Some legends have never played at the Euros.

13 world-class players we can’t believe have never played at the Euros

For European footballers, the Euros rank second only to the World Cup in terms of prestige at international level – but some of the game’s biggest stars never got the chance to play at the tournament.

Some were simply born in the wrong era – the Euros consisted of just eight teams up until 1992 – or just unlucky, but never managed to make an appearance at the finals.

We’ve dug into the archives and discovered 13 star names who never played at the Euros – and some are genuine jaw-droppers.

Rio Ferdinand

Ferdinand featured in four World Cup squads for England – 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010 – but circumstances contrived to deny the ball-playing defender an appearance at the Euros.

Too young for Euro 96, the centre-back was axed from the final squad four years later before his eight-month ban for missing a drug test ruled him out of the 2004 tournament in Portugal.

By the time Euro 2008 came around, with Ferdinand in his prime and just having captained Manchester United to the Champions League trophy, England had neglected to qualify. Oops.

England's Rio Ferdinand after their FIFA World Cup qualifying defeat against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, Belfast, September 2005.

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Erling Haaland

Still in his early 20s, but Haaland has now missed two European Championship finals despite his status as the world’s best striker.

Norway fell in the play-offs to reach Euro 2020, before the numberwang calculations saw them miss out on even that consolation prize for this summer’s tournament.

Haaland scored six goals in qualifying but was unable to help his country finish above Spain and Scotland in Group A. He’ll be 27 by the time Euro 2028 rolls around.

Martin Odegaard

The Norwegians haven’t reached a major tournament since Euro 2000, but the arrival of Haaland and Odegaard onto the scene was supposed to rectify that stat.

Sadly for the Arsenal and Norway captain, he will be watching this summer’s finals from the sofa.

George Best

Considered by many to be the best British footballer ever, Best would have torn it up at any major tournament he’d had the chance to feature at – but it wasn’t to be.

Northern Ireland never reached the World Cup or Euros during the Manchester United icon’s playing days, with his finest international hour coming in the form of 1964 British Home Championship victory.

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Kenny Dalglish

Probably the best Scottish footballer of all-time, Dalglish played at three World Cups but failed to make it to a Euros – he hung up in boots in 1990, two years before the Tartan Army reached their first continental finals in Sweden.


Despite Euesbio’s quality, Portugal never qualified for the Euros whilst the legendary Benfica striker was playing – which is amazing considering they haven’t missed a major tournament in the 21st century.

The first Euros they qualified for was in 1984, 13 years after the original Portuguese superstar retired.

Eusebio only ever featured in one major tournament – where he top-scored at the 1966 World Cup as Portugal finished third.

Alfredo Di Stefano

Born in Argentina, Di Stefano spent the best years of his career with Real Madrid – and was still going strong at the time of the inaugural Euros in 1960.

He would almost certainly have been involved – but La Roja withdrew in protest at having to play against the communist Soviet Union (this was the Franco era), delivering yet another slice of bad luck to Di Stefano, who didn’t feature when Spain won the tournament in 1964.

One of the all-time greats, he somehow never played at the World Cup either.

Pablo Rossi

The hero of Italy’s 1982 World Cup triumph, Rossi was unavailable for the Euros two years previously as he was banned for match-fixing. Oh dear.

The Azurri also tanked qualifying for Euro 84, meaning the great goalscorer never got his chance to play on the European stage.

David Ginola

An all-time Premier League great, Ginola won both the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year in 1998-99, off the back of a superb campaign for Tottenham.

But the mercurial winger was well out of the international picture, having been outcast for his overhit cross which ultimately cost France a place at the 1994 World Cup and was ignored for Euro 96.

Nemanja Vidic

Serbia ended a 24-year absence from the European Championship with their qualification for Euro 24, a wild stat considering they played at four World Cups in the interim period.

That discrepancy meant Vidic, who was one of the greatest defenders of his generation, managed to skip the Euros altogether. Boo.

Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic celebrates scoring the winning goal late in the game against Sunderland at Old Trafford, Manchester, December 2008.

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Edin Dzeko

Dzeko has been a consistent goalscorer in European football for over 15 years, starring for Wolfsburg, Manchester City, Roma and Internazionale among others.

But he’s only ever reached one tournament with Bosnia & Herzegovina, falling at the group stages of the 2014 World Cup, and his advanced means the striker will certainly miss out on Euro 2028.

Ryan Giggs

Among the most decorated players in football history, Giggs won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues – among countless other honours – during a 24-year career at Manchester United.

The winger was Wales’ talisman for most of that period, earning 64 caps in all, but only once did the Dragons even come vaguely close to qualifying for the Euros – losing in the play-offs to Russia for a spot at the 2004 finals.

Jari Litmanen

Surely Finland’s best player of all time (sorry Teemu Pukki), Litmanen enjoyed great success with Ajax and Liverpool, winning the Champions League with the former and the UEFA Cup with the latter.

The attacking midfielder racked up 137 caps for his country, serving as captain between 1996 and 2008, but the Fins never reached a major tournament during his 21-year international career.

It’s all the more galling considering Finland’s talent during the early 2000s – Jaaskelainen, Hyypia, Forssell, Johansson – and they’d almost certainly have qualified if the Euros had been expanded before 2016. Pah.