10 Players Who Have Played The Most Games Without Winning The Champions League: Gianluigi Buffon Joins Zlatan Ibrahimovic At The Summit
The UEFA Champions League (UCL) is arguably the toughest soccer cup competition in the world. Only the top teams in Europe qualify for the tournament of champions, with the most consistent and confident of the lot taking home the coveted trophy.
With 14 wins, Real Madrid are the most successful team in the history of the competition, while defending champions and one-time winners Manchester City look the most likely to dominate the scene for the next few years.
Every player worth his salt dreams of lifting the trophy one day, but even the best in the business have fallen short over the years. Read on to meet the top 10 players who have played the most Champions League matches without ever lifting the trophy.
#10 Miralem Pjanic – 83 Games
Central midfielder Miralem Pjanic played 83 Champions League games before leaving Europe for Sharjah FC in September 2022, failing to lift the coveted silverware. Having represented Lyon, AS Roma, Juventus, Barcelona, and Besiktas in the competition, Pjanic netted 11 times and provided 12 assists.
Pjanic’s maiden Champions League final appearance came in the 2016-17 season, when Juventus met Real Madrid in the final. Unfortunately for Pjanic and Co., Real Madrid were at the top of their game that night and secured a comfortable 4-1 victory.
#9 Marquinhos – 85 Games*
Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) captain Marquinhos is one of the best center-backs of this generation, but his trophy cabinet remains incomplete even after playing 85 Champions League matches. The Brazilian ace, who has only represented PSG in the tournament, has thus far scored nine times and provided four assists.
Marquinhos has experienced one UEFA Champions League final in his career so far. The Parisians made their way into the showpiece event in the 2019-20 season, but a determined Bayern Munich shattered their dreams of winning their first Champions League by clinching a 1-0 victory.
#8 Leonardo Bonucci – 87 Games*
Juventus legend and Union Berlin center-back, Leonardo Bonucci has gone 87 UEFA Champions League matches without lifting the ultimate prize. He has scored thrice and claimed four assists in the competition so far, with all of those coming for Juventus, before his switch to Berlin in August.
Bonucci has two Champions League runners-up medals in his locker. His then-team Juventus lost to Barcelona in 2015 before being outplayed by Real Madrid in 2017.
#7 Koke – 89 Games*
In seventh place, we have Atletico Madrid skipper Koke. The Spaniard has played 89 games so far in the competition, scoring five times and providing 11 assists.
The central midfielder, who has been at Atletico Madrid all his life, has lost two Champions League finals, both times against Real Madrid. In 2014, Sergio Ramos equalized for Los Blancos in injury time to extend the game for an additional 30 minutes. Gareth Bale, Marcelo, and Cristiano Ronaldo struck in that period to propel the All-Whites to a 4-1 victory.
A couple of years later, Atletico once again met Real Madrid in the final. The game ended 1-1 at the end of extra time, but Madrid clinched a 5-4 win in the shootout.
#6 Antoine Griezmann – 89 Games*
Atletico Madrid ace Antoine Griezmann has thus far played 89 games in the UEFA Champions League but has yet to experience the joy of lifting the treasured trophy. Having played for Real Sociedad, Atletico, and Barcelona in the competition, the Frenchman has recorded 34 goals and 10 assists.
Griezmann, who has scored four goals in as many games this season, has thus far played in just one Champions League final, against Real Madrid in 2016. The 2018 FIFA World Cup winner missed a penalty as the game ended 1-1 at the end of extra time, leading to a Los Blancos’ shootout win over neighbors Atletico Madrid.
#5 Michael Ballack – 93 Games
Germany and Chelsea icon Michael Ballack is the fifth name on the list, having played 93 games without winning the Champions League. The former central midfielder represented 1.FC Kaiserslautern, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, and Bayer Leverkusen in UCL, scoring 16 times and providing 11 assists for them.
Ballack played one Champions League final in his career, with him representing Bayer Leverkusen in their ultimate clash against Real Madrid in 2002. Unfortunately for Ballack, his contemporary Zinedine Zidane scored one of the most iconic goals in soccer history (a sensational volley) to propel Madrid to a 2-1 victory.
#4 Fernandinho – 103 Games
Manchester City legend Fernandinho enjoyed the highest of highs in English soccer but never got to taste European glory during his peak years. The five-time Premier League winner, who currently plies his trade at Athletico-PR, played 103 Champions League games before leaving Europe in 2022, scoring seven times and providing 10 assists.
The Brazilian enjoyed his best-ever campaign in the 2015-16 season when Manchester City suffered a narrow 1-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid in the semi-finals. Fernandinho scored twice and provided three assists in the competition that season.
#3 Cesc Fabregas – 104 Games
Former Barcelona, Arsenal, and Chelsea star, Cesc Fabregas played 104 Champions League games throughout his remarkable career, never managing to go the distance. The 2010 FIFA World Cup winner, who hung up his boots in July, scored 20 times and provided 14 assists in the tournament of champions.
Fabregas came the closest to winning it in the 2005-06 season when Arsenal made their way into the Champions League final. Unfortunately for Fabregas and Co., Barcelona spoiled their party by clinching a 2-1 win in the main event.
Arguably the greatest goalkeeper of his generation, Gianluigi Buffon also missed out on Champions League glory in his legendary career. The Juventus icon, who retired in August at the age of 45, played 124 UCL matches across Parma, Juventus, and Paris Saint-Germain.
Buffon played in two Champions League finals in his career, against Barcelona in 2015 and Real Madrid in 2017. Both times, his Juventus ended up on the losing side, succumbing to 3-1 and 4-1 defeats, respectively.
#1 Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 124 Games
One of the best strikers in the history of the sport, Zlatan Ibrahimovic played 124 Champions League games in his career without snagging a winner’s medal. He scored an impressive 48 times and provided 29 assists in that stretch.
Ibrahimovic, who retired in July after bagging 34 trophies and scoring over 550 career goals, represented Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester United in the competition. He enjoyed his best-ever Champions League campaign in the 2013-14 season, during which he scored 10 times in eight games.