12 great footballers who won absolutely nothing in their careers

Jermain Defoe

Footballers aren’t in for the money. No, no – they’re all there to taste the glory of winning, the joy of lifting shiny trophies at the end of a season of toil and trauma. But there are some outstanding players who never tasted the tang of metal, or the fizz of warm champagne - neither for their club nor country, at any level.

We’ve used quite strict criteria here. Despite racking up individual honours, this select group have never won anything with their clubs – including cups and league titles lower down the football pyramid.  

Antonio Di Natale

For a few years, late-bloomer Di Natale was one of the leading lights of Serie A – twice top scorer, and player of the year in 2010. Unfortunately, he played for Udinese and never even reached the final of a cup competition during his club career. It was a different story with Italy, where he was part of the squad which lost 4-0 to Spain in the showpiece event of Euro 2012.  

Yildiray Basturk

The Germany-born Turkish midfielder came agonisingly close to winning an enviable collection of medals. He was part of the Bayer Leverkusen side that nearly won everything in 2001/02, only to fall at the final hurdle in the league, cup and Champions League. That summer he went to the World Cup with Turkey, who were knocked out in the semi-finals by eventual champions Brazil. They did win the third-place play-off, though, so Basturk does at least know what a medal looks like.

Matt Le Tissier

Matt Le Tissier

It’s one of the great mysteries of modern life. How is it that Matt Le Tissier is in better shape now, as a Sky Sports pundit, than he ever was during his playing career?

At his best, Le Tiss was unplayable – capable of outrageous feats of skills and long-range shooting which helped him win three goal-of-the-month awards. What could he have achieved if he’d set his sights beyond the comfortable environs of Southampton? As it stands, he mostly spent his one-club career mired in mid-table at The Dell, and the closest he came to a trophy was a runners-up medal in the now-defunct Full Members’ Cup in 1992.


Cult-icon Socrates enjoyed a distinguished career, and did collect a number of regional winners medals in Brazil’s baffling system of leagues and cups. But, despite a stellar international career and long spells with Botafogo and Corinthians, he never won a national or international honour. In 1983, he was part of the Brazil side that lost to Uruguay in the Copa America final.

Bernd Schneider

Nicknamed ‘The White Brazilian’, Schneider was another member of Leverkusen’s famous nearly men during a 10-year spell at the club. He was instrumental in their run to the Champions League final that year, providing more assists than anyone else in the competition. After triple heartache with his club, there was more in the summer – a fourth runners-up medal as Germany fell to Brazil in the final, followed by third place in 2006. If he were actually Brazilian, he would have won a lot more.

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Jermain Defoe

Barring a turnaround in Rangers' cup fortunes next season, or a lucrative move to China, it looks like Defoe’s stellar top-flight career will end without him winning a single trophy. The forward is one of the Premier League’s all-time leading scorers but has only a Community Shield runner-up medal to show for it. In 2008, he left Spurs the week before they beat Chelsea in the League Cup final, and was then cup-tied as his new club Portsmouth won the FA Cup.

NEXT: "The best passer of a ball I've ever seen," said Pele...

Len Shackleton

Nicknamed the ‘Clown Prince of Soccer’, Shackleton was a showboating forward who enjoyed a long career for Newcastle and Sunderland between the wars. He scored six on his Magpies debut, and came close to winning the First Division in 1949/50 when Sunderland finished a point off the top.

Stan Collymore

Collymore was difficult to play against in his prime, but his was a career which never really fulfilled its potential. He was a solid performer for both Nottingham Forest and Liverpool, but only won three caps for his country amid off-field personal problems and controversies. The closest he came was the infamous 1996 ‘white suits’ FA Cup final, which Liverpool lost to Manchester United, and he was also a member of the Leicester squad that won the League Cup in 2000 – but was cup-tied.

Johnny Haynes

Pele once called inside-forward Haynes the "best passer of the ball I’ve ever seen", although the Brazilian does have a habit of handing out platitudes like little blue pills to whoever happens to be in front of him.

During 18 years at Fulham, Haynes notched up 158 goals in 658 games, and became England’s first £100 a week player, as well as a key member and captain of the international side. After retiring as a professional, he went to South Africa where he helped Durban City win the controversial, whites-only National Football League – a medal that probably tarnishes his legacy rather than enhances it.

Leighton Baines

There was a time when Baines was the most coveted left-back in English football, known for his crossing and deadly accuracy from set-pieces. Manchester United reportedly came calling but Baines opted to stay at Everton, effectively sealing his place on this list. In 2009 he was on the losing side in an FA Cup final, and has also collected runners-up medals in the League Cup and Championship with Wigan. 

Joe Baker

Born in Scotland to parents from Liverpool, Baker became the first player to play for England without having done so in the English league system – an honour he earned for his goalscoring exploits with Hibernian. Torino soon came calling, and he joined Denis Law in Italy, but returned to the British Isles with Arsenal after a string of controversies abroad – including a serious car crash, a hunger strike and punching a photographer into a canal.

He was close to making the England squad for the 1966 World Cup, and finished second in the First Division with Nottingham Forest the following season.

Clive Allen

Clive Allen Tottenham

During the 1980s and 1990s, Allen was prolific with QPR, Spurs, West Ham – pretty much every club in London, basically.

He came agonisingly close to winning the FA Cup on two occasions. In 1982, he helped the R’s reach the final, which they lost to Spurs after a replay.

Five years later, Allen scored 49 goals as a Tottenham player. But Spurs finished third in the league, lost to rivals Arsenal in the semi-finals of the League Cup, and were beaten by Coventry in extra-time of the FA Cup final after Allen had given them the lead. So close.

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