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Football Legends Who Never Played at the Euros

Mikel Arteta at Arsenal
© Ace Football

Euro 2024 has given late-career tournament debuts to some real legends of the game like Virgil van Dijk and Dani Carvajal, both of whom are 32.

This got us thinking; are there real European legends who went their entire careers without actually playing a single game at the Euros? You bet there are! Here are ten superstar players who NEVER played at the Euros.

Rio Ferdinand: The Premier League Titan

One of the best defenders the Premier League has ever seen, Rio Ferdinand, won 6 Premier League titles, the Champions League, and represented England at the World Cup. He is the second most-capped black player in the history of the England national team, but none of those games came at the Euros. Despite making his senior team debut in 1997, he wasn’t selected for Euro 2000. He missed Euro 2004 due to an 8-month ban for failing to show up for a drugs test, England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, and he was not called up for Euro 2012. He retired from international football in 2013, never having played a single game at the Euros.

Nemanja Vidić: Serbia’s Defensive Rock

Nemanja Vidić, another former Manchester United stalwart, never played a single game at the Euros. The Serbian, named Premier League Player of the Season twice, never managed to qualify for the Euros throughout his career. Serbia qualified for Euro 2024, the first time since 2000, but Vidić had already retired, having made his international debut in 2002 and played in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

Ryan Giggs: Wales’ Wing Wizard

Ryan Giggs is a true legend of the game but never managed to lead Wales to a major tournament during his career. Their first-ever appearance at the Euros came in 2016, nine years after Giggs had retired from international football. Many say Bale is a bigger Welsh legend than Giggs because he managed to lead Wales to both the Euros and the World Cup, something Giggs was never able to achieve.

Isco: The Unlucky Playmaker

Despite spending nine years at Real Madrid and winning five Champions Leagues, Isco never played a single Euro match. He made his Spain senior debut in 2013 but wasn’t selected for Euro 2016 due to fierce competition from Spain’s golden generation of midfielders. His form dropped by 2021, ruling him out of Euro 2020, and an injury at the end of the season ruined his last chance for Euro 2024.

Mikel Arteta: The Midfield Maestro Who Missed Out

Mikel Arteta never played for the Spain first team, despite being a fine player. Born in the same generation as Spain’s golden generation of midfielders like Xavi, Iniesta, and Xabi Alonso, he was always on the fringes. Arteta was reportedly close to a call-up in 2009, but a knee injury ruled him out. Perhaps he can one day win the Euros for Spain as a coach.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan: Armenia’s Shining Star

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Inter Milan midfielder, hails from Armenia, a country that has never qualified for a major tournament. Representing Armenia for 15 years and being their all-time top scorer, Mkhitaryan never managed to lead them to the Euros, despite his undeniable quality.

Alexandre Lacazette: The Unlucky Frenchman

Alexandre Lacazette made his senior international debut in 2013 but never made it to a major tournament because France always had better strikers available, such as Benzema, Giroud, Griezmann, and Mbappé. Lacazette had the quality to feature at the Euros but was just unlucky.

Eusébio: Portugal’s Ballon d’Or Winner

Eusébio, who won the Ballon d’Or and finished as runner-up twice, carried Portugal to their first-ever World Cup in 1966, where they finished third. However, he never managed to lead Portugal to the Euros, despite his incredible talent and achievements.

Miralem Pjanić: Bosnia’s Midfield Maestro

Miralem Pjanić helped Bosnia and Herzegovina reach their first-ever major tournament, the 2014 World Cup, but the Euros always eluded him. He tried for one last time to get them to Euro 2024 but retired from international football after failing to qualify.

Edin Džeko: Bosnia’s Record-Breaker

Edin Džeko, Bosnia’s all-time top scorer and most-capped player, was unable to lead them to the Euros throughout his career. Despite his impressive record, the former Manchester City striker will surely not be part of any future Euros squads, given his age.