Traditionally, certain nations have provided the hotbed of the world's soccer talent. For example, almost all of the greatest players that the game has seen to date originated in either South America or Europe, with the likes of England, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Holland, Brazil and Argentina having produced a great percentage of the game's most talented individuals.
Cristiano Ronaldo has been afforded much sympathy for struggling in the European Championships and World Cups given the lack of strength of his Portuguese teammates. However, Ronaldo plays in a team of largely Champions League players who all play the game at the highest level. Imagine being one of the best players in the world and not even getting the chance to play at a major international tournament. Or, if its easier, imagine you are Gareth Bale.
From Pele to Puskas, the history of soccer is packed with great players who played in great national teams, but this list celebrates those who weren't afforded such a luxury. These are the true one-man national teams. The big fish in very small ponds. The list is ranked by just how good the player was in relation to how poor the national team was during said players career. Here are the top 15 great players in terrible national teams:
16 15. David Alaba - Austria
Arguably the finest left-back in the world today, David Alaba is also capable of playing further forward, either on the left side or in central midfield. Born in Vienna, Alaba made his international debut at the age of just 17, making him the country's youngest ever debutant. He has since won 39 caps, aged only 23. The Austria team is one of the strongest on this list, but Alaba remains the clear stand out player, with Christian Fuchs, Aleksander Dragovic and Marko Arnautovic being their next best players. Austria haven't qualified for the World Cup since 1998, and only qualified for the European Championship's once in their entire history.
15 14. Pavel Nedved - Czech Republic
14 13. Dwight Yorke - Trinidad & Tobago
13 12. Stevan Jovetic - Montenegro
12 11. Lakhdar Belloumi - Algeria
11 10. Jari Litmanen - Finland
10 9. Hristo Stoichkov - Bulgaria
9 8. Georgi Kinkladze - Georgia
8 7. Abedi Pele - Ghana
7 6. Gareth Bale - Wales
Gareth Bale may be one of the best players on the planet, but he finds himself high up this list because the Welsh national team currently boasts few respectable players. Despite the presence of Ashley Williams and Aaron Ramsey - undoubtedly Wales' next best players - the Welsh national team still rely on Bale to win them games. When he plays well, Wales play well, and without him they pose very little cutting edge. Wales haven't qualified for a World Cup since 1958, and have never qualified for the European Championships, although it looks like thanks to Bale's performances they will qualify for Euro 2016.
5 5. Gheorghe Hagi - Romania
Gheorghe Hagi is a hero in Romania. The attacking midfielder is the greatest Romanian footballer of all time and it is no surprise that all of their finest achievements on the world stage came during Hagi's international career. Having failed to even qualify for a World Cup in 20 years, Hagi took Romania past the group stages in all three of the World Cup's he played in, and since his retirement, they have failed to even qualify once more.
4 4. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - Gabon
Gabon are a very poor national team, although in an African nation of just 1.6 million, that is hardly surprising. They have never qualified for a World Cup and have only once got out of the group stages of the African Cup of Nations, which came during Aubameyang's career, in 2012. Known for his searing pace, especially over short distances, Aubameyang is one of the most feared strikers in Europe right now with Borussia Dortmund, where he has scored 38 goals in 72 games, since joining the club in 2013.
3 3. George Best - Northern Ireland
One of the greatest footballers of all-time, in a largely average/poor national team, one would expect George Best to have racked up far more than 37 caps for Northern Ireland. The Manchester United legend won European Cup, Ballon d'Or and European Footballer of the Year in 1968, yet he couldn't help his country qualify for the 1968 European Championship's, nor could he qualify for any World Cup or Euro's in his entire playing career.
2 2. Henrikh Mkhitaryan - Armenia
Ranked 83rd in the world and having never qualified for a World Cup or European Championships, it wouldn't be unfair to say that Armenia weren't a powerhouse of international soccer. A 26-year-old midfielder, Mkhitaryan is already the countries all-time top scorer, with 16 goals, and has 53 caps to his name, many as captain. A quick glance through the Armenia squad and most casual soccer fans won't have heard of a single player other than the Borussia Dortmund midfielder.
1 1. George Weah - Liberia
The greatest disparity between player and national team in history is without doubt that of George Weah in the Liberia national team. Weah, a Ballon d'Or winner, three-time African Footballer of the Year winner and A.C. Milan Hall of Famer, is widely regarded as the greatest African footballer of all-time, and the only one to win the Ballon d'Or. He played for the likes of Monaco, PSG, AC Milan, Chelsea, Manchester City and Marseille, blessing all with his direct, pacey and powerful style of play, which saw him even step into the shoes of the great Marco Van Basten at AC Milan.
At international level, never has a country relied so greatly on a single player as Liberia did with George Weah. He played, managed and even sponsored the national team, who required as much support both on and off the field as they could get. He is not only the countries greatest ever footballer, most people would do well to even name another footballer who hailed from Liberia. Almost their entire squad both during Weah's career and today play domestically in Liberia, and the country has never qualified for a World Cup or made it past the first round of the African Cup of Nations.
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