The 10 Greatest Footballers To Never Play in the World Cup
The World Cup is football's biggest stage, where legends like Pele, Maradona, Cruyff, and Beckenbauer helped cement their status among the game's greats.
However, for other legendary players, qualifying for the World Cup was something they would never experience.
The following 10 greats either experienced personal misfortune or found themselves as great players representing soccer minnows with little help on their respective national teams.
However, the one thing they all have in common is that they never played on the world's greatest stage.
Northern Ireland: 1964-77
37 caps, nine goals.
Perhaps the greatest British footballer to ever live, George Best never played in a World Cup.
A legend at Old Trafford, Best scored 138 goals with the Red Devils and was widely considered the best player in England during the early part of his career.
While a legend in Manchester, Best rarely showed the same eye for goal representing Northern Ireland.
However, Northern Ireland did not qualify for the World Cup Final in 1966, '70, or '74, and while the side did qualify in 1982, Best's talents were deteriorated by his alcohol abuse, and he was not chosen.
45 caps, 20 goals.
The international career of "Eric the Great" was filled with controversy and clashes with management and French football officials.
Always talented yet mercurial Cantona had infamous run-ins with French managers Henri Michel, Gerard Hollier, and Aime Jacquet.
In qualifying for United States '94, France needed only two points from their last two matches to qualify for the finals. However, they drew against a weak Israeli side and lost in injury time to Bulgaria and failed to qualify.
Leading up to France '98, Cantona was under suspension for the infamous Crystal Palace incident and was not chosen to the side where France won their only World Cup.
Alfredo di Stefano
Argentina: 1947-49; Colombia: 1949-54; Spain: 1954-61.
41 caps, 29 goals.
When the list of greatest footballers of all time is made, there are always four names listed at the top of that list: Pele, Cruyff, Maradona, and di Stefano.
The great Argentinean-born di Stefano represented the nation of his birth internationally, but his nation chose to not participate in the 1948 World Cup.
After a brief stint as a Colombian national, di Stefano became a Spanish citizen in 1956; however, the Spainards failed to qualify for Sweden '58.
In the twilight of his career, di Stefano led Spain to qualification in Chile '62. However, an injury kept him from playing in the finals.
18 caps, five goals
Football's most tragic figure, none other than Sir Bobby Charlton has said Edwards was a vastly superior player to him who would have surely been the captain of England's 1966 World Cup championship side.
Arguably the most talented of Busby's Babes, Edwards represented England in a friendly at the age of 18, at the time the youngest player to ever represent the English national team (a record since broken by Michael Owen and Theo Walcott).
During qualification for Sweden '58, English manager Walter Winterbottom had selected Edwards to take over the right wing position from longtime English captain Billy Wright.
However, on Feb. 6, 1958, Edwards was critically injured in the Munich Air Disaster and died from kidney failure two weeks later.
Duncan Edwards was 21 years old.
64 caps, 12 goals.
One of the most respected players in English football history, Giggs' home nation never came close to qualifying for the four World Cup finals during his international career.
Always a football minnow, Wales (aside from a fading Ian Rush) had few other top flight players and were never a threat to qualify.
Giggs was also notable for rarely playing in Welsh friendlies, a decision relating more to Sir Alex Ferguson's unwillingness to release him than his personal preference.
In a 2006 friendly against Brazil, the yellow and blue's manager Dunga paid Giggs the ultimate compliment, saying the Welshman was good enough to easily have earned a spot in his side.
Soviet Union: 1989-91; Commonwealth of Independent States: 1992; Russia: 1992-98
57 caps, seven goals.
The excellent Russian winger was a mainstay for both Manchester United during Alex Ferguson's rebuilding efforts and also on Mersyside at Everton.
Born in the Ukraine, of Lithuanian parents, and a resident of Russia, Kanchelskis chose to play for the latter after the fall of the Soviet Union and the dissolving of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Kanchelskis represented Russia in the European Championships in both 1992 and 1996.
However, after helping Russia qualify for United States '94, he led a boycott of manager Pavel Sadyrin and refused to play.
122 caps, 30 goals.
Second to only Michael Landrup as the greatest Scandinavian footballer of all time, Litmanen, like Ryan Giggs, has never been close to even qualifying for a World Cup final.
The former Ajax legend is the most capped player in Finnish history. Litmanen scored his first international goal 20 years ago and is still an active footballer representing his nation.
At the age of 36 and coming off ankle surgery, Litmanen chose to take part in European Championship qualifying, scoring two goals in the final two matches.
Still representing his nation at nearly 40, Litmanen is still playing for the Finnish National Team and still playing well.
73 caps, 33 goals.
The three-time African Footballer of the Year is still a legend in the French-speaking African nations as well as South Africa.
One of the top players in Ligue One for nearly two decades, Pele did more than Roger Milla to lead the influx of top African players into European professional soccer.
However, despite the success of the Ghana youth teams and his own professional career, Pele was unable to lead his nation to five World Cup Finals.
Well-publicized disputes with fellow European-based teammate Tony Yeboh led to disharmony on the squad, although their feud was settled in time for the Black Stars to finish second in the 1992 African Cup of Nations.
73 caps, 28 goals.
The grand gentleman of Merseyside never played in a World Cup Final despite his success at the club level at Liverpool.
The all-time leading scorer in Welsh National Team history, Rush, like Ryan Giggs later, found himself an elite player representing a nation with little else in terms of high level football talent.
Rush attempted to qualify for four World Cup Finals and (alongside Giggs) nearly led Wales to the 1998 European Championships in England.
The high point of Rush's career might have came in 1988 after an ill-fated move to Juventus earlier in the year, when the Welshman scored the only goal in a 1-0 upset of Italy.
60 caps, 22 goals.
Weah is both the only FIFA Footballer of the Year from Africa and also the only person given that award who never played in a World Cup Final.
The greatest African player to ever live, Weah was the best forward in both France and Italy during the prime of his career.
At the international level, Weah wasn't only a member of the Liberian National Team; he WAS the Liberian National Team.
War-torn Liberia, under the brutal regime of genocidal kleptocrat Charles Taylor, did not have the money to even field a side when Weah personally bankrolled his home side, played, and even coached Liberia.
While twice qualifying for the African Nations Cup, the closest Liberia would come to qualifying for a World Cup was when they missed qualification for France '98 by one point.