Football Features

From Warnock to Vermaelen, forgotten Club World Cup finalists

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 14:40, 8 February 2023

The 2022 Club World Cup final is on the horizon.

Over the years, the Club World Cup final has hosted some of the greatest players to ever grace the game: Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah, Thomas Muller, Samuel Eto’o, the list goes on and on. Their status as Club World Cup finalists guaranteed by taking part in big Champions League wins.

But the Club World Cup final has also played host to some players who you might have forgotten also either played their part in big continental cup wins, or joined the club in time to participate.

Romario, Edmundo, Juninho Pernambucano, Dida and Edu

Year: 2000

Match: Corinthians 0-0 Vasco da Gama (4-3 pens)

As a bonus before the real list begins, we thought we’d look at the first-ever Club World Cup final in 2000. The quickly discarded mid-season tournament that saw Man Utd forego the chance to defend the FA Cup only to get turfed out in the group stages ended with an all-Brazilian showdown featuring some legendary names.

Vasco da Gama fielded a side containing goalscoring giants Romario and Edmundo as well as the future God King of Free-Kicks Juninho Pernambucano. Opposite them were future Champions League winner and bottler Dida as well as a young version of a future Arsenal Invincible Edu who, after coming on at half-time, scored the winning penalty for Corinthians!

Stephen Warnock

Team: Liverpool

Year: 2005

Match: Sao Paulo 1-0 Liverpool

Djimi Traoré is famous for starting the 2005 Champions League final for Liverpool, but what many people forget is that once the Club World Cup rolled around at the end of that year, it was Stephen Warnock who had the start.

Warnock is much more associated with Blackburn or Aston Villa, with his time playing for Liverpool often forgotten. He didn’t even reach the cult status of Djimi Traoré, but he was on-hand to watch the Reds lose to Sao Paulo.

Alexandre Pato

Team: Internacional

Year: 2006

Match: Internacional 1-0 Barcelona

Barcelona’s attempts to try and win the Club World Cup without the injured Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi didn’t go so well when they lost to unfancied Copa Libertadores winners Internacional. But what you may have forgotten is that starting for the Brazilian side was a then 18-year-old Alexandre Pato. The man whose career would burn bright, wild, but not very long, scored in the semi-final and played an hour in the final.

Luiz Adriano

Team: Internacional

Year: 2006

Match: Internacional 1-0 Barcelona

When Pato went off on the hour mark, the man who replaced him was a young Luiz Adriano. The man who would go on to score five goals in a Champions League game for Shakhtar Donetsk has actually won the Club World Cup! In fact Luiz Adriano’s headed flick on led directly to Iarley setting up Adriano Gabiru’s late game-winner.

Ever Banega

Team: Boca Juniors

Year: 2007

Match: Boca Juniors 2-4 AC Milan

Everyone associates Ever Banega with Spanish football, either Valencia or Sevilla depending on your age. And he’s renowned for winning the Europa League. So many will be surprised to hear that he’s also contested a Club World Cup final, which he did for boyhood club Boca Juniors back in 2007. Yes, playing alongside Martin Palermo and Rodrigo Palace, the 19-year-old Banega played the full 90 minutes as they fell to Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan.

Jonny Evans

Team: Manchester United

Year: 2008

Match: LDU Quito 0-1 Manchester United

Jonny Evans is a Premier League staple, now with Leicester but formerly with West Brom and as a bit-part player with Manchester United. However, many forget just how far back he goes with the Red Devils, all the way to 2008 when Sir Alex Ferguson brought him off the bench against LDU Quito after Nemanja Vidic’s red card. Evans played well and the Red Devils saw out a 1-0 victory.

Juan Sebastian Veron

Team: Estudiantes

Year: 2009

Match: Estudiantes 1-2 Barcelona (AET)

To people of a certain age, there are few midfielders more instantly iconic that the goateed genius Juan Sebastian Veron. Whether wearing Parma yellow, Lazio blue or Man Utd red he has a litany of fantastic memories. Of course what many don’t recall is that he actually went back to play for boyhood club Estudiantes after his European adventure was over, and did so well that he won the Copa Libertadores in 2009.

This win earned him and Estudiantes a spot against Barcelona in 2009. Now the Blaugrana legend of the “Sextuple”, where they won six trophies in a single calendar year, obviously references this match but rarely the opponent, and rarer still the fact that a 34-year-old Veron dominated much of the game and the illustrious Barcelona midfield to take them to extra-time (only due to Pedro’s late equaliser). It’s just not quite as spectacular as the rest of Veron’s career highlights, which is a shame because it was damn impressive.

Marcos Rojo

Team: Estudiantes

Year: 2009

Match: Estudiantes 1-2 Barcelona (AET)

Marcos Rojo is a legendary defender. Not necessarily in a good way, he’s just instantly memorable because of his eccentricities like doing a rabona clearance inside your own box and his small but lengthy role in Manchester United’s banter era. But did you know that he has played in a Club World Cup final? Doing so as a young man for Estudiantes in 2009, coming on for extra-time.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Team: Barcelona

Year: 2009

Match: Estudiantes 1-2 Barcelona (AET)

It’s ridiculous that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still playing football in 2023 but of all those legendary moments through the years, his time at Barcelona usually gets forgotten considering how poorly it all ended. So if you were to tell someone that the big Swede played all 120 minutes of the Blaugrana’s historic “Sextuple” crowning win in the Club World Cup, they’d probably believe you.

Goran Pandev

Team: Inter Milan

Year: 2010

Match: TP Mazembe 0-3 Inter Milan

When Inter Milan won the Treble, no one really thought of Goran Pandev as a key part of the side. So when Inter, now managed by Rafa Benitez, won the Club World Cup (the only trophy the Spaniard won with Inter) in a hysterically disappointing 2010/11 season, many will forget that it was Pandev who scored the opening goal of the game.

McDonald Mariga

Team: Inter Milan

Year: 2010

Match: TP Mazembe 0-3 Inter Milan

Late in the game, with Inter assured of victory, Rafa Benitez brought on McDonald Mariga to kill some time and protect Thiago Motta from a red card. This made Mariga the first Kenyan to win the Club World Cup, which you definitely forgot about because you can only remember him for being the first Kenyan to win the Champions League, or being Victor Wanyama’s brother.


Team: Corinthians

Year: 2012

Match: Corinthians 1-0 Chelsea

Paulinho is remembered for one of three things: being terrible at Spurs, being surprisingly effective with Barcelona, and being brilliant in China. No one remembers his time with Corinthians, which they should because it saw him as part of the side that defeated European champions Chelsea 1-0 in 2012. In fact Paulinho even played a part in the tournament-winning goal.

Victor Moses

Team: Chelsea

Year: 2012

Match: Corinthians 1-0 Chelsea

Everyone knows the story of Victor Moses and it involves being great for Crystal Palace and Wigan before moving to Chelsea where he was neglected for years until Antonio Conte turned him into a Premier League-winning wing-back. Of course that intermediate period where he struggled for Chelsea lasted longer than people recall, because it began in 2012 and included Moses starting in the Club World Cup final defeat for the Blues; he even had a great chance to score!

Thomas Vermaelen

Team: Barcelona

Year: 2015

Match: River Plate 0-3 Barcelona

When Barcelona became the first side to win the Club World Cup three times (a total since surpassed by Real Madrid) in 2015, they did so off the back of their second Treble, the M-S-N Treble. Of course they don’t remember Thomas Vermaelen’s involvement. The Belgian had famously won more trophies that he’d played games for the club after his debut season was afflicted by injury, but he played a small but important role in several key games in 2015/16, one of which was a late cameo in the Club World Cup final.

Marcus Berg

Team: Al-Ain

Year: 2018

Match: Real Madrid 4-1 Al-Ain

Real Madrid’s team was basically the same throughout all four of their Club World Cup wins, and you wouldn’t forget any of those names any time soon. But what you might forget is that their opponent for their record-breaking fourth Club World Cup win was the Emirati side Al-Ain, and starting for Al-Ain was Marcus Berg, the most West Brom player never to actually play for West Brom.

With his 90 Sweden caps, Berg is a familiar fixture at major tournaments but having mostly avoided the top five leagues (save for a spell at HSV) his club career gets forgotten, so if you were to tell someone that Marcus Berg had played in a Club World Cup final they’d likely have been utterly baffled as to how he managed to pull that off.

Andre-Pierre Gignac

Team: UANL

Year: 2020

Match: Bayern Munich 1-0 UANL

When you ask your mum for Olivier Giroud and she says you have Olivier Giroud at home, what she means is you have Andre-Pierre Gignac at home. So in an effort to stand out from the handsome Arsenal and Chelsea man, Giganc moved to Mexico to play for Tigres UANL.

And, well, it’s a move that’s worked out pretty superbly for him. As of writing the Frenchman has 181 goals in 318 games for the Mexican side and having won 4 titles, 3 cups, a loss in the Copa Libertadores final and a win in the CONCACAF Champions League!

Of course Gignac is mostly known for being subbed on in the Euro 2016 final for Giroud, instead of the much more dynamic Anthony Martial, and missing a great chance to win the tournament for France. So people forget his success in Mexico that, of course, climaxed in a Club World Cup final defeat to Bayern Munich with the winner scored by, most appropriately for Gignac, Benjamin Pavard, a Frenchman.

Malang Sarr

Team: Chelsea

Year: 2021

Match: Chelsea 2-1 Palmeiras (AET)

Last year saw Chelsea reach the Club World Cup final for the second time, trying to right their wrongs of 2012 while also extending Europe’s recent dominance of the tournament. In the end, it took them extra-time to secure the trophy and complete their set, with Kai Havertz and Romelu Lukaku on the scoresheet.

Havertz in particular received a lot of the plaudits, as did Cesar Azpilicueta for his efforts in keeping pressure and attention off the German before his winning penalty. Most of the Chelsea team to win the trophy were part of their Champions League-winning squad, or a big summer arrival like Lukaku, but one man who will have flown under the radar is Malang Sarr.

Sarr hasn’t had the greatest of spells at Chelsea but he came on at the start of extra-time for Andreas Christensen in Doha, picking up his winner’s medal.