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Rediff.com  » Sports » Football legends... but no Champions League medal to show

Football legends... but no Champions League medal to show

Last updated on: May 21, 2012 06:41 IST

Robben's Bayern finished second best twice

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Bikash Mohapatra takes a look at a few legends of the modern game who won titles galore but failed to win the competition that matters the most in club football.

Petr Cech's save of Arjen Robben's penalty in extra-time in the Champions League final in Munich was a defining moment.

Chelsea, having got a lifeline as a result, not only went on to win their maiden title (on penalties) but also consigned the German powerhouse to their fifth defeat in the final of the competition, on this occasion in front of home fans.

As regards Robben, he turned from hero to villain.

The Dutchman's spectacular form had played a crucial role in Bayern's progress to the title decider. In fact, it was his goal at the Santiago Bernebeu in the semi-finals last month that proved decisive in the final analysis.

It ensured the match against Real Madrid went to penalties, which went in the German giant's favour with Robben being among those who converted successfully.

However, at the Allianz Arena on Saturday the script changed completely. Chelsea's win ensured Robben continued to remain a player for whom Champions League glory has remained elusive.

Here are some legends who won many titles but failed to win the competition that matters the most in club football.

Arjen Robben

(Prominent clubs: PSV Eindhoven, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich)

Expectedly, Robben is the one we will start with.

The 28-year-old has won domestic titles in four countries – the Netherlands (with PSV Eindhoven in 2003), England (with Chelsea in 2005-06), Spain (with Real Madrid in 2008) and Germany (with Bayern in 2010).

He was also part of sides that succeeded in the domestic cup competitions. Besides, there have been numerous individual honours.

However, when it comes to the Champions League, Robben hasn't been as fortunate.

Bayern's loss in Munich on Saturday was the second instance in the last three years when the Dutchman came tantalizing close to a winner's medal in the competition. He was also part of Louis Van Gaal's squad that finished second best to Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan in the 2010 final.

Earlier, while playing for Chelsea he also made it to the semi-finals against Liverpool, only to see his club lose out on penalties.

Robben was guilty on that occasion as well, his penalty being saved by Pepe Reina.

With age on his side the Dutchman might get more opportunities at Champions League glory but at the moment the biggest honour at the club level remains elusive.


Image: Arjen Robben of Bayern Muenchen looks dejected after their defeat in the UEFA Champions League Final between FC Bayern Muenchen and Chelsea at the Fussball Arena M nchen on May 19, 2012
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

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'This does not diminish my career'

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic

(Prominent clubs: Ajax, Juventus, Internazionale, Barcelona, AC Milan)

When AC Milan lost to Barcelona in the quarter-finals of this year's competition, it was another opportunity lost for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Moreover, despite the Swede finishing atop the scoring charts, Milan lost out their Serie A title to rivals Juventus.

Ibrahimovic had been on a streak of eight straight league wins in three different countries and with five different clubs, including the stripped titles with Juventus.

The 30-year-old, who started his career at Swedish club Malmo, has overall won nine league titles – twice with Ajax (in 2002, 2004), twice with Juventus (2005-06, both revoked), thrice with Inter (2007-09), once with Barcelona (2010) and so far one with Milan (2011).

Besides, he was part of many cup-winning teams and also has in his cabinet an UEFA Super Cup medal (2009) and a FIFA Club World Cup (also 2009) medal as well.

However, when it comes to the premier club competition, Ibrahimovic hasn't been as fortunate.

In 2009, he left Inter to join Barcelona, only to see his former club win the title, beating Barca en route. In fact, the Swede has missed so many opportunities that he has almost given up on the possibility of winning the Champions League.

"Many years ago the Champions League was my goal to win at all costs," Ibrahimovic was quoted as saying earlier this year. "But if you blow it up into something gigantic or make it too important, you'll end up never winning it.

"Now I aim to win every trophy I can. If I win, good. If I don't win, I don't win. And this does not diminish my career."


Image: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan reacts during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between AC Milan and Barcelona at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on March 28, 2012 in Milan
Photographs: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

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The only prize missing from Ronaldo's impressive cabinet

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Ronaldo

(Prominent clubs: PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Internazionale, Real Madrid)

One of the best footballers ever, Ronaldo enjoyed a glorious career in Europe.

From winning the now defunct Cup Winners' Cup with Barcelona (in 1997) to winning the UEFA Cup with Inter (in 1998), the Brazilian also was won a plethora of domestic trophies.

Besides, he had tremendous success at the international level, winning the FIFA World Cup with Brazil on two occasions (1994, 2002), the Copa America twice (1997, 1999) and the Confederations Cup in 1997.

Also, Ronaldo is one of only three men, along with Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi, to have won the FIFA Player of the Year award on three occasions. Moreover, he is the highest goalscorer in the history of the World Cup (15 goals) and is also the only player to have won the World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Boot in separate tournaments.

However, the only thing missing from his impressive cabinet is a Champions League winner's medal.


Image: Real Madrid's Ronaldo slides on the ground after missing a shot during a La Liga match at The Bernabeu, on October 31, 2004 in Madrid
Photographs: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

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No titles for Nistelrooy despite all his scoring records

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Ruud van Nistelrooy

(Prominent clubs: PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Real Madrid)

Ruud van Nistelrooy's case is sheer irony.

The Dutchman, who recently announced his retirement from football, was the top scorer in the Champions League on three occasions (2002, 2003 and 2005).

Besides, with 60 goals, he is one of the all-time top scorers in the competition.

Van Nistelrooy, for his goal-scoring prowess, won five league titles in three countries – the Netherlands (with PSV in 2000-01), England (with Man United in 2003) and Spain (with Real in 2007-08) and many cup competitions.

However, when it came to the Champions League, the Dutchman never came close to winning it, this despite all his scoring records.


Image: Real Madrid's Ruud van Nistelrooy prior to the start of the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Real Madrid and BATE Borisov at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium on September 17, 2008 in Madrid, Spain. Real Madrid won the match 2-0
Photographs: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

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Bergkamp won everything in Europe save...

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Dennis Bergkamp

(Prominent clubs: Ajax, Internazionale, Arsenal)

His career began with success at the European stage.

Well, literally!

Ajax coach Johan Cruyff used Dennis Bergkamp as a substitute against Lokomotive Leipzig in the final of the now defunct European Cup Winners Cup in 1987.

The Amsterdam club went on win the final.

Bergkamp enjoyed tremendous success with Ajax, winning the league in 1990, the KNVB Cup twice (in 1987 and 1993) and the UEFA Cup in 1992.

He moved to Internazionale thereafter winning a second UEFA Cup with the Italian club in 1994, and finishing as the competition's joint top scorer with eight goals.

A move to Arsenal followed and the Dutchman was part of the Gunners squad that created history under manager Arsene Wenger.

Bergkamp won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups during his time with the London club besides earning three Community Shield medals as well.

However, the only occasion Arsenal made it to the final of the Champions League (in 2006) in the period, they witnessed Frank Rijkaard's Barcelona scoring twice towards the end to end up winners.

Bergkamp was an unused substitute in that final. A career that begun with success in Europe ended with the failure at winning the biggest club competition in the continent.


Image: Dennis Bergkamp of Arsenal during the Barclays Premiership match between Arsenal and Middlesbrough at Highbury on August 22, 2004 in London
Photographs: Phil Cole/Getty Images

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Nedved's Juventus fell short in the 2003 final

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Pavel Nedved

(Prominent clubs: Sparta Prague, Lazio, Juventus)

An important member of the Czech squad that reached the Euro Championships final in 1996, Pavel Nedved is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders ever.

The 39-year-old was awarded the prestigious Ballon d'Or in 2003.

Nedved's club career took off at Sparta Prague where he won both the domestic league and cup titles.

A move to Lazio in 1996 marked the beginning of a prolific spell for the Czech. He played 204 games for the Roman club, scoring 54 goals in all competitions.

Nedved was the pivot around whom Sven Goran Eriksson's side revolved. He helped Lazio to their first Serie A title in 26 years in 2000, while also playing an instrumental role in an Italian Cup (1998) and two Super Cup triumphs.

In Europe, his Lazio side finished second best (to Inter Milan) in the 1998 UEFA cup before winning the last ever UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1999, with Nedved scoring the last ever goal of the tournament (against Real Mallorca).

In 2001, he moved to Juventus as a replacement for Zinedine Zidane, and played a significant role in ensuring the Turin side successive domestic titles in 2002-03.

Nedved was also crucial in Juventus's run to the Champions League final in 2003. However, a booking in the semi-final – for a rough tackle on Real Madrid's Steve McManaman – meant he was forced to sit out the final and watch his club lose.

Though the Czech won the European Footballer of the Year award that year, he never had another shot at biggest prize in club football.


Image: Pavel Nedved of Juventus runs with the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Juventus and Real Madrid at the Stadio Olimpico on October 21, 2008 in Turin, Italy
Photographs: Hamish Blair/Getty Images

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Champions League glory remained elusive for the Italian

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Fabio Cannavaro

(Prominent clubs: Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus, Real Madrid)

Fabio Cannavaro, most notably, captained Italy to the World Cup title in 2006. For his efforts in the tournament, he was named the FIFA World Player of the Year that year, making him the first, and thus far, only defender to win the coveted award.

At the club level, the Italian won the 1999 UEFA Cup, a precursor of the Europa League, as well as two Italian Cups.

After a high profile transfer to Spain, Cannavaro helped Real Madrid win successive Primera Liga titles in 2007-08.

However, Champions League glory remained elusive for the Italian.

He did reach the semi-finals of the 2002 edition as an Inter player but that was just about it.


Image: Fabio Cannavaro of Real Madrid reacts during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on May 2, 2009 in Madrid, Spain. Barcelona won the match 6-2
Photographs: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

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Buffon came tantalizingly close to winning it in 2003

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Gianluigi Buffon

(Prominent clubs: Parma, Juventus)

Recognised as one of the best goalkeepers in the business, Gianluigi Buffon was part of Italy's World Cup-winning squad in 2006.

The Italian has had an equally successful club career as well, having been named the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year a record eight times.

Starting out with Parma, Buffon won the Italian Cup and Italian Super Cup in 1999 before helping his club to the UEFA Cup title that year.

His success with Parma earned him a transfer to Juventus in summer of 2001. During his time in Turin, the 34-year-old has won three scudettis (2002-03, 2012), one Serie B (2007) – following Juve's relegation as a result of the match-fixing scandal and two Italian Super Cups (2002-03).

However, Champions League success still eludes the mercurial keeper.

Buffon came tantalizingly close to winning the title in his second season with Juventus, when the club made it to the final – against another Italian side AC Milan – in Manchester.

However, the Turin club lost the final in a penalty shoot-out, despite Buffon saving the efforts by Clarence Seedorf and Kakha Kaladze.

His opposite number on the day, Dida, made three saves – those of David Trezeguet, Marcelo Zalayeta and Paolo Montero – and Buffon failed to deny Andriy Shevchenko as Milan won their sixth trophy.


Image: Gianluigi Buffon of Juventus in action during the Serie A match between US Lecce and Juventus FC at Stadio Via del Mare on January 8, 2012 in Lecce, Italy
Photographs: Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

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The only trophy missing from Blanc's cabinet

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Laurent Blanc

(Prominent clubs: Auxerre, Barcelona, Manchester United)

Having helped Montpellier (current French league leaders) win the Coupe de France in 1990, Laurent Blanc subsequently joined Auxerre, then managed by the enigmatic Guy Roux, in 1995.

Blanc played a crucial role in helping Auxerre to a double in 1996, his effort earning him a Barcelona signature.

The Frenchman won three trophies during his time at the Nou Camp -- the Spanish Super Cup in 1996, the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1997 and the Copa del Rey, also in 1997 -- before moving to Manchester United.

Blanc won the Premier League (in 2003) with the Manchester club. Besides, he was part of the French squad that won the 1998 World Cup and the Euro Championships two years later.

However, if there is one trophy missing from the 46-year-old's cabinet, it is the Champions League.


Image: An unhappy Laurent Blanc of Manchester United after losing 2-1 to Deportivo during the first stage match of the UEFA Champions League between Deportivo La Coruna and Manchester United at the Estadio Municipal De Riazor, La Coruna, Spain
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/ALLSPORT

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Vieira also failed in his long and illustrious career

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Patrick Vieira

(Prominent clubs: Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan, Manchester City)

One of the key players responsible for that Arsenal success story in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Patrick Vieira's career blossomed under the tutelage of Arsene Wenger.

During his almost decade long (1996 – 2005) stay at the London club, the Frenchman won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups.

After leaving the Gunners in 2005, Vieira helped Juventus win the Italian Serie A, a title that was subsequently stripped following revelations of the calciopoli scandal.

The Frenchman joined Internazionale in 2006 and won four scudettis and an Italian Super Cup. Vieira later joined Manchester City and helped the cash rich club win the FA Cup in 2011.

Besides, the 35-year-old was part of the French national side that won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

However, it is at the Champions League that Vieira failed to win a medal.


Image: Patrick Vieira of Inter celebrates after scoring during the Serie A match between Inter and Siena at the Stadio San Siro on May 11, 2008 in Milan, Italy
Photographs: New Press/Getty Images

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