Average players, brilliant medal hauls
Football, as you’ve probably noticed by now, is a team sport, which means individuals don’t always win the collective prizes their talents deserve. Steven Gerrard, Paul Gascoigne and Bobby Moore are just some of the high-profile stars who failed to win an English top-flight title, for instance, while none of Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gianluigi Buffon have ever won the European Cup (or, in the case of the latter pair, haven’t done so yet).
This phenomenon also cuts the other way, with several players scooping gongs largely thanks to the gifts of their team-mates. In this slideshow, we pick out 16 unremarkable footballers with remarkable medal collections.
Champions League, La Liga (3), Copa del Rey (2)
An understudy to an all-time great, full-back Montoya (centre) joined Barcelona’s fabled academy at the age of eight but found himself stuck behind Dani Alves in the pecking order – an unenviable position for anyone to be in.
He played 45 La Liga games for the Catalan club in five years, winning the title three times and the Champions League in 2015. He left Barcelona when his contract expired 12 months later and was signed on a free transfer by Valencia, who were recently eliminated from the Copa del Rey by Montoya’s former employers at the semi-final stage.
World Cup, Champions League, La Liga (2), Premier League, FA Cup (2)
Only five men have won the Premier League, the Champions League and the World Cup – and one of them is Belletti. (The others are Thierry Henry, Gerard Pique, Fabien Barthez and Pedro.) The Brazilian right-back conquered the world in 2002 – although he only played half of one match – and then collected two La Liga titles and a Champions League during his time at Barcelona.
Belletti was later a semi-regular part of a Chelsea team which won the Premier League title and two FA Cups, although he and the Blues lost on penalties to Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League Final.
World Cup, Champions League, Campeonato Paulista (2), Copa do Brasil, Copa Libertadores, Coppa Italia
The arrival of a Brazil international centre-back on loan was greeted with much excitement at Elland Road in 2003, but Leeds fans were starting to have second thoughts after his first seven games featured 24 goals conceded.
Roque Junior spent much of his career with Palmeiras in his homeland, where he won the Copa Libertadores, before joining Milan and helping them win the Champions League in 2003. Roque Junior was also part of the Selecao’s surprisingly solid World Cup-winning squad the year before, helping Brazil keep four clean sheets on the path to glory.
Champions League, Premier League (4), League Cup (2), Copa America, Club World Cup, Primeira Liga (2)
The Brazilian gained more than just weight during his time at Manchester United, despite never really becoming a regular starter. Anderson didn’t live up to his early promise at Old Trafford, but he still won pretty much everything going in England, with the notable exception of the FA Cup.
There were four Premier League titles to add to two championships from Portugal, plus two League Cups, the Champions League and the Club World Cup. He only won eight caps for Brazil’s senior side but still managed to gobble up a Copa America, plus a Bronze medal at the Olympic Games – an efficiency that many of his countrymen will envy.
Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand
Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup
It sometimes seems every twentysomething player in Europe has been employed by Chelsea at some point in their career. A few turned out to be so good that it makes you wonder why they weren’t given a proper chance at Stamford Bridge – think Mo Salah or Kevin De Bruyne. Others… not so much.
Romeu, for all his qualities, falls firmly into the latter category, alongside similarly decorated Southampton colleague Ryan Bertrand. Yet despite rarely being part of the west Londoners' starting XI, the pair still collected FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League winner’s medals before seeking pastures new on the south coast.
World Cup, European Championship, Copa del Rey, Taca da Liga
Some players are born into greatness; others have it thrust upon them. Meanwhile, some are dragged into greatness merely by being in the right place at the right time. So it was for Capdevilla, whose club career featured cup wins in Spain and Portugal (and a league title in Andorra).
At international level, he was a largely unremarkable member of Spain’s 2008 European Championship and 2010 World Cup winning sides. He did, however, play every minute of every match at the latter tournament, and was the only non-Barcelona or Real Madrid player to start the final against the Netherlands.
Champions League (2), Premier League (5), FA Cup (2), League Cup (2)
Alex Ferguson once called Brown the best natural defender that Manchester United had had in decades, and he certainly has the medal collection of an all-time club great. He never quite reached that level of performance, though, and was rarely a regular throughout his decade at the club – only twice did he feature in two-thirds of United's Premier League games in a season – but the England international did set up Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal as the Red Devils beat Chelsea to win the Champions League in 2008.
That added a second European medal to his one from 1999 (when he didn't play a minute in the knockouts); Brown also won two FA Cups, two League Cups and five Premier League titles before joining Sunderland in 2011.
Champions League, Eredivisie (2), KNVB Cup, Serie A (3), La Liga (2), Ligue 1 (4), Copa del Rey, Coupe de France (3), Coupe de la Ligue (4), Club World Cup (2)
The Brazilian full-back was far from a bad player, but you wouldn’t exactly be rushing to get his name on the back of your shirt. Yet Maxwell was, up to July 2017, the most decorated player in European football, with an incredible collection of gongs from five different countries and spells at Ajax, Inter, Barcelona and PSG.
His honours list includes 11 league titles, 10 domestic cup medals, as well as a Champions League and two Club World Cup medals with Barcelona. If you include all the Community Shield equivalents, the left-back has an amazing 34 medals. His total has since been surpassed by compatriot Dani Alves, who's probably more deserving of the record.
Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup, Coupe de la Ligue
Best remembered by Liverpool fans for Cruyff-turning the ball into his own net in against Burnley in the FA Cup, Traore will look back on his spell at Anfield rather more fondly.
He joined the Merseysiders in 1999 but barely played until the 2002-03 campaign, when he helped the Reds win the League Cup. Two years later Liverpool beat Milan in the Champions League Final despite Traore’s best efforts, the defender making a number of errors as the Italians stormed into a 3-0 lead at half-time.
An FA Cup success the following campaign completed an unlikely hat-trick of medals from the defender’s time in English football.
Champions League, Premier League (2), FA Cup (2)
The English defender benefited from a number of quirks of history – he was bought from Blackburn in 1994, as Alex Ferguson was forced to add a homegrown player to his squad due to new restrictions on foreign players in European competition.
That rule was soon abolished, but May stuck around long enough to win a pair of Premier League titles and two FA Cups at Old Trafford. He was also entitled to a Champions League winner’s medal after being named among the substitutes for the final in 1999, despite not playing a single minute in the competition.
World Cup, Champions League, Serie A, Coppa Italia, Club World Cup
The Italian full-back (right) played just one match as his country won the 2006 World Cup, and spent most of his time at the tournament cutting his team-mates’ hair, earning him the nickname ‘The Barber of Brazil’.
Oddo progressed through the youth ranks at Milan but was unable to break into the senior setup, so went on to spend five years with Lazio before returning to the San Siro in 2007. That same year, he helped the Rossoneri scoop the Champions League and the Club World Cup with triumphs over Liverpool and Boca Juniors respectively.
World Cup, Champions League, Bundesliga (2), DFB-Pokal
The Brazilian might just hold the record for the most prestigious medals won with the least amount of input.
Paulo Sergio appeared twice off the bench as Brazil won the 1994 World Cup in the United States, then won the Champions League with Bayern Munich in 2001 after coming on as a 108th-minute extra-time substitute. He even missed the first penalty of the shoot-out, but his team-mates bailed him out to ensure victory over Valencia at San Siro.
Paulo Sergio was also part of the Bayern side which won two Bundesliga titles, the DFB-Pokal and the Intercontinental Cup between 1999 and 2001 – a lucky charm if ever we’ve seen one.
Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, Alllsvenskan (5)
It’s safe to say the Swede wouldn’t have started the 1999 Champions League Final against Bayern Munich had midfield duo Roy Keane and Paul Scholes been available. The denouement in Barcelona turned out to be his last match for Manchester United, and the perfect way to cap a very efficient season in which he won it all – FA Cup, Premier League and European Cup, to add to multiple Swedish league championships with Goteborg.
Blomqvist spent the next two campaigns out injured, before spells on the treatment tables of Everton and Charlton Athletic. Still, not many of his team-mates at Goodison Park or The Valley could match his medal haul.
Champions League, Bundesliga (5), DFB-Pokal (3), Club World Cup
When goalkeeper Starke (centre) retired from the game in 2017 after five campaigns with Bayern Munich, he’d won more pieces of silverware with the German giants than he’d made appearances. The deputy custodian boasted five leagues, three cups, the Champions League and the Club World Cup despite playing for the first team on just eight occasions.
However, Starke was drafted back into the squad this season following injuries and has made a further two outings for Bayern – so it’s now level, at least until Bayern wrap up another Bundesliga crown.
Champions League (2), Primeira Liga (4), Taca de Portugal, FA Cup (2)
Only a handful of players have won the Champions League with two different sides. One of them is Portuguese full-back Bosingwa, who also collected four league titles with Porto, two FA Cups with Chelsea, and 19 successive Premier League Eyebrows of the Month Awards.
After hogging the Champions League celebration images following Chelsea’s defeat of Bayern Munich in the 2012 showpiece, he departed in the summer to join QPR. Even Bosingwa couldn’t win silverware at Loftus Road, though, and Rangers were promptly relegated.
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