After accusing Anthony Joshua of sleeping with his wife last…
By Tijjani Abdulsalam
Jose Manuel Pinto Colorado … If you have followed Barcelona of the Spanish La liga for a while, you would easily recognize this guy as the hair-braiding, ill-tempered back up to Goal Keeper Victor Valdes during Pep Guardiola’s reign at the Camp Nou. Pinto is a unique footballer; known more for his bench warming years at Barca than for his illustrious years at Celta Vigo where he was recognized as the best goalkeeper for the 2005-2006 season in a league that included the legendary Iker Casillas among others.
Another thing you may also not know? Pinto has more UEFA Champions League (UCL) winners’ medals in a whopping 8 appearances than, collectively, some of the finest footballers ever known; Michael Ballack, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Ronaldo de Lima, Patrick Vieira, Pavel Nedved, Gigi Buffon, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Hernan Crespo, Cesc Fabregas, Fabio Cannavaro et al.
One of the most intriguing things about the UCL is the fact that some of the finest footballers to have walked the face of this earth never tasted its glory. This piece looks at some of these ‘unfortunate’ legends.
1. Ronaldo Nazario de Lima
Clubs represented: 5 (PSV Eindhoven, FC Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, AC Milan)
A write-up on Ronaldo de Lima would require more than the entire word count of this article. Suffice to say, however, that before Cristiano Ronaldo there was a certain ‘phenomenon’ known as Ronaldo de Lima. Ronaldo is widely regarded as the best ever striker of his generation. Those were the days when football revolved largely around having a top central, out-and-out striker. Ronaldo’s illustrious years at five top European clubs could not earn the legend a Champions League winners’ medal. Not even a final appearance.
2. Ruud van Nistelrooy
Clubs represented: 4 (PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Hamburg SV)
‘The Ruud boy’ no doubt enjoyed his best years at Old Trafford where he redefined the quintessential image and attitude of a goal poacher, the fox-in-the-box, silent killer kind of strikers more useful in the 18 yard, ready to finish off moves or pounce on errors with ruthless efficiency.
Ruud made 88 appearances in the UCL majorly for Manchester United, Real Madrid and Hamburg SV, banging in 62 goals. Ruud Never got close to a Champions League Winners Medal.
3. Patrick Vieira
Clubs represented: 5 (AC Milan, Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan, Manchester City)
Born in Senegal but known for his exploits with les Bleus of France and Arsenal, Vieira belongs to this unenviable class of players who are veterans of the Champions League without a medal to show for it. Patrick Vieira spent the bulk of his career marshaling the midfield for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. The gunners would eventually cruise to the final of the 2006 edition, the same season he jumped ship to Juventus of Italy. Further spells at Inter Milan and Manchester City did not bring anything close to a Winners Medal. The French Man was again unlucky, leaving Inter in the second half of the 2009-2010 season only for the Nerazurri to clinch glory same year.
4. Gianluigi Buffon
Clubs represented: 2 (AC Parma, Juventus)
Gianluigi ‘Gigi’ Buffon is undoubtedly one of the finest goalkeepers in football. Buffon represented Juventus for 17 years after spending another 6 at Parma and in that time cemented his place as one of the greatest goalkeepers in football history. A total of 160 European appearances, 124 of these with Juventus could not earn Buffon a Winner’s medal with the closest being three final appearances in 2003, 2015 and 2017.
5. Michael Ballack
Clubs represented: 4 (Kaiserslautern, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich, Chelsea)
Michael Ballack was a die mannshaft veteran at National team level and represented Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Chelsea in his active days. Like Buffon, he got very close to UCL in glory in 2002 but his Bayern Leverkusen team would succumb to the firepower of Zidane and friends’ Real Madrid in 2002. Ballack made 103 European appearances across three clubs, scoring 21 goals.
6. Fabio Cannavaro
Clubs represented: 5 (Napoli, Parma, Inter, Juventus, Real Madrid)
Cannavaro represents the era of natural defenders, when the art of defending did not suffer the derision it does today no thanks to greater emphasis on attacking football. Cannavaro was a well drilled, technically gifted Italian defender but with a bit of a human side when it came to tackles and one-on-one situations. Cannavaro turned out for a host of Italian clubs, with Juventus and Inter Milan the biggest of them all. ‘Canna’ never got close to a UCL Medal; not even a final.
7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Clubs represented: 7 (Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, PSG, Man United)
A lot has been said of Zlatan and it is hard to tell for which is he more known; his classy goals, incredible self-confidence bordering on pride or his journeyman career tha has seen him turn out for 7 top European clubs. As part of his journeys, Zlatan left the San Siro in 2009 only for Inter to win it in 2010. While a Barca player in 2011, he would be on loan at AC Milan when the Blaugrana clinched their fourth title that year. Further spells with PSG and Man United did not bring anything even close. Now representing LA Galaxy, it is hard to bet on Zlatan ever lifting the Champions League. The Swede made 139 European appearances across 7 clubs, amassing 56 goals.
Francesco Totti (AS Roma)
Hernan Crespo (Parma, Lazio, Inter, Chelsea, AC Milan)
Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea)
Pavel Nedved (Sparta Prague, Lazio SS, Juventus)