Football Features

The very best players who still haven’t won a top-flight league title

By Ben Green

Published: 13:10, 9 September 2020

Reaching the pinnacle of the game is the dream of every aspiring footballer and those fortunate enough to make it to the very top are the most likely to win silverware. At least, that is generally what happens. 

Sometimes no matter how hard a player tries, though, the quest to land a major domestic title is ultimately a fruitless one; perhaps due to the lack of quality teammates around them, a unique sense of loyalty to their employers or in some cases, just rotten bad luck.

All three of the above factors can be applied to Steven Gerrard who, despite going close on a couple of occasions, was unable to captain his treasured Liverpool to a Premier League title.

However, it seems his retirement came a few years too early as the Reds under Jurgen Klopp ended their 30-year championship wait, meaning a number of their star players lifted a first league title.

They included: Alisson, Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez, Adrián, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Adam Lallana, Andrew Robertson, Divock Origi, Joël Matip, Trent Alexander-Arnold.

But among them were winners from their previous clubs; Fabinho (Monaco), Virgil van Dijk (Celtic), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV), Dejan Lovren (Dinamo Zagreb), James Milner (Man City), Naby Keïta, Sadio Mané plus Takumi Minamino (all Red Bull Salzburg), Mohamed Salah (FC Basel) and Xherdan Shaqiri (FC Basel and Bayern Munich).

However, there are plenty of others who have fallen just short of adding that particular honour to their CV. Below are eight top active players who, despite their best efforts, are yet to be part of a title-winning side.

1. Marek Hamsik

Age: 33

Clubs represented: Slovan Bratislava, Brescia, Napoli, Dalian Yifang

League apps: 510

The Slovakian playmaker had to watch stars such as Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuain leave Napoli to win titles elsewhere while he stayed loyal to the cause. In total, Hamsik spent 12 years at Napoli before leaving for Chinese club Dalian Yifang in February 2019, with just an Italian Super Cup and two Coppas Italia to his name.

2. Antoine Griezmann

Age: 29

Clubs represented: Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona

League apps: 395

In his first full season, Antoine Griezmann scored six goals in 39 games as Real Sociedad won the Segunda Division and over the next four seasons he played a key role in establishing the club as a top-half side in Spain’s top-flight.

So good were the Frenchman’s performances, Atletico Madrid saw fit to sign him as Chelsea-bound Diego Costa’s replacement following their improbable La Liga triumph in 2013/14, but in the years to follow Griezmann has finished third on three occasions for Los Colchoneros and second twice.

In moving to Barcelona last summer, Griezmann would have been hoping he could change his major league title fortunes, but the Blaugrana eventually lost out to Real Madrid despite leading La Liga for large parts.

3. Marco Reus

Age: 31

Clubs represented: Rot Weiss Ahlen, Borussia Monchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund

League apps: 330

After failing to make the grade as a youth team player at Borussia Dortmund, Marco Reus returned home in 2012 having shot to prominence while playing for an overachieving Monchengladbach side.

BVB had just won back-to-back Bundesliga titles when Reus joined, but as Bayern Munich began flexing their financial muscle, winning another title has proven to be an impossible task.

Dortmund came closest in the 2018/19 season, missing out on the Bundesliga title by two points despite having led the table for a large part of the seasons.

4. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Age: 31

Clubs represented: Saint-Etienne, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal

League apps: 400

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang spent his first four seasons in professional football with AC Milan back when the Italian giants were still competitive. However, he failed to make a single first-team appearance before leaving for Saint-Etienne in 2011.

While with Les Verts, Aubameyang exploded into life becoming one of the most feared strikers in Europe which led to a switch to Borussia Dortmund in 2013, with whom he failed to win the Bundesliga. Now at Arsenal, the Gabonese international will be hoping that Mikel Arteta can guide the north London club to domestic dominance over the next few seasons, providing he does remain at the club.

5. Laurent Koscielny

Age: 35

Clubs represented: Guingamp, Tours, Lorient, Arsenal, Bordeaux

League apps: 393

After spending his first few years in Ligue 2, Laurent Koscielny stepped up into Ligue 1 to sign Lorient in 2009 and after one outstanding season with them, he earned a dream move to Arsenal.

After making the Emirates home, Koscielny won two FA Cups but the Gunners’ never came close to Premier League glory and he’d leave in the summer of 2019 opting for a return to France with Bordeaux.

6. Dimitri Payet

Age: 33

Clubs represented: AS Excelsior, Nantes, Saint-Etienne, Lille, Marseille, West Ham

League apps: 452

Perhaps unsurprisingly given he has only truly blossomed into an elite performer in the last few years, Dimitri Payet is yet to win a league championship.

Payet joined Lille in 2011 just after Eden Hazard, Gervinho et al had inspired them to a surprise league victory but the arrival of the Qatari millions at PSG made it infinitely harder for clubs like Lille and Marseille – who he joined in 2013 before returning three years later after a brief spell at West Ham – to win the top flight.

7. Hugo Lloris

Age: 33

Clubs represented: Nice, Lyon, Tottenham Hotspur

League apps: 478

France’s captain Hugo Lloris has only a solitary French Cup success on his club CV as he joined Lyon from Nice just as their iron grip on Ligue 1 began to disintegrate. Of course, he is a World Cup-winning captain now, which is a pretty big silver lining.

No honours have yet been forthcoming since he moved to Tottenham in 2012 but having penned a new deal at White Hart Lane until 2022, Lloris must be hopeful of ending that drought in north London.

8. Juan Mata

Age: 32

Clubs represented: Real Madrid Castilla, Valencia, Chelsea, Manchester United

League apps: 429

A product of Real Madrid’s esteemed academy, Mata was not quite able to break into the first-team and eventually found himself at Valencia where he won the Copa del Rey in his first season.

After four productive years at the Mestalla, Mata moved to Chelsea in 2011 and quickly established himself as an integral part of the team, before heading up north to sign with Manchester United. And despite playing for two of England’s most decorated sides, winning two Europa Leagues and a Champions League, a Premier League trophy has so far escaped Mata.