Messi, Ronaldo & the 20 best players to never win World Cup

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Today's stars travel to Russia hoping to seal a place among the greats, but many icons never get to taste that success. Here are some notable names

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    #19 Oliver Kahn | Germany

    One of the goalkeepers of his generation, the German conceded just one goal on the way to the 2002 World Cup final, but he was undone by one of the best strikers the game has ever seen in Ronaldo as his double fired Brazil to victory. Four years later, he was relegated to a backup role for Jens Lehmann but helped secure third place when he lined up in the win against Portugal.
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    #18 Wayne Rooney | England

    Although the striker ended his international career as England's all-time top scorer, his time with the Three Lions will go down for many as one of unfulfilled potential. He had controversial moments in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups as England continued to underwhelm.

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    #17 Ryan Giggs | Wales

    The Welsh winger had a glorious career at Manchester United, becoming a world-renowned figure in Sir Alex Ferguson’s team. But despite his 64 appearances for his national team, he never featured at a World Cup as they have not qualified for the finals since 1958.
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    #16 Michael Laudrup | Denmark

    A glorious club career took him to Juventus, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax, winning league titles with each. He was important for Denmark in the 1986 World Cup until the early 1990s when a dispute with the coach saw him quit the team just before they went on to win Euro 92. He returned to help them to Confederations Cup success three years later. In 1998, he was part of the side that reached the quarter-final of the World Cup, losing to Brazil.

  5. #15 Roberto Baggio | Italy

    He was famously known as the Divine Ponytail, until he became known as the man who sent a penalty blaring over the bar in the shootout against Brazil in the 1994 World Cup final.

    The clinical striker won the Silver Ball and impressed at two more World Cups, but that moment goes down as the defining one of an excellent career.

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    #14 Eric Cantona | France

    The enigmatic forward collected league and cup winners’ medals all the way through his career, cementing his legend at Manchester United. He never got the chance to feature at the World Cup, though, as France did not qualify in 1994 and his national career ended with suspension a year later. He had retired from the game by the time France hosted and won the tournament in 1998.

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    #13 Raul | Spain

    Spain’s golden age came too late for one of their finest strikers. Raul won a host of national and continental titles at Real Madrid and continued to collect medals in Germany, Qatar and United States but glory on the international stage eluded him. Two years after his retirement, Spain won the European Championship in the first of their magnificent hat-trick.

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    #12 Zlatan Ibrahimovic | Sweden

    If even God himself cannot win a World Cup, then there must be no shame to it. The Swedish star has shown his superhuman abilities in Netherlands, Italy, Spain, France, England and has taken them to the United States, but two quarter-finals at the global showpiece were as good as it got at the World Cup. The striker suggested he could return to the national team ahead of the tournament in Russia, but he will not make it.  

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    #11 Karl-Heinz Rummenigge | Germany

    He lost two World Cup finals as captain with West Germany as they succumbed to Italy in 1982 and Argentina in 1986, scoring against the latter. As a pivotal part of a great Bayern Munich team, however, he had already won everything there was to win in Germany and two Ballons d’Or.
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    #10 Michel Platini | France

    He was the star of the show with nine goals as France won Euro 84 on home soil, but was unable to follow it up at the World Cup two years later as they were forced to settle for third place.

    The attacking midfielder won league titles with Nancy (Ligue 2), Saint-Etienne and Juventus, going on to win three Ballons d’Or along the way.

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    #9 Paolo Maldini | Italy

    He won it all at club level in a prestigious era at AC Milan, racking up seven Serie A and five European titles among many others. While he was a pivotal member of Italy sides that reached the finals of the 1994 World Cup and 2000 European Championship, he was never able to clinch success with the national team.
     

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    #8 Marco van Basten | Netherlands

    The Dutchman scored one of the most famous goals of all-time with his incredible volley in the Euro 88 final against the Soviet Union but Netherlands’ World Cup campaign two years later did not go so well, as they crashed out at the second round. He did, however, conquer Europe, Italy and Netherlands at club level, packing many wonderful moments into a brief career.

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    #7 Zico | Brazil

    It’s hard to believe that one of Brazil’s best ever players in one of the nation’s greatest ever sides could have failed to win the World Cup, but that was the case for former attacking midfielder Zico.

    The Flamengo hero featured in the competition three times with the Selecao but could not better a third place finish. Renowned for his goals and exceptional passes, Zico remains a world-renowned figure today.

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    #6 Eusebio | Portugal

    The forward was the winner of the Ballon d'Or in 1965 and the talisman of a phenomenal Benfica side that won 11 Primeira Liga titles and the European Cup in 1962. He reached the scored a late penalty in the 1966 World Cup semi-final against England but Portugal could not spark a come-back against the eventual winners. He then converted another penalty as they beat the Soviet Union to third place.
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    #5 Ferenc Puskas | Hungary

    In a legendary eight-year spell at Real Madrid, Puskas won three European cups and five league titles. He was an icon at national team level as the captain and star of a superb Hungary team and won the Golden Ball as they reached the 1954 World Cup final, losing to West Germany.
     
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    #4 Alfredo Di Stefano | Argentina, Colombia, Spain

    Di Stefano was so good that he didn’t just win the Ballon d’Or, he won the Super Ballon d’Or – an award France Football created just for him. The Buenos Aires-born forward was a sensation and the talisman of a Real Madrid side that won five European Cups, including the 7-3 final win over Eintracht Frankfurt in front of a 127,000 crowd at Hampden Park. Furthermore, he didn’t just represent one international side, he got caps for Argentina, Colombia and Spain, but he never got his hands on the world title.
     
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    #3 Johan Cruyff | Netherlands

    The revolutionary figure captained Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final and won the penalty which allowed them to take a two-minute lead against West Germany, but fell behind by half-time and could not recover.

    By then, Cruyff had already won the European Cup three times in a row with Ajax and his genius would spread far and wide as he and Michels went from the Dutch capital, to the World Cup and then Barcelona. Although the Dutch went on to reach the final four years later, losing to hosts Argentina in extra-time, Cruyff was absent from the tournament.

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    #2 Cristiano Ronaldo | Portugal

    The 32-year-old trophy magnet has been the dominant force in Europe in recent years. He is targeting a third straight Champions League crown with Real Madrid and will then turn his attention to building on Portugal’s Euro 2016 victory by guiding his country to a first world title.

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    #1 Lionel Messi | Argentina

    The missing piece of an otherwise impeccable career, many still argue that Messi must win the World Cup to be named the best player the global game has ever seen.
    For all his club success, the forward has not won an international title since the 2008 Olympics triumph. After successive near-misses in the Copa America and a World Cup final loss, he will be hoping to enhance his status this summer.