Football Features

Top class players we’d hate to see end their careers without a league title win

By Ben Green

Published: 14:50, 31 May 2019

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.

The former England captain is far from the only world-class player to not be crowned a league champion as there are plenty of others who have fallen just short of adding that particular honour to their CV.

Below are 10 world class players who, despite their best efforts, are yet to be part of a title-winning side.

1. Marek Hamsik

Age: 31

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

League apps: 482

The Slovakian playmaker has had to watch stars such as Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuain leave Napoli to win titles elsewhere but he stayed extremely loyal to the cause with 2018/19 representing his twelfth season at the club. And that’s where it finished as he joined Chinese club Dalian Yifang last month.

During over a decade’s service, Napoli have flirted with winning a first Serie A title since the Diego Maradona glory days in the 1980s but second place is the closest they have come.

2. Antoine Griezmann

Age: 28

Clubs represented: Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid

League apps: 360

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, while the past two seasons they have finished second.

The Frenchman will be hoping he can change his major league title fortunes at his next club, after confirming his Atletico Madrid departure this summer.

3. Marco Reus

Age: 30

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

League apps: 311

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. But Reus will be looking to go again next season, even more desperate to land a first major title as captain of his beloved Dortmund.

4. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Age: 29

Clubs represented: Saint-Etienne, Borussia Dortmund, Arsenal

League apps: 347

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 Unai Emery can guide the north London club to domestic dominance next season.

5. Laurent Koscielny

Age: 33

Clubs represented: Guingamp, Tours, Lorient, Arsenal

League apps: 365

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.

Since arriving at the Emirates, Koscielny has won two FA Cups but the Gunners’ wait for a Premier League title now spans 15 years since their incredible Invincibles campaign in 2003/04.

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6. Daniele de Rossi

Age: 35

Clubs represented: Roma

League apps: 459

A big shame, really. Like Francesco Totti before him, Daniele de Rossi showed incredible loyalty to his beloved Roma down the years despite winning only two Coppa Italia titles during his distinguished career with the club.

Roma have always been competing towards the top end of the table with De Rossi being part of a side that finished as runners-up in Serie A on eight occasions, but they found Inter and now Juventus, too difficult to topple in that time. But now, leaving Roma, De Rossi will have a new chance of winning a league title next season, wherever he goes.

He has won a World Cup, though, so don’t feel too sorry for him.

7. Fernando Torres

Age: 35

Clubs represented: Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea, Milan, Sagan Tosu

League apps: 536

Fernando Torres hasn’t had a bad career all things considered. When El Niño comes to the end of his career and he can look back fondly over two European Championships successes, a Champions League and a World Cup amongst others. Not bad going.

Somewhat incredibly, though, Torres has never been part of a side that has lifted a domestic title and the closest he came was during his Liverpool days when the Reds were beaten to the punch by Manchester United in 2009 despite losing only two games all season. He would have been hoping that changes in Japan with Sagan Tosu, but as things stand it looks like more misery for Torres.

8. Dimitri Payet

Age: 32

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

League apps: 430

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.

9. Hugo Lloris

Age: 32

Clubs represented: Nice, Lyon, Tottenham Hotspur

League apps: 458

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.

10. Juan Mata

Age: 31

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

League apps: 373

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, a Premier League trophy has so far eluded Mata.