We often think of the World Cup as the greatest stage for the world’s greatest players, however, not every country makes every World Cup. Someone has to miss out, and often, countries with some of the world’s greatest players miss out on qualification for one reason or another. In this specific post, we’ll be looking at the best players to never play in the World Cup

We’ve seen the likes of Italy, the Netherlands, the United States and others miss out in recent times, and some great players missed out through this route. Others play for smaller nations who almost never qualify, and others still simply share negative relationships with their international manager and are frozen out.

Whatever the reason they missed out, some of the greatest players of all time never once qualified to play with their country in the world’s premier competition. Here’s 3 of the best players of all time who never played in the World Cup.

Best Players To Never Play In TheWorld Cup

1. Gareth Bale- Wales

Starting with a player who still has a chance to end his World Cup drought this year, Gareth Bale has spent his career with Wales just never quite putting it together to qualify for the World Cup. Bale’s first crack at World Cup qualification in 2010 ended with a whimper, with Wales finishing 10 points off even a playoff place in UEFA’s qualification groups. Four years later in 2014, Wales were slightly better, finishing only 7 points off a playoff place, but still far from where they needed to be.

2018 was the first time Bale came within reach of potential qualification, finishing only 2 points off the Republic of Ireland for a playoff place. Agonizingly, the loss that kept them from this was a 1-0 loss to the Republic of Ireland. However, finally, in 2022 with Bale now 32, he’s finally within a game of qualification.

He led Wales to a playoff semifinal win over Austria, and now they await the winner of Scotland and Ukraine’s semifinal, which of course has been pushed back to the June international window. Bale’s long been one of the world’s most gifted players, and the distinction of finally qualifying for the World Cup after also guiding Wales to the semifinals of Euro 2016 would provide a capstone on a truly exceptional career for the Real Madrid player.

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2. Alfredo Di Stefano- Argentina, Colombia, Spain

Di Stefano is one of the most legendary players not only of his era, but in the history of the sport. Di Stefano was born and raised in Argentina, and even played for the country in the late 1940s, but never qualified with them. Nationality rules were a bit more relaxed back then, and when Di Stefano signed for Colombian club Millionaros in 1949, he accordingly switched his nationality to Colombia. However, due to a number of issues involving its domestic league, Colombia withdrew from the 1950 World Cup and were later banned from the tournament in 1954.

With this, when Di Stefano signed with Real Madrid in 1953, he again switched his nationality to Spain. However, Spain failed to qualify in 1958, so again the world’s best player at the time missed out on the World Cup. Things looked to change in 1962, when Spain and a 36 year old Di Stefano actually did qualify, however Di Stefano picked up an injury in the run up to the tournament and failed to play a single minute.

After this, Di Stefano’s time was up and he never again played in an international game. So ends the winding international story of the two time Ballon D’Or winner.

3. George Weah- Liberia

The first African player to ever win the Ballon D’Or, current president of his home country, and father to current United States international Timothy Weah, George Weah spent a decade at the absolute pinnacle of his sport. He, almost single handedly, brought Liberia inches from qualification on two occasions but never got his nation over the hump. In 1990, the first close call for Weah, Liberia finished only two points behind Egypt in the group stage. Things weren’t as rosy in 1994 or 1998, with Liberia not coming particularly close to qualification.

However, in 2002, things looked to be different. Liberia beat Chad 1-0 to advance to the final stage and won five of their eight of their final round group stage games. One of those losses would prove fatal to Liberia’s chances however, as their 2-0 defeat to Nigeria kept them just one point shy of Nigeria at the top of the group, with Liberia finishing on 15 points, and Nigeria 16.

This would be Weah’s final chance to will his nation to the World Cup, as he wouldn’t participate in 2006 qualifying, having already retired by then. Often described as a Rolls Royce player, Weah’s Rolls unfortunately never found the road to the World Cup, often in heartbreaking fashion.