The World Cup is football’s biggest party, but not everyone is invited.
Samir Nasri, Carlos Tevez and Gareth Bale are among the world’s biggest stars, but for various reasons none of them will be playing in Brazil this summer.
It got us to thinking, who are the best players never to even play at a World Cup? Here are the top five we came up with…
5. Eric Cantona (France)
Cantona had an uneasy relationship with those in charge of French football, and reportedly still harbours resentment for the way he was treated. King Eric missed out on the 1994 World Cup due to a dramatic defeat in the decisive qualifier against Bulgaria’s, whose famous late winner in Paris came after David Ginola gave the ball away (see video above). Following Cantona’s kung-fu kick on a Crystal Palace fan in 1995, he was stripped of the captaincy of the France team and never played for them again. To rub salt into the wound, Les Blues won the 1998 World Cup without him; Aime Jacquet having resisted the urge to select the star in his prime.
4. Ryan Giggs (Wales)
Giggs has been tearing defences apart for over 20 years with Manchester United. But his glittering club career wasn’t matched at international level. Afet narrowly missing out on USA '94, Wales have never really got close to qualifying for a World Cup and, along with Mark Hughes, Ian Rush, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, Giggs is another great Welshman never to have had the chance to shine at a World Cup.
3. George Weah (Liberia)
Forever remembered for his outrageous solo effort (see above) during a glittering era at AC Milan, Weah’s international career wasn’t quite as magnificent. The future politciian clocked up 60 caps for Liberia – but none of them came at a World Cup, with his beloved nation having never successfully qualified.
2. George Best (Northern Ireland)
Perhaps the greatest ever player from the British Isles, George Best will be remembered as a Manchester United great – but not a Northern Ireland great. His talent desperately deserved to be displayed at a World Cup, but their qualification for Spain ’82 came too late for the 5th Beatle, who was deteriorating at Hong Kong Rangers at that time.
1. Alfredo di Stefano (Argentina, Colombia & Spain)
The winner of five consecutive European Cups, eight Spanish Primera Divisions and two Ballon d’Or titles, Di Stefano’s club career is unrivalled. But this Real Madrid legend, who represented Argentina (his country of birth), Colombia (not recognised by FIFA) and Spain (his adopted country), never played at a World Cup. Spain failed to qualify in 1958 and, by the time they qualified in 1962, Di Stefano had retired from international football.
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