led to Paul Scholes’ goal. A consistent player who is often overlooked for lists such as this, Zambrotta was an excellent defender but that did not translate to Champions League success.

CM:Patrick Vieira

The French international was one of the best midfielders of his generation but that did not translate itself in to Champions League success. He left Arsenal in 2005 but unlike Thierry Henry his move did not result in winning the competition. In fact the Gunners reached the final the year after he left while he departed Inter Milan in January 2010 befoe they won the competition that season. He was not eligible for a medal. Amazingly he never progressed beyond the quarter final stage of the competition for any team he played.

Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira left Inter Milan six months before they win the Champions League in 2010. Photo By: Getty.

CM: Pavel Nedved

Nothing sums up the highs and lows of football better than Pavel Nedved in the 2003 Champions League semi-final between Juventus and Liverpool. The Czech Republic player scored a wonderful goal to help send The Old Lady in to the final but unfortunately for him a needless foul on Steve McManaman saw him receive a booking which ruled him out of the final. Juventus ended up suffering an agonising defeat on penalties to AC Milan with many wondering would Nedved’s presence have helped Juventus beat their Italian rivals. He did win the Ballon d’Or that season but the devastation remained for the rest of his career.

Pavel Nedved
Pavel Nedved missed the 2003 final through suspension. Photo By: Reuteurs.

CM: Lothar Matthaus

This player came closer than anybody on this list to claim the Champions League crown. Matthaus was part of the Bayern Munich side which came agonisingly close to winning the 1999 final before Man United scored twice in injury time to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Matthaus was an excellent box to box midfielder in his prime before he became a sweeper later in his career. The World Cup winner with West Germany was one of the best players in his era. He was 38 years old when he played in that final and it proved to be his final opportunity to claim a title that his talent deserved.

ST: Roberto Baggio

One of the most gifted players to grace the game, Baggio never claimed the Champions League title despite wreaking havoc in Italy and on the international stage. He helped Inter Milan qualify for the Champions League in the 1998-1999 season before they were defeated by eventual champions Man United. Baggio was in his prime before the introduction of the Champions League but for a player of his talent to never come close to winning the trophy is a shame.

Roberto Baggio
Roberto Baggio (right) won the Ballon d’Or in 1993, never claimed a Champions League winners medal. Photo By: EPA.

ST: Gabriel Batistuta

A player whose trophy haul did not match his obvious talent. Batistuta was among the most feared strikers in the world in the 1990s as he terrorised defences with Fiorentina and Argentina. He was 30 before he made his debut in the competition while his goals against Arsenal and Man United will never be forgotten. For those who had not seen him score hat tricks in the 1994 and 1998 World Cup he did not disappoint. Batistuta was one of the most feared strikers of his generation but he did not finish his career with the medals that his talent deserved.

ST: Ronaldo

Quite simply one of the greatest players of all time. The Brazilian failed to win the Champions League despite playing with PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. He famously scored a hat trick for Real Madrid against Man United in the 2003 Champions League before he helped them beat Juventus 2-1 in the first leg of the semi final, scoring the first goal. He limped off in the second leg as injuries began to take their toll. Juventus beat them to reach the final before the Galacticos were aiming for a treble the following season but lost to Monaco in the quarter finals with the Brazilian injured for the tie. One of the all time great players who unfortunately finds himself without a Champions League winners medal.

Ronaldo
Ronaldo is one of the all time great players. Photo By: Bru Garcia.

Honourable Mentions: Jose Francisco Molina, Roberto Ayala, Amadeo Carboni, Phillip Cocu, Michael Ballack, Denis Bergkamp, Eric Cantona, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Francesco Totti,

 

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Uncategorized

Talking Points as Real Madrid make history while its pain for Karius, Klopp and co.

Real Madrid won their third Champions league final in a row as Zinedine Zidane’s side made history while it was heartbreak for Karius, Salah and everyone involved in Liverpool. Here I discuss the talking points from the memorable night in Kiev.

Klopp’s failure to address goalkeeping position come backs to bite him

Jurgen Klopp has been loyal to his players but his loyalty to Loris Karius came back to bite him. Neither Simon Mignolet or Karius have impressed and both are prone to committing errors. Liverpool decided not to move for Jordan Pickford last summer and one wonders whether he would have committed the same errors that Karius did. Klopp now knows that he needs a new goalkeeper but unfortunately for him he learnt the hard way.

Loris Karius v Real Madrid
Karius feels the pain. Photo by: AP/Darko Vojinovic.

Ramos shows the good, the bad and the ugly

Sergio Ramos was central to Real Madrid’s victory as he captained Real Madrid to their third Champions League title in a row. He tussled with Mo Salah which lead to the Liverpool star suffering a dislocated shoulder. He was then caught giving Karius an elbow to the face in hte 47th minute. He lead the defence and made a number of vital interventions as he lead from the front. Many people won’t be pleased with his antics but there is no denying that he is crucial to the Madrid team.

Sergio Ramos v Liverpool
Sergio Ramos and Mo Salah tangle. Photo by: ATP/Efrem Lutasky

Bale showcases his worth

Gareth Bale proved the difference as he scored one of the great Champions League before his rasping shot slipped through Karius’ grip. He was on the pitch two minutes and five seconds when he struck his awe inspiring bicycle kick. In his post fight interview, he was clearly frustrated with his lack of starting time and this has lead to fresh rumours of a move away from Spain. He will not be short of interest if he decides his future is away from the Bernabeu.

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final
Is this the greatest goal in a Champions League final?

Real’s bench is what Liverpool must strive for

Liverpool have enjoyed a fantastic Campions League campaign but they suffered from a lack of squad depth. The injury to Mo Salah would hurt any team but they did not have a Gareth Bale or Marco Asensio to replace him. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s powerful runs from midfield were missed while Adam Lallana and Emre Can were not fully fit. SOme new additions to Liverpool’s squad can help them challenge for domestic and European glory.

Zidane must go down as one of the great managers in this competition

Zinedine Zidane has become the first manager to win the Champions League/European Cup in three consecutive seasons while he is only the third manager, alongside Bob Paisley and Carlo Ancellotti to win 3 European titles. Although he has an expensive squad, he has helped Real to develop a strong squad with competition for places.

He has been unafraid to drop Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro during their run to the final. Whether he wins more Europen tites with Madrid, he must be considered among the great European managers.

Znedine Zidane as Real Madrid manager
All smiles for Zidane as he celebrates further glory. Photo via: Sky Sports
Uncategorized

Premier League Final Gameweek Round Up – Salah seals historic season, hope for Arsenal and Leicester’s potential

The final week of Premier League fixtures saw plenty of goals, action and excitement as there were many talking points.

Salah puts the seal on a brilliant season

Mo Salah helped Liverpool to seal a Champions League place after he scored the opening goal in Liverpool’s 4-0 win against Brighton. His 32nd goal placed him two clear of Harry Kane. His goal tally is a record for any player in a 38 game season in England. He beat Luis Suarez, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo. He has had an amazing season.

England strikers look to be firing at the right time

Spurs and Leicester played out an entertaining 5-4 victory as Harry Kane scored the winner. Kane and Jamie Vardy were arguably the two best players on the pitch s they tormented the opposition defences. Marcus Rashford scored for Man United in their 1-0 victory against Watford. Rashford has been involved in 17 goals in his 18 starts this season. Gareth Southgate will hope their form lasts to the World Cup.

Fletcher should have played more for Stoke

Stoke got their first win in 14 games after a 2-1 win against Swansea. Darren Fletcher replced Joe Allen after 8 minutes. He made the most successful passes of anyone on the pitch and he helped Stoke protect a lead, something they have been very poor at.

Hope for Arsenal

Arsenal secured their first away win in 2018 in Arsene Wenger’s final ever game as manager of Arsenal. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang scored the only goal and he now has 10 goals and four assists in 13 games. He was Wenger’s last signing and may be the most important player for the next manager. The new manager will need to sort the defensive issues that have dogged Arsenal but if Aubameyang continues this form next season then he can propel Arsenal forward.

Arsenal v Burnley
Arsenal celebrate against Burnley. Will they have reason to cheer next season? Photo via: http://www.arsenal.com

We may never see a season like Man City’s

Man City’s 1-0 victory against Southampton helped to break more records in their incredible season. Gabriel Jesus’ late goal meant that Pep Guardiola’s side are the first team to reach the 100 point barrier. They also have:

  • Most Goals Scored (106 goals, beats 103 scored by Chelsea in 2009/10).
  • Most Wins (32 wins, beat 30 wins by Chelsea in 2016/17).
  • Most Away Wins (16 wins, beats Chelsea’s 15 wins in 2004/05).
  • Most Away Points (50 points, beats 48 by Chelsea in 2004/05).
  • Goal Difference (+79, beats +71 held by Chelsea in 2009/10).
  • Points Ahead of Second (19 points ahead of United).
  • Consecutive Premier League Wins (18 wins in a row).
Man City Premier League Champions
Man City Premier League Champions. Source via: Vivaronews