Neymar, Van Dijk, Ferdinand: Who are the best players to never win an international trophy?

Neymar after losing Copa America 2021 final

Winning a major international tournament is about as good as it gets for a professional footballer. 

The rarity of the World Cup and continental footballing festivals means that players only have a tiny number of opportunities to scoop international honours during their careers.

It's what makes competitions like the European Championships and Copa America so engrossing and special. 

Only a select few are both talented and fortunate enough to win a major international honour during their lifetime, so it's no wonder that players are left visibly distraught when they fall at the final hurdle. 

Brazilian star Neymar was left in tears after Argentina's 1-0 victory over their South American rivals in the Copa America 2021 final last  Sunday. 

He has never won a major international trophy having missed Brazil's Copa America 2019 success due to an ankle injury, and at 29 years old he's running out of opportunities to claim silverware with the national side. 

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But he's not the only world-class player to fall short. 

Indeed, an array of brilliant footballers have failed to add a winners' medal from an international tournament to their collection.

In order to illustrate that point, Squawka have created a combined XI of the best players to never win an international trophy. 

Let's take a look at who makes the cut: 

GK: Keylor Navas 

The 34-year-old stopper has won a bunch of trophies during his stints with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, but he never had too much of a chance of winning anything with his national side as a Costa Rica international.

RB: Javier Zanetti


With 143 Argentina caps to his name, Javier Zanetti is a true legend in his home nation but never managed to cap his career with a major trophy.

CB: Rio Ferdinand 

Rio Ferdinand was one of the best central defenders in the history of English football and he played during what many considered to be a golden generation for the Three Lions.

Despite playing alongside the likes of John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Michael Owen, Ferdinand never won a trophy as an England international.

CB: Virgil van Dijk 

Virgil van Dijk still has time to win a trophy with the Netherlands at 30 years of age, but their last-16 exit against the Czech Republic at Euro 2020 suggests they're some way off competing for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

LB: Ashley Cole 

Another member of England's golden generation, Ashley Cole was regarded as one of the best left-backs on the planet during his peak years.

His ability in one vs one duels made him an impenetrable presence but his 107 England caps yielded no trophies.

CDM: Claude Makelele 

Claude Makelele's international career is a tale of near misses.

He suffered defeat in the 2006 World Cup final at the hands of Italy, while he wasn't part of the France side that won back-to-back honours at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

CM: Luka Modric 


Luka Modric has racked up a staggering 142 caps for Croatia and the closest he came to winning a major tournament was in 2018 at the World Cup. 

Having knocked England out in the semi-final, Croatia were pitted against strong favourites France and for large parts of the game matched their opponents, but they eventually succumbed to Didier Deschamps' array of attacking talent in a 4-2 defeat. 

CAM: Juan Roman Riquelme 

This is a bold shout from Squawka. Kevin De Bruyne, Steven Gerrard, Wesley Sneijder and Rui Costa were all listed as honourable mentions as the ethereal Riquelme got the nod. 

The Argentina international lost the 2007 Copa America final to Brazil but did win Olympic gold in 2008.  

RW: Arjen Robben 


Arjen Robben came desperately close to World Cup glory in 2010 but The Netherlands eventually lost 1-0.

The weaving winger missed a glorious chance to open the scoring at 0-0 in that game and was made to rue that sliding doors moment when Andres Iniesta notched the winner deep into extra time.

LW: Neymar 

As mentioned previously, Neymar missed Brazil's 2019 Copa America triumph through injury and was left in tears after their 2021 final defeat against Argentina in the same competition.

He has scored more goals for Brazil than Pele but that will feel like a hollow victory for Neymar until he wins a trophy with the national side.

CF: Didier Drogba 

Didier Drogba is a true Ivory Coast legend having scored 65 goals in 105 appearances, but he somehow never managed to cap his career with an African Cup of Nations win. 

The insatiable forward played in two AFCON finals but lost them both on penalties before Ivory Coast eventually won it the year after he retired. Classic. 

Here's the team in full: 

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