THE World Cup is the most prestigious competition in football but for some it has always been out of reach – even for the very best.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are regarded by many as two of the greatest of all time yet have never got their hands on World Cup trophy.

Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players ever to have not won the World Cup

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Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players ever to have not won the World CupCredit: Reuters
Lionel Messi's Argentina are unbeaten in 35 games going into Qatar

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Lionel Messi’s Argentina are unbeaten in 35 games going into QatarCredit: AFP

They will be fighting to change that in Qatar over the next month in what will almost certainly be the last World Cup campaign for both players.

But should they fail to do so they may find comfort in the fact many stars have also faltered on the big stage.

From Messi to Eric Cantona, SunSport takes a look at the top ten best players to have never won the World Cup…

10. Eric Cantona

Of all the players on the list Eric Cantona undoubtedly has the worst record at international level.

He was adored at Manchester United and helped guide the Red Devils to their first league title in 26 years in 1993.

Cantona, 56, scored 20 goals in 45 games for Les Bleus and captained the side until his suspension from football for fly-kicking a spectator.

He failed to get back into the squad after that and missed France’s World Cup win in 1998 – he failed to make a single World Cup appearance and the closest he came to the competition was the 2002 Beach Soccer Cup.

Eric Cantona was left out of the squad as France won World Cup '98

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Eric Cantona was left out of the squad as France won World Cup ’98Credit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
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9. Paolo Maldini

The AC Milan legend competed in four World Cup campaigns yet was never successful with the Azzurri, who have won the competition three times.

Maldini, 54, claimed third place at Italia 90 and went one better in 1994 as Italy finished runners-up to Brazil after losing on penalties.

The defender made his last World Cup appearance in 2002 – missing out on Italy’s World Cup glory in 2006.

Paolo Maldini featured in four different World Cups and finished as runner-up in 1994

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Paolo Maldini featured in four different World Cups and finished as runner-up in 1994Credit: PA:Empics Sport

8. Zico

Like Maldini, Zico is one of the best players to play for his country without winning the World Cup.

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He scored in three editions of the competition between 1978 and 1986 including penalty shoot-outs and scored 48 goals in 71 games for the Samba Boys.

A king of flair, the 69-year-old encapsulated the Brazilian style and scored some outrageous World Cup goals including a scissor kick and a 30-yard free-kick against Scotland in ’82.

Zico scored some spectacular World Cup goals but Brazil always failed to deliver

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Zico scored some spectacular World Cup goals but Brazil always failed to deliverCredit: Action Images – Reuters

7. Eusebio

One of the stars of the 1966 World Cup as he finished top scorer with nine goals, two of which came against goalkeeping greats Gordon Banks and Lev Yashin.

Eusebio scored four against North Korea in the quarter-final before being shackled by England’s Nobby Stiles in the semis.

Portugal lost to the Three Lions but claimed third place, and Eusebio was honoured with his own waxwork in Madame Tussauds.

Eusebio won the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup

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Eusebio won the Golden Boot at the 1966 World CupCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd

6. Ferenc Puskas

One of the best international goalscorers ever, Puskas played for a Hungary side that are perhaps the best team to never win the World Cup.

Puskas scored four goals in four games at the 1954 World Cup as Hungary lost to Germany in the final, despite beating them 8-3 earlier in the competition.

The striker scored 84 goals in 85 caps for Hungary before going on to represent Spain at the 1962 World Cup, having been naturalised in the country as a result of his spell playing for Real Madrid.

Ferenc Puskas finished as a runner up in the 1954 World Cup

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Ferenc Puskas finished as a runner up in the 1954 World CupCredit: AFP – Getty

5. Alfredo Di Stefano

Another Real Madrid hitman, Di Stefano helped Los Blancos to five European Cups and scored 308 goals in 396 games for the Spanish giants.

Born in Buenos Aires, the striker represented both Colombia and Argentina before scoring 23 goals in 31 games for Spain.

But he never made a World Cup appearance despite being called up to the Spain squad in 1962.

Alfredo Di Stefano won five European Cups but could not replicate that success on the international stage

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Alfredo Di Stefano won five European Cups but could not replicate that success on the international stageCredit: Hulton Archive – Getty

4. Johan Cruyff

Cruyff may not have a World Cup medal but he boasts one of the most iconic moments in the competition’s history – his Cruyff turn against Sweden in 1974.

That was the only World Cup the Dutchman appeared in, but he scored three goals as the Netherlands made the final.

Cruyff was key to the Dutch philosophy of Total Football and his side are regarded as one of the best to never win silverware following their 2-1 defeat to West Germany in the final.

Johan Cruyff is one of the most influential figures in football

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Johan Cruyff is one of the most influential figures in footballCredit: AFP or licensors

3. George Best

Best was one of the most naturally gifted players of all time and shone for United, winning the league title twice and European Cup under Sir Matt Busby.

The winger was recognised with the Ballon d’Or in 1968 but Northern Ireland only qualified for the World Cup in 1982 – once Best was already a washed-up former great aged 35.

George Best is perhaps the greatest player to have never featured in a World Cup

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George Best is perhaps the greatest player to have never featured in a World CupCredit: PA:Press Association

2. Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo, 37, is heading to Qatar off the back of recent criticism from Portugal fans, but he is the all-time leading international goalscorer with 117 goals.

The United striker has played in four World Cups but never got past the semi-final stage after losing 1-0 to France in the 2006 semi-final.

Portugal are outsiders to win in Qatar but they were also underdogs heading into Euro 2016, which they won, and Ronaldo is not one to give up hope.

Ronaldo was criticised by Portugal fans during the recent international break

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Ronaldo was criticised by Portugal fans during the recent international breakCredit: Getty

1. Lionel Messi

Messi is one of the youngest ever World Cup scorers but at 35-years-old he likely has only one more chance to win the coveted trophy.

He has often been criticised for not delivering for Argentina but silenced those voices by winning the Copa America last year.

Messi and co. finished as runners-up to Germany at the 2014 World Cup but with Argentina unbeaten in 36 games the PSG star should be feeling about his side’s chances of success in Qatar.

Messi won the Copa America in 2021 - his only international trophy to date

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Messi won the Copa America in 2021 – his only international trophy to dateCredit: AFP
Many other football icons have also never won the World Cup including Michel Platini and Socrates

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Many other football icons have also never won the World Cup including Michel Platini and Socrates



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