7 world-class players we can’t believe have never played at the Copa America

Some of the planet’s finest footballers never make it on the international stage. There are all sorts of reasons why this happens—Paulo Dybala had the misfortune of existing at the same time as Lionel Messi and playing a similar position to him, for example.

Sometimes certain managers take a dislike to you, sometimes injuries come at unfortunate times, sometimes great footballers just don’t fancy the international game.

We’ve unearthed seven megaballers who somehow never represented their country at the Copa America, starting with arguably the best left-back of his generation.


Copa America tournaments are supposed to be held every four years but, honestly, predicting when CONMEBOL are going to hold one is nigh on impossible. For the 2015 and 2016 tournaments, Dunga was head coach of Brazil, and he did not like Marcelo.

“[Marcelo] cannot do whatever he wants just because he is a good player.” Is what Dunga said to the press, refusing to go into further detail. Shots fired.

A combination of injuries and bad luck prevented the left-back from ever being picked for the Selecao at a Copa America tournament.


At the absolute peak of his powers, Milan’s god-fearing number 22 requested not to be selected for the 2007 Copa America. Said he needed a rest, and, listen—we can relate to that. Big up our lazy king.

Unfortunately, injuries kept Kaka out of the subsequent Copa Americas. Some fans interpret this string of injuries as a curse, others say the bloke played a lot of football and injuries are inevitable. Who’s to say who’s right and who’s wrong?

READ NEXT: The Brazilian baller destined to rip up Copa America on his way to Premier League stardom

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every host city at the 2024 Copa America?

Alfredo Di Stefano

Di Stefano is complicated because the great man played for three separate national teams, chiefly Spain, a famously European nation.

The Real Madrid legend did also play for Colombia and his native Argentina back in the late 1940s and early ’50s, but he never made it to a Copa America with either country.

He didn’t make his Spain debut until he was 30, but played more games for La Roja than he did for Argentina and Colombia combined. But then, to be fair, crossing the Atlantic wasn’t so quick and easy in the 1950s.


Jairzinho is one of the greatest and most influential wingers ever to have played football. The bloke was pulling off skills most pros don’t have the stones to try today, but he was doing it in yer granda’s hobnail boots, with a ball made of pure heft.

He played at three World Cups for Brazil but never made it to a Copa America. Criminal. Squeezing Jairzinho and Garrincha into the same starting XI was the original Foden/Bellingham problem. Time is a flat circle.

Carlos Alberto

Jairzinho’s Selecao teammate and scorer of one of the great World Cup goals (you know the one—that ridiculous team move that ends with Pele laying it off to the right-back to absolutely c*nt into the net) also never made it to a Copa America.

The bloke was your World Cup-winning captain just five years before, and he was only 30 years old when the 1975 Copa America kicked off. Explain yourselves, please, Brazil.

Luis Diaz scored the joint-most goals at the 2021 Copa America.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every Copa America top scorer since 1991?

Delio Onnis

In the 1970s, Onnis scored 223 goals in 279 appearances for Monaco. Freaky numbers.

Born in Lazio, Italy, but raised in Argentina, Onnis was never selected for Argentina because they preferred to pick players who played their football domestically, and Onnis had left South America to play in France in 1971.


If someone has scored that many goals, you charter a f*cking pod of dolphins to get the fella back across the Atlantic if you need to.

Tomas Carlovich

You might not have heard of Carlovich, and that’s exactly how he wanted it.

The Argentinian semi-mythical baller was one cool-looking cat—long hair and a moustache, looked like he could quite comfortably be in Creedence Clearwater Revival—and according to Maradona he was a f*cking brilliant footballer.

In fact, El Diego reckons Carlovich was better than him. If Diego Armando Maradona considers his own footballing ability to be inferior to yours, then you are probably the greatest footballer on the planet.

Carlovich preferred to play his football locally and keep a relatively low profile.

Apparently, he would nutmeg opponents when the crowd asked him to, just because he could, and once had to be taken off at half-time in a Rosario vs the Argentine national team friendly because the Rosario native was embarrassing the Albiceleste.

The cult hero tragically died after being assaulted by a much younger man who stole his bike in 2020.