A European Championship is the perfect opportunity for fans to enjoy some of the best players in the world go up against each other for their respective nations. It also has a tendency to throw a world superstar into the same team as so-called ‘lesser’ players and away from their usual club galactico surroundings.

However, there are a number of players throughout history, who despite being some of the greatest talent of their respective generation, have never graced the pinnacles of the international arena – often through no fault of their own. Here we take a look at some of the names to never have played at a Euros or World Cup…

Ryan Giggs, Wales

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The Welshman’s club career needs no introduction, but we’re going to do it anyway. A one-club man at Manchester United, Giggs won 13 league titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues and a FIFA World Club Cup. Sadly for Giggs, he never got near the chance to even try to add to that tally with his national side.

As one of the greatest players of his generation, Giggs played for United at the highest level until he announced his retirement from playing in 2014 when he was 40. Giggs stopped playing for his country seven years previous, and many believe that early international retirement, plus countless free summers of no tournament football, prolonged his successful career.

What Giggs can lay claim to though is captaining the Team GB side at the London 2012 Olympics, when he was named as one of three ‘overage’ players.

Duncan Edwards, England

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Edwards story, like many who perished on that desperate flight from Munich to Manchester in February 1958, is one of tragedy and of a life cut too short and too soon. Aged just 21, Edwards had his whole career ahead of him and was already causing a stir in English football, becoming the youngest player to represent the Three Lions since the Second World War (a record he would hold for 43 years until Michael Owen made his debut in 1998).

With two league titles already to his name, Edwards looked a shoe-in to play in midfield for his country at the 1958 World Cup. Sir Bobby Charlton, who survived the tragic Munich flight, said Edwards was the only player who made him feel inferior, and former United manager Tommy Doherty is on record as saying that Edwards would have gone on to become the best player in the world.

Edwards would have been 29 at the 1966 World Cup, and one imagines almost certain to have been captain.

Alfredo Di Stefano – Argentina, Columbia, Spain

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We admit, Di Stefano played in one major tournament – the 1947 South American Championships – but it was the competitions he DIDN’T play in which are the story here. Officially recognised by France Football as the fourth greatest player of the 20th century – behind only Pele, Maradona and Johan Cruyff – Di Stefano played six times for his country of birth, Argentina, scoring six goals in the process as he helped his countrymen defend their South American Championship title.

This is as good as it would get for him in Argentina, who following strikes and disputes, withdrew from the 1950 FIFA World Cup. Before moving to Madrid and going on to win five European Cups with Real, Di Stefano was playing his club football in Columbia and played four ‘unofficial’ games for Columbia. This ensured FIFA would ban him from representing Argentina at the 1954 World Cup.

After three seasons in Madrid, Di Stefano acquired Spanish citizenship ahead of the 1958 World Cup qualifiers, which Spain conspired to mess-up against Scotland and Switzerland. Then in 1962, when Di Stefano finally qualified for a major tournament 15 years after his international debut, fate dealt him a cruel blow by way of a muscle injury to mean he wouldn’t kick a ball. Well it’s not as if he didn’t try, is it?

George Best, Northern Ireland

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Arguably the most talented British player of all time, ‘El Beatle’ was unable to showcase his incredible talent on the international stage at a time when probably only the great Pele was considered a bigger talent.

Instrumental, influential and incredible in a Manchester United team that became European champions in 1968 for the first time, Best was a new breed of footballer – long hair, fashion conscious and front page news. But like other names on our list, what prevented him from playing at a major tournament was hailing from a small nation with a limited pool of talent.

Best played 37 times for Northern Ireland, but largely being surrounded by players of lesser ability meant that not even him alone could drag his country to a major tournament appearance.  

George Weah, Liberia

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Much like Best, Weah’s international career was hamstrung by the nation he represented. Admittedly, the-now Liberian president (really!) played at two African Cup of Nations tournaments, however they never made it past the group stage. However, widely regarded as the greatest African player of all time, the 1995 Ballon d’Or winner and FIFA World Player of the Year was a true world icon and superstar and is still the only African recipient of these awards.

Remembered largely for his title-winning spells at Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, Weah also helped Chelsea towards FA Cup success in 2000.