Top 5 players to have never played at a World Cup

By on June 11, 2010

By Viorel Mesca.


As the tournament is ready to start, football-talk.co.uk takes a look back to the greatest 5 (five) players never to have played at the World Cup.

1. Duncan Edwards…

……was an English footballer who played for Manchester United and England national team. One of the Busby Babes, Duncan was also one of the eight players who died as a result of the Munich air disaster.

Edwards is said to have been able to play in any position on the field, although he might be remembered as a defensive midfielder. His greatest assets were his strength, a high level of stamina and his level of authority on the pitch, which was pretty remarkable for such a young player. His imposing physique earned him the nickname “The Tank” and he has been ranked amongst the toughest players of all time.

Edwards signed for Manchester United as a teenager and went on to become the youngest player to play in the Football League First Division and the then youngest England player since the Second World War. In his short professional career, he helped United to win two Football League championships and reach the semi-finals of the European Cup.

For England he played only 18 games, scoring 5 goals. Sir Bobby Charlton once described him as:

“He was the best player I’ve ever seen and the best footballer I ever played with. I always felt I could compare well with any player – except Duncan. He was such a talent, I always felt inferior to him.”

According to Sir Matt Busby:

“Duncan had everything. He was so big, so strong, so confident and still so young. Right from the start we gave up trying to spot flaws in his game.’’

Edwards played his last ever match as United drew 3-3 away to Red Star Belgrade to progress to the semi-final of the European Cup.

Returning home from Belgrade, the airplane carrying United’s team crashed. 7 players and another 14 passengers died at the scene. Although he survived the crash, Edwards died 15 days later, due to injuries. His death was “the biggest single tragedy ever to happen to Manchester United and English football” according to Sir Bobby Charlton.

2. George Best…

….was a Northern Irish professional football player, best known for his spell with Manchester United. One of the best players of all times, Best was discovered by United’s scout Bob Bishop who sent a telegram to Matt Busby saying: “I think I’ve found you a genius.”

Best hit the headlines at the age of twenty when he scored two goals in a European Cup quarter-final match against Benfica in 1966, and his long hair prompted the Portuguese press to dub him “O Quinto Beatle”.

In 1968 he became a European Cup winner, scoring in the final against Benfica which United won 4-1. Later that year, he was crowned European Footballer of the Year and Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year. After this, his decline began, as he developed problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism.

In 1974, aged 27, Best quit United for good. In total Best made 470 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions from 1963 to 1974, and scored 179 goals. He was the club’s top scorer for six consecutive seasons, and was the First Division’s top scorer in the 1967–68 season. Over the next decade he went into an increasingly rapid decline, drifting between several clubs.

He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals. He will always be remembered for his glimpses of genius, like the one in 1976, in Northern Ireland’s match against Holland in Rotterdam, as one of their group qualifying matches for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Five minutes into the game Best received the ball wide on the left. He turned directly infield, weaved his way past at least three Dutchmen and found his way to Cruyff. Best took the ball to his opponent, dipped a shoulder twice and slipped it between Cruyff’s feet –arguably the best player in the world at that time.

In 1999, he was voted 11th at the IFFHS European Player of the Century election, and 16th in the World Player of the Century election.

In his native Northern Ireland, the admiration for him is summed up by the local saying:

“Maradona good; Pelé better; George Best.”

3. Alfredo di Stefano…

…is an Argentine-Spanish former footballer, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He is most associated with Real Madrid and was instrumental in their domination of the European Champions’ Cup during the 1950s, a period in which the club won the trophy in five consecutive seasons from 1956. Di Stéfano played international football mostly for Spain, but he also played for Argentina and Colombia.

Di Stefano was a powerful forward with great stamina, tactical versatility, and vision, who could also play almost anywhere on the pitch. He is currently the 4th highest scorer in the history of Spain’s top division, and Real Madrid’s 2nd highest league goalscorer of all time, with 216 goals in 282 league matches between 1953 and 1964.

Alfredo was voted fourth, behind Pelé, Diego Maradona, and Johan Cruyff, in a vote organized by the French weekly magazine France Football consulting their former Ballon d’Or winners to elect the Football Player of the Century.

In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA’s Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of Spain by the Royal Spanish Football Federation as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years

The first World Cup in which he would have been able to participate was the 1950 tournament. As Argentina refused to participate, di Stéfano (aged 24) missed his first chance at playing in the World Cup.

For the 1954 World Cup, Argentina did not enter and FIFA declared di Stéfano was not eligible to play because he had previously been capped by both Argentina and Colombia

He acquired Spanish citizenship in 1956, and played four World Cup qualifying matches for Spain in 1957, but the team failed to qualify for the 1958 World Cup.

In 1961, Alfredo who had already won 5 European Cups, helped Spain qualify for the World Cup of 1962. A muscular injury just before the competition prevented him from playing in the finals. He retired from international football afterwards.

4. Ryan Giggs…

…is a Welsh footballer who has played for Manchester United for his entire professional career. He established himself as a left-winger during the 1990s and continued in this position well into the 2000s, but he has been increasingly used in a playmaking role in his later years.

Giggs holds a host of football records, including that of being the most decorated player in English football history. On 16 May 2009, he became the first footballer to collect 11 top division English league title medals. Giggs was the first player in history to win two consecutive PFA Young Player of the Year awards (1992 and 1993) and is the only player to have played and scored in every single season of the Premier League since its inception.

He was elected into the PFA Team of the Century in 2007, the English Premier League Team of the Decade, in 2003, as well as the FA Cup Century.  At the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final, held on 21 May 2008, Giggs surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 758 appearances for Manchester United to become the club’s all-time leader in appearances. Team of the

He was appointed an OBE in the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours List, and was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005, for his services to English Football. He was named as BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009

he is the only Manchester United player to have scored in fourteen different Champions League tournaments and he also holds the all time record for Premier League assists.

5. Eric Cantona…

is often regarded as having played a major talismanic role in the revival of Manchester United as a footballing powerhouse and he enjoys iconic status at the club and in English football. In 2001, he was voted as Manchester United’s player of the century and is affectionately nicknamed “King Eric”.

Arriving at Leeds United in 1992 following a colourful career in France ­ after of course refusing to undergo a trial at Sheffield Wednesday ­ he won the league. That November he moved to Manchester United for £1.2m and won the championship again. The following year it was the league and FA Cup double, then in 1996 it was the double again. In 1997, Manchester United were champions for the fourth time in five years. The only year they missed out is the one during which Cantona was banned for eight months.

Then he retired, having made 185 appearances and scored 82 goals for Manchester United, although now he admits it was premature.

Sir Bobby Charlton said:

” He`s such a great player. I`m still pinching myself. A player like that only comes along once or twice in a lifetime, and you don`t leave him out or put him in the reserves. You respect his skill. Eric is the brainiest player I`ve ever seen.”

Do you have any other suggestions? Please leave your opinions below….

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2 Comments

  1. ThomAlexander

    June 13, 2010 at 1:12 am

    What about George Weah? He was better than Cantona.

  2. ben

    July 9, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    cantona was massively overrated imo. what about george weah, john charles, ian rush, bernt schuster, johnny giles. liam brady, arnold muhren and abedi pele

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