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20 Soccer Stars Who Played Great For Their Club (But Flopped For Their Country)

While they have proven to be world class players with their clubs, when the spotlight shines brightest, they have flopped for the national team.

International soccer is notoriously difficult, the tempo of the game is different, the way they are officiated is different and the pressures are ramped up to a whole new level that often causes even the greatest of soccer stars to stutter a little.

With not just one city or town's worth of fans behind you but an entire nation's expectations to deal with, the pressures of international soccer are something that many people struggle with, especially when you reach the grand stages of the World Cup or other notable tournaments like the African Cup Of Nations or the European Championships.

A player might be unbelievable for their club(s), performing at an elite level in the Premier League or another of the world's top leagues, but when it comes to putting on their country's kit, they fail to perform at the same level.

This often leaves fans and managers quite perplexed because they expect their star players to simply continue doing what they do on a weekly basis in order to help them achieve major success.

Throughout this article, we will be looking at 20 examples of this, with 20 soccer stars who always performed well for their leagues, but totally flopped when it came to international play.

20 Paul Scholes

via JOE.co.uk

He won't be the last Englishman you see on this list, with countless top-level English footballers failing to deliver for their country over the past decade or so, and Paul Scholes is certainly one of them.

A midfield maestro for Manchester United, Scholes is praised as one of the greatest midfielders to have ever played the game.

Yet for England, Scholes just fell flat, never reaching the level that he did for Manchester United where he was one of the elite players in the game, and the fact he called it time on his international career at just 29 years-old really says it all.

19 Gonzalo Higuain

via skysports.com

It says a lot when Gonzalo Higuain is currently struggling to get into the starting 11 of an Argentina team that has played subpar in the 2018 World Cup.

Higuain is a natural striker who is one of the very best finishers in the game right now with over 280 goals in club football, proving that he can be lethal when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net.

However at the moment he can't get a look into the Argentina side and while his goalscoring record has been good for his country as well, he has struggled for a place in the team consistently for a while now.

18 Andrea Belotti

via goal.com

He might only be 24 and therefore has plenty of time to turn it around, but during the early stages of his international career, the Torino captain hasn't put his club form on display for Italy.

Being part of the Italian squad which failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Belotti led the line with his goals being what should have helped fire the nation to the tournament, but instead, he failed to do that.

Whether it was due to his youth and lack of experience or if the pressure just got to him is unknown, but the recent Italian team has left a lot to be desired and has angered the entire country of Italy.

17 Nani

via PunditArena.com

He might have spent the majority of his footballing career in the shadows of Christiano Ronaldo, but the Portuguese winger had plenty to offer both his club and country.

When he first burst onto the scene many thought he would become the next Ronaldo and Manchester United and Portugal fans were excited about what a brilliant prospect he was, offering pace and excellent dribbling skills matched with a determined attitude and ability to score goals.

While he was hit and miss at times, for the vast majority of his Manchester United career, Nani was successful.

But when it came to transitioning that form into his international career it just never really took place for him, whether it was being second fiddle to Ronaldo once again or the pressure of representing his country, Nani just never found the level needed.

16 Leroy Sane

via squawka.com

Another young player he who is certainly going to change this situation as he is one of the very best players in the world, but Leroy Sane has yet to really showcase his full ability for his German international side.

For Manchester City, Sane is considered one of the very best players in the Premier League and had the best season of his career this past year.

However, despite having that incredible season, Sane wasn't even picked to be on the plane to the Russia World Cup.

Even though Germany proved to be the biggest disappointment of the tournament, Sane has plenty to prove if he wants to make Germany's 2020 squad for the European Championship.

15 Karim Benzema

via pmdstatic.com

Karim Benzema is very similar to Higuain in the sense that he is a terrific footballer who can score goals for fun and has an ability to hold play up that many other strikers simply have to marvel at, yet for France, he has never been the top man in the squad.

Whether it was Henry or now the likes of Griezman and Giroud, there has always been somebody ahead of him that has performed better and been more deserving of a starting spot than him.

Benzema didn't even get picked for the 2018 World Cup despite his impressive club form and knowing full well that if he is given half a chance he will always be able to find the back of the net with it. However, his attitude has been another reason that he has been held back for France, with issues with management seeing him not get the opportunities to prove himself within the squad.

14 David Luiz

via TheNational.ie

David Luiz has always been someone who is incredibly hit or miss, but in club soccer, it seems that the Brazilian is able to get away with things a little more than he can at international level, where his mistakes have previously proven costly.

Luiz has all the Brazilian flair that fans love to see, playing the ball out from the back, enjoying any chance to take as many touches as possible and always able to pull out an incredible goal every now and then.

He has proven himself as a top soccer player during his time with Chelsea FC, but he has also proven that he has major mistakes in him, something that he certainly showed during the last World Cup.

Because of that, he has fallen down the pecking order for Brazil.

13 George Best

via kingsreview.com

One of Manchester United's greatest ever players and a complete legend of the sport, George Best is someone who left a legacy that will never be forgotten, with his incredible dribbling ability and close control still being marveled at today.

The footage doesn't really do justice to how good Best was in his time, a total innovator as far as bringing in a new style of soccer with players like Messi and Ronaldo going on to take the style he brought and taking it to a new level.

Yet his international career with his beloved Northern Ireland was never as successful as what he managed to achieve at a club level, only playing 37 times for his country where he managed to bag nine goals.

Best was even left out of Northern Ireland's 1982 World Cup squad, which is crazy when you think about how big of a star he was.

12 Mohamed Salah

via GOAL.com

The Egyptian King has the weight of the entire nation on his shoulders when he plays for Egypt, with Salah being the only real standout star in a team of incredibly average players, but when you are as good as him, he should really be doing more.

Just looking at how Ronaldo drags Portugal through games should serve as an example, yet Salah totally failed during the 2018 World Cup to get his Egyptian side out of one of the easiest groups in the tournament.

Coming off the back of his greatest ever season where he was named the Premier League Player Of The Year, expectations were high for Salah, but sadly he didn't capture his Liverpool form for his country and the hopes and dreams will have to wait until next time.

11 Eric Cantona

via skysport.com

For all the issues that Cantona had outside of the pitch, he was complete magic on it, with his ability to change a game something that very few men have ever been able to do, yet his contributions fo French soccer history are very minimal.

His behavior was one of the main reasons he never broke into the French team as a mainstay and is likely one of the main reasons Cantona never actually played in a World Cup.

He had outbursts with the head coach, Henri Michel, and ultimately, the national side made the decision that for as good as Cantona was, his disruptive behavior wasn't needed, meaning he never made any impact for France.

10 Steven Gerrard

As part of England's 'Golden Generation' Steven Gerrard was supposed to be one of the top players for the Three Lions squad who would help fire the nation back into success for the first time since 1966.

Sadly, just like the vast majority of players from that incredibly talented squad, Gerrard always came up a little short when it came to representing his country, failing to capture the club form that people had come to expect from him.

With Liverpool, Gerrard was one of the best midfielders in the world, he scored goals, created assists and really led the team like a true captain and became the heartbeat of everything that the club did.

However once he was paired with Frank Lampard, another one of the worlds best midfielders, all of that was thrown out and Gerrard failed to showcase the same sort of form, even when he was England captain.

9 David Ginola

via skysports.com

He might be one of the greatest soccer players in history, but when it comes to his French international career, it really was one that David Ginola will likely want to forget ever happened, with one mistake proving costly.

A poor cross in a crucial World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria allowed the Bulgarians to counter-attack and score a vital goal that would ensure they went to the tournament and France did not.

Ginola was heavily blamed for the situation and failed to pick up a single cap since, finishing his career with a very surprising 17 appearances for his national side, which is a shock when you consider how brilliant he was, especially at Tottenham Hotspur.

8 Hulk

via parisreview.com

Hulk was supposed to bring something to the Brazil side that fans had never seen before, not focusing on tricks and flicks or an incredible pass and move ability, but instead using his power and strength as his main focal point.

He may not have ever reached the very top heights that many people had predicted for him, but Hulk's career was certainly an impressive one which still continues to this day, but for Brazil, he never showed the qualities needed to live up to the hype that surrounded him.

In his club career, Hulk has scored over 250 goals playing both out wide and upfront, but for Brazil, he only has a mere 11 goals to his name, which doesn't put him very high in the record books.

7 Mark Viduka

via goal.com

Whenever a 'Golden Generation' is created the hopes of a nation can often get out of control as that term begins to be thrown around and the expectations quickly begin rising as each game passes.

In the 2000s one country that had a Golden Generation that failed to live up to its potential was Australia. The team was packed with talent from the likes of Harry Kewell and Brett Emerton to Mark Schwarzer and Tim Cahill, but the standout name was Mark Viduka.

The striker was incredibly talented and had always been a prolific goalscorer, helping to fire Leeds United to some the club's greatest ever years in the Premier League and in Europe.

However, when it came to putting that form into action for his nation, Viduka never quite delivered at the level many people had expected from him, with most fans thinking Viduka would become the greatest player in Australia's history, which he never quite achieved.

6 Alan Hansen

via theanfieldwrap.com

The former central defender is one of the greatest to have ever laced up a pair of boots, dominant in the air, strong in the tackle and he contributed to goals, making him a perfect option at the back for any team in the world.

Many people often talk about Liverpool's history and this was one of its golden periods and Hansen was right at the heart of all the action, yet he finished his career with only 26 Scotland caps to his name.

Hansen was rarely picked for Scotland, who didn't exactly have a wealth of options, and certainly none better than the Liverpool defender.

There are many mixed reports as to why he wasn't picked much, but there's no doubt he provided more for his club than he did his country.

5 Franck Ribery

via fotbal.guru

It was always going to be tough for Franck Ribery as he had the enormous shoes of French legend, Zinedine Zidane to fill, a man who had carried both his club and country for years to tremendous success as one one of the all-time greats.

The problem for Ribery was that he just never even came close to being on that level and never really displayed the same level of form for France that he did in his club soccer, where he was seen as one of Bayern Munich's greatest ever players.

Whilst Ribery did perform well for France, he never once looked like capturing the magic that he showed in the German league where he was one of the very best players on the planet.

It also didn't help that during his time the French national side was going through a tough period on and off the pitch, with other issues taking center stage instead of letting the soccer do the talking.

4 Nicolas Anelka

via thesefootballtimes.org

Nicolas Anelka is someone who would be seen in the eyes of many as a legend having played at the top level throughout his entire career where he has scored goals wherever he's been.

Anelka spent his time moving around from club to club but wherever he went the one constant was goals, playing for the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Chelsea, and PSG, Anelka has score goals all around Europe and collected countless trophies having over 200 goals to his name.

However, for whatever reason, Anelka never managed to quite turn that form to international football, where he only managed to score 14 goals in his entire international career, which he finished up with 69 caps.

Not only did Anelka fail to make a real impact in front of goal, where he was clearly most needed, but he also brought a terrible attitude with him and was disruptive to the camp, playing a big impact on France's 2010 embarrassment.

3 Wayne Rooney

It may seem ridiculous to have England's all-time leading goal scorer and second most capped player in history this high on a list of players who didn't perform for their country, but when you really break down Wayne Rooney's England performances, especially in comparison to his club form, it is a deserved entry.

Rooney was part of England's 'Golden Generation,' which has been widely reported on and is seen as one of the biggest international flops in history with an entire team totally underperforming throughout their entire careers at an international level.

The problem for Rooney was he was supposed to be the major star of that group, the man who would fire England to the World Cup of the Euros, yet he never even came close. Rooney only has one tournament goal to his name, which is a dreadful record for someone with as many appearances as him.

2 Lionel Messi

Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports

It's always going to be a stretch to say Lionel Messi has underperformed for Argentina, but when you look at his club stats, all the records he has broken and the unbelievable achievements he has gained, to see his lackluster international career makes it hard to argue anything else.

In many peoples eyes, Messi is the greatest footballer in the history of the sport, but when you think about the all-time greats, the vast majority of them have all held the World Cup at some point in their careers, an accomplishment Messi is yet to achieve.

Messia retired from international football once before, seemingly giving up on his World Cup dream due to the fact he knew he wasn't performing at that level but came back once more, although it seems he might go back to retirement after this tournament.

1 Matt Le Tissier

via GOAL.com

You thought a member of England's 'Golden Generation' might have topped this list, didn't you? Well, while that team might have had the most hype around it, the group of players that came beforehand was just as talented.

The group had so much talent in fact that top players such as Matt Le Tissier, who was one of the top midfielders of his generations were unable to really scratch the surface with England, only gaining eight caps for his country.

The Southampton legend failed to make a mark for the Three Lions and never even got to play in a single World Cup, which is a major surprise when you consider just how talented he was as a player.

Sadly when he was given the chances to perform for England, Le Tissier never quite lived up to the hype that he had and didn't convert his club for into his international career.

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20 Soccer Stars Who Played Great For Their Club (But Flopped For Their Country)