The UEFA European Champions League was launched back in 1992 to replace the old European Cup tournament. This list consists of 15 players who have won Champions League winner’s medals with their squads, but are considered to be the worst 15 players overall to hang the medal around their neck. Regardless of how much they played or contributed to their teams, all of these players were awarded with a medal. Some players didn’t play a minute, while others may have played the entire final.
In fact, some of these players may have even shone for their club in the final, but still weren’t considered to be elite world-class players over the course of their careers even though some of them were internationals. Many of these players just happened to be lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. They ended up being Champions League winners and then moved on elsewhere. Let’s put it this way, if you were asked to pick an all-time fantasy league team of European Champions League medal winners, none of these players should appear.
There have been some great players over the years who have never played European football, let alone win a winner’s medal. On the flip side, there are others who were given a chance due to suspensions or injuries to a team’s regular players and luck was on their side. In the past we’ve seen mediocre players sign with big European clubs even though they know they have no chance of playing regular football, and some of these have managed to win various medals by sitting on the bench. Football, like life, isn’t always fair though and perhaps that explains how the following 15 players now own Champions League medals.
17 Stephane Chapuisat
Stephane Chapuisat was a member of the Borussia Dortmund team which slid past Juventus 3-1 in the 1996-97 final in Munich. The Swiss international made a name for himself by making more than 100 appearances for his homeland and at one point was one of the top foreign scorers in the German Bundesliga. But despite this, he wasn’t really a very good player, at least not on a consistent basis. Chapuisat managed three goals in the Champions League campaign and they all came against minnows Steaua Bucharest. He started the final though, but was pulled off in the 70th minute. His substitute was a 20-year-old named Lars Ricken who managed to score just seconds after entering the game. Chapuisat went back to Switzerland and retired at the end of 2005-06. He scored just 21 goals in 103 games for Switzerland, but did enjoy a fine club career.
16 Salomon Kalou
Ivory Coast international forward Salomon Kalou of Chelsea played 84 minutes of the 2011-12 Champions League Final and was taken off after Thomas Mueller gave Bayern Munich the lead. Just four minutes later, Didier Drogba tied the score at Bayern’s home stadium and sent the match to extra time. Chelsea ended up winning the crown 4-3 in a penalty shootout. Kalou may have 28 goals in 83 games with Ivory Coast and 159 more in 468 club games, he’s not considered a scoring threat by most opponents. Kalou left Chelsea for Lille the same year the club won the Champions League and now plays for German side Hertha BSC. The 30-year-old’s still not much more than a mediocre player.
15 Florent Malouda
Another Chelsea player to win the Champions League in 2011-12 in the 4-3 shootout over Bayern Munich was Florent Malouda. The French international winger was brought on in the 73rd minute for Ryan Bertrand and played the remainder of the 120-minute match. He stayed one more year with the Blues and left with 45 goals in 228 fixtures. He’s been on a downslide ever since and has 111 goals in 638 career club outings and just nine in 80 appearances with France. Malouda played with a strong Chelsea side, but has struggled since leaving and now finds himself playing in Egypt after stints in India and Turkey. He hasn’t played or scored much since 2013.
14 Finidi George
Former Nigerian international winger Finidi George may have one of the best names ever for a footballer, but he didn’t always live up to it. George played for Dutch giants Ajax in their 1-0 Champions League win over AC Milan in Vienna in 1994-95. At one time he was rated as one of the best in Europe, but his spark fizzled out quickly. He also played with Real Betis, Mallorca, and Ipswich Town and banged in six goals for Nigeria in 62 appearances. George almost made it two Champions League medals in a row, but Ajax was beaten 4-2 in a penalty shootout by Juventus the next year in Rome after playing to a 1-1 draw. George retired just over a decade ago after slipping into obscurity, especially after his poor spell at Ipswich.
12 Djimi Traore
Unfortunately for the error-prone Djimi Traore, he always seems to be mentioned by many fans as the worst-ever Champions League medal winner. We’ll give him a break here though and move him back a couple of notches to number three. The defender played the full 120 minutes in Liverpool’s famous come-from-behind 4-3 shootout triumph over AC Milan in Turkey in 2004-05 after falling behind 3-0. Traore had a mediocre game that night and would have been taken off at half time, but Steve Finnan was injured and couldn’t continue. Traore had continuous problems on the pitch and scored an infamous own goal against Burnley in the FA Cup that knocked Liverpool out just months before beating Milan. He spent seven years with the Reds, but appeared in just 88 games. Traore ended up in the MLS with the Seattle Sounders and the 36-year-old French-born, Malian international retired after the 2014 campaign. He had four career goals to his name in 325 club matches.
11 Ludovic Giuly
Barcelona took the 2005-06 Champions League Final with a narrow 2-1 win over 10-man Arsenal thanks to a pair of late goals. Ludovic Giuly played the full 90 minutes at the Stade de France in Paris, as he was a hot commodity at the time. But overall, he wasn’t much more than an average right winger. He got hot at the right time and won a Champions League medal for it. Giuly was capped for France just 17 times and he managed three goals in those appearances. However, they were scored against by the likes of Cyprus, the Faroe Islands, and New Zealand. Giuly also appeared in a Champions League Final in 2003-04 with Monaco, but his side was beaten 3-0 by Porto. He retired in 2013 with 157 club goals to his name in 727 matches.
10 Scott Carson
English goalkeeper Scott Carson will never be forgotten for giving up a howler for the Three Lions while playing an important international against Croatia back in 2007. He gave up a speculative 30-yard shot early in the match and England failed to make Euro 2008 due to their 3-2 home loss. Manager Steve McClaren (the Wally with the Brolly) was fired the next day, largely due to starting the inexperienced Carson in such a crucial game. However, the 30-year-old Carson managed to win a Champions League medal with Liverpool in 2004-05 during the Reds famous 4-3 comeback against AC Milan over in Istanbul. He also won the UEFA Super Cup that year as a backup. Carson did help Liverpool make it to the final against Milan by beating Juventus in the final eight. He ended up with four caps for England and currently plays for Derby County of the English Championship League.
9 Oleguer Presas
Defender Oleguer Presas of Spain was fortunate enough to win a medal when Barcelona downed Arsenal 2-1 in the 2005-06 final after Gunners’ keeper Jens Lehman was sent off after 18 minutes. Presas’ poor defending in Paris allowed the English side to take the lead though when defender Sol Campbell was gifted with a free header in the 37th minute. Barcelona scored twice in the last 14 minutes to win the contest. Their comeback started five minutes after Presas was taken out of the game. Presas played 177 official games for Barcelona between 2003 and 2008 and then headed to Holland to sign with Ajax. He made 57 appearances there in three years before being released in 2011 and retiring at the age of 31. He was also lucky enough to win a pair of La Liga titles when in Spain. Oleguer was basically considered the weakest link in those Barca sides.
8 Filippo Galli
One of the players to receive a winners’ medal for AC Milan after capturing the Champions League in 1993-94 with a 4-0 victory over Barcelona was Filippo Galli. The defender was past his prime by then and was basically used as a substitute. He played the full 90 minutes of the final in Athens because central defenders Alessandro Costacurta and Franco Baresi were both sidelined with suspensions. Galli, a right-back and sometimes sweeper, never played for the Italian national side and retired at the age of 41 in 2004 after two seasons with a minor pro club named Pro Sesto.
7 Jesper Blomqvist
Manchester United won the Champions League in 1998-99 in dramatic fashion with a come-from-behind win to edge Bayern Munich 2-1 in Barcelona. Swedish winger Jesper Blomqvist managed to pick up a winner’s medal in what would prove to be his last game for the club that day. Blomqvist made the starting 11 since both Roy Keane and Paul Scholes were suspended. He was taken out of the game in the 67th minute with United behind and replaced by Teddy Sheringham. Sheringham leveled the game in the 91st minute and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer won it in the 93rd. Blomqvist played just 38 times with United and found the back of the net only once and went scoreless in 30 appearances with Sweden. He didn’t distinguish himself at Milan and Parma and fans wondered why United bought him as a backup to Ryan Giggs. He also won an FA Cup medal with United by sitting on the bench in the final and let’s not forget United won a treble that year by capturing the Premier League too. Blomqvist played about 50 more career games after leaving United due to a combination of his mediocre skills and injury.
6 Roque Junior
Brazilian defender Roque Junior won a Champions League medal in 2002-03 when Milan beat fellow Italian side Juventus in a penalty shootout following an uneventful 0-0 affair. Roque Junior was well known to the English fans at Old Trafford that day because of his brutal time with Leeds United. He was a member of a Leeds' back four which gave up 24 goals during the Brazilian’s seven matches with the club was dismissed from the pitch in his home debut at Elland Road. Roque Junior came on as a substitute in the 66th minute against Juventus and somehow managed to play 48 times for Brazil with a pair of goals. He played just 44 games for Milan and suited up for close to a dozen different teams during his career before sliding into obscurity after 2007.
5 Paul Lambert
Former Scottish international midfielder Paul Lambert was one of a rare breed considering he was a British player who wound up with a good European side in Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. In fact, he was the first British player to win a Champions League medal in 1996-97 when Dortmund upended Juventus 3-1 in Munich. Lambert had joined Dortmund from Motherwell less than a year earlier and had a good final by marking French icon Zinedine Zidane. Lambert was an extremely unimaginative midfielder during his career though with mediocre skills. He happened to be at the right place at the right time in 1997 with Dortmund and returned to Scotland after just one year. The 46-year-old now manages Blackburn Rovers of the English Championship League after a disastrous spell at Aston Villa. Lambert scored one goal in 40 games for Scotland and had 41 in 688 club contests.
3 John Obi Mikel
Chelsea defensive midfielder John Obi Mikel is considered to be extremely overrated by many fans even though he’s a Nigerian international. He struggled in the 2011-12 final against Bayern Munich with poor passes. But when Didier Drogba scored a late equalizer. it gave the Blues the opportunity to win the match in extra time or a shootout. Drogba’s goal came in the 88th minute, which was just five minutes after Thomas Mueller had put the home side ahead. The English club managed to take the title 4-3 via the latter route when the match was still tied 1-1 after 120 minutes. Mikel, who’s now 28, is a bench/role player for Chelsea and has seven goals in 372 career club contests. He’s also scored four times in 64 matches for Nigeria.
2 David May
English defender David May is another player who was at the right place at the right time with Manchester United in 1998-99 after joining from Blackburn. The United squad beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in injury time to win the Champions League and also took home the FA Cup and Premier League titles for the treble. In fact, May won a pair of Premier League and FA Cup medals along with two Community Shields. May was at Old Trafford for nine years from 1994 to 2003, but appeared in just 85 games and contributed with six goals. However, he wasn’t in the same class as most of his Red Devils teammates. May was loaned out a few times by United and left the club in 2003 for Burnley. By 2005 he was with a club named Bacap Borough and retired in 2005 with 244 senior matches to his name.
1 Jonathan Greening
Jonathan Greening happened to be on Manchester United’s treble-winning side of 1998-99 even though he played just 27 times in all competitions for the club after joining them in 1998 from York City. United took the Champions League title home from Barcelona with a 2-1 victory thanks to a pair of dramatic stoppage time goals. Greening, now 37, was last seen playing for a club named Tadcaster Albion for the past couple of years. The attacking midfielder never played for the English national side even though he suited up for the Under-21 squad. Greening ended his pro career with 20 goals under his belt in 521 club matches. He should be given credit though for claiming that he didn’t feel too good about winning a Champions League medal since didn’t he play a minute of the tournament.