13 Top-Tier Players Who Have Astonishingly Never Played at the Euros

For European footballers, the European Championships are second only to the World Cup in terms of international prestige. Yet, several of the sport’s most notable figures never had the chance to compete in the tournament.

Some missed out due to the limited number of teams (only eight until 1992) or simply due to bad luck, preventing them from reaching the finals. We’ve delved into historical records to identify 13 prominent players who never participated in the Euros, and some of these exclusions are quite surprising.

13. Jari Litmanen

Cc: The Times

He is widely considered Finland’s greatest footballer. While Teemu Pukki is also highly respected, Litmanen’s achievements with Ajax and Liverpool are particularly impressive, having won the Champions League with Ajax and the UEFA Cup with Liverpool. Litmanen played 137 international matches for Finland and captained the team from 1996 to 2008. Despite his leadership and skill, Finland did not qualify for any major tournaments during his extensive international career.

This is especially frustrating given Finland’s strong squad in the early 2000s, which included players like Jaaskelainen, Hyypia, Forssell, and Johansson. It’s believed that had the European Championships expanded earlier than 2016, Finland would have had a good chance of qualifying.

12. Edin Dzeko

Cc: Foot Mercato

He has been a prolific goalscorer in European football for over fifteen years, playing for clubs like Wolfsburg, Manchester City, Roma, and Internazionale. Despite his impressive career, he has only appeared in one major tournament with Bosnia & Herzegovina—the 2014 World Cup, where they were eliminated in the group stages. Given his age, it is unlikely that Dzeko will participate in Euro 2028.

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11. Ryan Giggs

Cc: The Independent

one of the most distinguished footballers ever, won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League trophies during his 24-year career at Manchester United. He was a key figure for Wales’ national team, earning 64 caps. However, Wales only came close to qualifying for the Euros once during Giggs’ career, losing to Russia in the play-offs for the 2004 tournament.

10. Paolo Rossi

Cc: The Guardian

Paolo Rossi, the star striker of Italy’s 1982 World Cup-winning team, was unable to participate in the European Championships two years earlier due to a ban for match-fixing, missing the chance to showcase his talents on the European stage.

9. David Ginola

Cc; the Sun

regarded as one of the Premier League’s greatest players, earned the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards in the 1998-99 season with Tottenham. However, his international career was marred by a controversial cross that led to France’s elimination from the 1994 World Cup, resulting in his exclusion from Euro 96.

8. Nemanja Vidic

Cc: The Independent

One of the most formidable defenders of his time, never had the opportunity to compete in the European Championships. Despite Serbia’s qualification for Euro 24 after a 24-year absence from the tournament, Vidic was not part of the team. This is notable given Serbia’s participation in four World Cups during that period.

7. Kenny Dalglish

Cc: IMDb

He is often considered the greatest Scottish footballer ever. Although he represented Scotland in three World Cups, he never had the opportunity to compete in the European Championships. He retired in 1990, just two years before Scotland qualified for their first continental finals in Sweden.

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6. Eusebio

Cc: Fc Barcelona Players

The legendary Benfica striker, never managed to lead Portugal to the Euros during his career, which is surprising given Portugal’s consistent presence in major tournaments since the early 21st century. Portugal’s first appearance at the Euros was in 1984, 13 years after Eusebio’s retirement. Nonetheless, he excelled at the 1966 World Cup, where he was the top scorer and helped Portugal finish third.

5. Alfredo Di Stefano

Cc: Eurosport

Alfredo Di Stefano, an Argentine-born footballer who played his prime years with Real Madrid, was active during the first Euros in 1960. Despite his talent, he did not participate because Spain withdrew from the tournament in protest of playing against the Soviet Union during Franco’s regime. Spain went on to win the tournament in 1964 without him.

4. George Best

Cc: GQ Espana

Widely considered the greatest British footballer of all time, George Best would have undoubtedly shone in any major tournament. Unfortunately, he never had the chance.

Throughout his tenure with Manchester United, Northern Ireland failed to qualify for both the World Cup and the European Championships. His most significant international accomplishment was leading his team to victory in the 1964 British Home Championship.

3. Martin Odegaard

Cc: licensed by Google

Norway has not qualified for a major tournament since Euro 2000, and the rise of talents like Erling Haaland and Martin Ødegaard was anticipated to change that. However, it’s unfortunate that the Arsenal player and Norway’s team captain will miss this summer’s championship and have to watch the matches from home.

2. Erling Haaland

Cc: licensed by Google

Despite being in his early twenties and widely regarded as the world’s top striker, Erling Haaland has yet to compete in the European Championship finals. Norway was eliminated in the play-offs for Euro 2020 and failed to qualify for this summer’s tournament. Although Haaland scored six goals during the qualifying rounds, his efforts were insufficient to secure a spot above Spain and Scotland in Group A. Haaland will be 27 years old by the time Euro 2028 arrives.

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1. Rio Ferdinand

Cc: planetfootball

Ferdinand was chosen for four World Cup squads for England – in 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010 – but he never played in the European Championships. He was too young for Euro 96 and was omitted from the squad four years later. An eight-month suspension for failing a drug test kept him out of the 2004 tournament in Portugal.

By Euro 2008, Ferdinand was at the height of his career, having just captained Manchester United to a Champions League win. Unfortunately, England did not qualify for the tournament.

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