Analysis

The best Premier League XI never to play Champions League football

Ian Wright Arsenal
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MF: Darren Anderton

Rarely has a nickname been so poorly attributed as ‘Sicknote’. Anderton made more than 600 professional appearances in an 18-year career for Portsmouth, Spurs and England.

It would’ve been even more had Anderton accepted Alex Ferguson’s overtures to join Manchester United in the summer of 1995, and the near-guarantee of Champions League football coming with it. As it was, the wide midfielder didn’t play a single minute of European football, with his prime coming when Spurs struggled for consistency. Criminally underrated.

MF: Clint Dempsey

There have been more naturally gifted footballers in Premier League history, but few were as effective as the American who scored 72 goals in 275 games in all competitions for Fulham and Tottenham.

A surprisingly competent rapper given he’s A) a footballer, and B) from Texas, the man known as Deuce (in no way related to Rob Schneider’s male gigolo) reached the Europa League final for the former, but missed Spurs' Champions League boat with the latter. One of the Prem’s few foreigners not to play at elite European level.

FW: Paolo Di Canio

Yes, really. Not for Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham or Charlton (obviously), nor for Celtic, Lazio, Milan or Juventus (almost impossibly). In fact, it’s almost as if he intentionally swerved the Champions League because of a long-held aversion to bombastic theme tunes and stars on footballs.

The Italian won the 1993 UEFA Cup, coming off the Juve bench in both legs of the final against Borussia Dortmund, and the 1995 UEFA Super Cup with Milan, but that Champions League appearance always eluded him.

FW: Ian Wright

Sold to West Ham the summer after winning the 1997/98 title with Arsenal, Wrighty never added to UEFA Cup, Super Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup appearances, having won the latter in 1994.

One of the early Premier League’s most feared marksmen, he also doubled as one of the finest peddlers of Chicken Tonight in the sauce’s glorious history. Once wore a pair of lens-less glasses on Match of the Day.

FW: Les Ferdinand

Sir Les – does anyone know where the honorary knighthood came from? – went through various striker stages in his Premier League career. Lightning youngster at QPR, lethal battering ram at Newcastle, less lethal battering at Spurs and ageing targetman (with moments of brilliance) at West Ham, Leicester and Bolton.

One UEFA Cup campaign for the Magpies was the extent of Ferdinand’s European exposure, which is surprising given that he’s the ninth-most prolific goalscorer in the Prem. "Hit Les!" (If you got that reference, congratulations… You’re old).

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