An international cap is often regarded as an approval of a players ability and seen as one of the proudest moments in a player’s career. Winning an international cap for Germany or Brazil is obviously far more difficult than winning one for San Marino or Haiti though. Having said that, you would think that if a player was good enough, they would still rise to the top and receive international honors, regardless of competition.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of players on this list come from nations with highly respectable footballing pedigree, with English, German and Italian players featuring more than any other nationality. Some players missed out purely because they came on the scene during an era of outstanding ability in their position. Others fell victim to national rules or requirements, and some appear to have no valid reason why they didn’t get a call-up.
You may expect this list to be made up of only half-decent, mostly second-rate players, yet it includes players who have won various domestic and European honors for their clubs and are some of the finest players in their respective positions. The list includes one currently active player, although it is probably fair to say their chance of winning a cap has been and gone, hence their inclusion. Here are the top 15 greatest uncapped soccer players.
15. Micky Hazard – England
The English national team has a history of overlooking naturally talented flair players in favor of more reliable and industrious one’s, and few typify that better than the overlooking of Micky Hazard for the England team in the 1980’s. Hazard played alongside the likes of Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle for Spurs, where he played an integral role in their 1984 UEFA Cup success, scoring in the semi-final and assisting twice in the final. That season saw him win his first call-up, but he was never capped, and retired in 1995.
14. Steve Bruce – England
Manchester United legend Steve Bruce formed a formidable center-back partnership with Gary Pallister at Old Trafford, where he won three Premier League titles and three FA Cup’s. Whilst Pallister was the more talented of the pair, Bruce was a very solid defender, who even captained the club for two years. Given all that, it is difficult to believe he never won a solitary cap for his country. Bruce retired in 1999, after 926 games and 113 goals, making him one of the highest scoring defenders in the history of the English game.
13. John McGovern – Scotland
John McGovern may not have been the most technically gifted player you’ve ever seen, but there must have been a reason that wherever Brian Clough went, he tried to sign the Scotsman, and more often than not, he did. At 19, he was the youngest player in history to play in all four divisions of the Football League. He won the First Division title twice, once with Derby County and once with Nottingham Forest and won the European Cup twice with Forest. These achievements somehow went unrecognized by the Scottish selectors, and despite winning caps at under-23 level, he never won a full cap for his country.
12. Stefan Klos – Germany
Stefan Klos won two Bundesligas, four SPLs, three Scottish Cups, one Intercontinental Cup and one Champions League, during 254 outings for Borussia Dortmund and 208 for Rangers. Clearly then, he was a very talented and respected goalkeeper, yet he never won a cap for Germany. Klos did have the likes of Oliver Kahn, Andreas Kopke and Jens Lehmann to compete with, but it’s still difficult to believe he never got the nod after such a long and successful career. Despite never winning a full cap for Germany, he did represent both the German under-21 team and their 1992 Olympic team.
11. Ralph Milne – Scotland
Given Scotland’s less than illustrious footballing pedigree for a number of years now, it may surprise some to see two of their players feature on this list. Ralph Milne was a very naturally gifted footballer, who should have achieved much more than he actually did. He came through the ranks at Dundee United and was an integral part of the greatest period in the club’s history. He remains Dundee United’s top scorer in Europe, including goals against Monaco and Borussia Monchengladbach.
Alex Ferguson later described him as his worst ever signing, but that was after Milne’s career had been ruined by alcohol and smoking. Had he been managed better he could have been one of the finest players Scotland ever produced, and even as a player who never reached his full potential he should have won at least a handful of caps in the 1980s.
10. Mikel Arteta – Spain
Being a Spanish midfielder in the last decade is up there with the most competitive positions in any national team’s history. Arteta had to compete with the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergi Busquets, Xabi Alonso, Cesc Fabregas and many more. As such, it’s easier to see why Arteta has never won a cap compared to others on this list. Yet after a decade of consistent performances in the Premier League, he can be considered unlucky never to have represented his country. The only active player on this list, now aged 33, it seems unlikely Arteta will ever get the nod.
9. Carlo Cudicini – Italy
The goalkeeping position is often the hardest to break into for a national team. Injuries to goalkeepers are rare and rotation in the position is less common than outfield places. Carlo Cudicini though was an outstanding goalkeeper, who would have been Chelsea’s no.1 for a long time were it not for the brilliance of Petr Cech. Cudicini was even Chelsea’s Player of the Year in 2002 and despite being a regular for Italy’s youth sides, he was never able to win a cap past the formidable Gigi Buffon. Perhaps more surprisingly, in 2002, the year Cudicini was named Chelsea’s best player, he didn’t even make Italy’s 2002 World Cup squad.
8. Horst Blankenburg – Germany
Horst Blankenburg was an outstanding sweeper whose best days came with Ajax and Hamburg. Over the course of his career he won the Bundesliga, Eredevisie, DFB-Pokal and most impressively the European Cup three times with Ajax. Regardless of his achievements, Blankenburg was always going to find international honors hard to come by, given that the man in front of him was Germany’s greatest ever player, Franz Beckenbauer. Blankenburg received a call-up by Holland in 1974, but refused, still hoping for a German call-up which never arrived.
7. Dario Hubner – Italy
Dario Hubner was eligible for both Italy and Germany, given that his father was German, but having been born, raised and living in Italy all his life and unable to even speak German, Hubner considered himself an Italian. Sometimes criticized for his lack of work rate, Hubner was an instinctive striker who scored prolifically. He scored 262 goals in 543 games over his career, including becoming the oldest Serie A top scorer in 2001-02 at the age of 35, a record which was beaten by 38-year-old Luca Toni last season.
With Italy boasting forwards such as Inzaghi, Totti, Del Piero, Vieri and more at the time, Hubner had much competition, but his goals warranted a cap, and he probably would have won one had he played for one of Italy’s top sides. Hubner only ever played for mid-lower Serie A teams.
6. Albert Stubbins – England
With all due respect to recent England internationals such as Danny Ings, Jamie Vardy and Rickie Lambert, it shows how far the English national team has fallen over the years. Just after WWII, Albert Stubbins was Liverpool’s star centre-forward, in a squad which won the First Division title in 1947. In total, he scored 75 goals in 159 games for Liverpool, and is regarded as one of the greatest English players to never win a cap. Stubbins later claim to fame came in 1967, when he featured on the cover of the legendary Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
5. Paolo Di Canio (Italy)
As mad as he was brilliant, Paolo Di Canio is a proud and self-confessed fascist, who even has a tattoo of Benito Mussolini on his back. Few can question his loyalty to Italy then, and there’s no doubt that he would have taken great pride in representing his country. Despite playing for Italian giants such as Lazio, Juventus, Napoli and AC Milan, as well as taking the Premier League by storm, particularly with West Ham, Di Canio never received so much as a call-up, although he did play for Italy’s under-21 side.
4. Jimmy Case – England
Quite possibly the greatest English player to never play for England, Jimmy Case was part of the legendary Liverpool team of the late 1970s and early 80s. The England squad was very Liverpool-centric at that time, with three of Case’s Liverpool midfield teammates in the squad; Terry McDermott, Ian Callaghan and Alan Kennedy, yet Case somehow failed to pick up a single cap. Liverpool manager Bob Paisley criticized the decision, saying it forced the other three into doing jobs they weren’t used to in Case’s absence. Case won four league titles, three European Cups and one UEFA Cup in an incredibly successful spell at Anfield.
3. Mario de Castro – Brazil
The most prolific goal scorer in football history, with an average of 1.95 goals per game, Mario de Castro is up there with some of the finest players of the pre-war era. His career was short but outstanding. He began playing late having been denied the chance to play football by his mother, and it ended early, after he retired due to an opposition fan being shot by his club director.
In total, he scored 195 goals in 100 games for Atletico Mineiro. He was the first player from outside of Rio and Sao Paolo to be called up to the Brazil squad, but rejected the call-up when he was told he would be the second choice striker and was never called upon again.
2. Agostino Di Bartolomei – Italy
Legendary Roma midfielder Agostino Di Bartolomei is often described as the greatest Italian not to represent the country’s national team. He was a cult hero at Roma, where he spent 12 years, captaining the team for four and often being regarded as the club’s star player. A gifted playmaker, he won three Coppa Italias, one Serie A and lost in a European Cup final to Liverpool on penalties with Roma, before transferring to AC Milan.
Remarkably, he never won a single cap for Italy, despite scoring seven in eight from midfield for Italy’s under-21s. In 1994, aged 39, Bartolomei shocked the world of football when he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head having suffered from depression.
1. Bert Trautmann – Germany
The greatest player to never be capped by his country, Bert Trautmann was a world class goalkeeper. The German shot-stopper recently made our list of the top 25 greatest goalkeepers in history, which is a mark of just how good Trautmann was. A former Luftwaffe paratrooper who was captured by the British, there was some trepidation when he was signed by Manchester City in 1949, but despite 20,000 protesting his signing, Trautmann won over the majority of Manchester City fans with his marvellous and brave performances, spending 15 years with the club, playing with a broken back on one occasion and winning an FA Cup.
Trautmann was unable to represent Germany at the time due to a rule against fielding non-domestic based players at the time, a rule which even saw Franz Beckenbauer dropped after he left the Bundesliga. Although West Germany won the 1954 World Cup without Trautmann he certainly would have made them a stronger team. He was a better goalkeeper than German regulars Toni Turek, Heinz Kubsch, Heinz Kwiatkowski, Gunter Sawitzki and Fritz Herkenrath, and under today’s more lenient German rules, he would probably have won a century of caps for his country.
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