10 Great Players Who Need to Play in the Champions League Next Year
With all the various different league across the continent now done and dusted for yet another year, we now know which teams have and which teams have not qualified for next season's UEFA Champions League.
And that also means we now know the identity of the plethora of great players who are set to miss out on Europe's premier club competition, including these 10 stars...
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Back in February, following a surprise 1-0 loss at struggling Norwich City which cast huge doubt on Tottenham’s chances of finishing the campaign in the top four of the Premier League, the Belgian told the London Evening Standard:
What I want is to be playing in the Champions League with Tottenham, so I hope we get in this year.
And now after the north London club's failure to qualify for next season's UEFA Champions League, perhaps the 27-year-old will be forced to join a club competing in the competition, as Vertonghen is just too good a defender not to be showcasing his talents at the very highest level in Europe.
Antoine Griezmann (Real Sociedad)
After the impressive campaign in front of goal that the young forward has just enjoyed in La Liga, it would represent something of a come-down for the France international not to be competing in next season's UEFA Champions League.
Griezmann, 23, netted 16 times in 34 league contests for the Basques in the campaign just gone, although his goals were still not enough to see Sociedad make a return to Europe's top club competition following their involvement in the tournament last season.
And while the San Sebastian outfit may not be that badly missed, their star striker most definitely will be.
Robin Van Persie (Manchester United)
The classy Dutch frontman has been playing UEFA Champions League football in every season since he first moved to the Premier League from Eredivisie giants Feyenoord exactly a decade ago.
And so the 30-year-old's world-class technique, skills and all-around attacking abilities will be sorely missed by audiences, although not defences, throughout Europe next season, while the player himself will be hoping that it is just a one-off as far as the Red Devils are concerned.
Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla)
Anyone who watched Sevilla play at all in the previous campaign will know just what an undoubted star their blond-haired skipper is for the Andalusians, and none more so than in his man-of-the-match display in last week's UEFA Europa League final win over Benfica in Turin.
However, the Croatian does not want to be strutting his stuff in Europe's second-tier competition next season but in the UEFA Champions League instead, where the midfielder—who scored 15 goals and created a further 18 last time out—deserves to be on show.
Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur)
As the brilliant France international told ESPN back at the turn of the year: "The objective first and foremost is to qualify for the Champions League."
Unfortunately for the 27-year-old, the north Londoners failed in their task, meaning that Lloris will now be forced to spend his third campaign in a row since moving to White Hart Lane from Lyon taking part in the less glamorous UEFA Europa League next season.
And for a goalkeeper of Lloris' obvious class and stature—he made his name after starring in the UEFA Champions League at the Stade de Gerland—that is an unacceptable situation to find himself in.
Juan Mata (Manchester United)
I cannot imagine that there will be too many £37.1 million players not operating in any European competition next season.
However, that is the decidedly unfortunate scenario now facing the Red Devils' club-record signing after United failed to qualify not only for the UEFA Champions League—for the first time in almost 20 years—but also out of European qualifying altogether after finishing in a completely unfamiliar seventh position in the Premier League.
Mario Balotelli (AC Milan)
The Italy international is someone who just craves the attention, limelight and adulation that comes his way in a big-match environment, and there are no more bigger competitions to play in that the UEFA Champions League.
This is the tournament that former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once claimed in the Daily Mail was even bigger than the World Cup.
Which is exactly why Mario "Why always me?" Balotelli will be hurting so much following the Rossoneri's failure to qualify for Europe's premier club competition next season because Balo is a player who most definitely belongs on such a stage.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
The striker has led the line admirably for United in the UEFA Champions League in every single campaign since the 28-year-old first moved to Old Trafford from Everton 10 years ago.
In fact, Wazza even scored a memorable hat-trick on his debut for the club in a 6-2 win against Fenerbahce in Europe's top-tier competition at the Theatre of Dreams in September 2004.
And so for England's biggest-name player not to be strutting his stuff in the tournament next season will represent something of a huge personal blow to the player himself.
Alberto Moreno (Sevilla)
Considered by many good judges to currently be the best young left-back on the continent, Alberto Moreno apparently has a whole host of Premier League giants falling over themselves to try to snap the 21-year-old up this summer, according to the Daily Star.
Which is why a player of the new Spain international's quality needs to operating at the very highest level next season and not helping his club side defend the UEFA Europa League title they won last week.
Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)
One of the main reasons that the twinkle-toed Dane chose to join Tottenham from Ajax in the first place last August was because it would give him the best possible chance of taking part in the UEFA Champions in future seasons—or so he thought.
However, following the north London club's sixth-place finish in the Premier League in the previous campaign, the 22-year-old will instead have to make do with a second successive season in the less glamorous surroundings of the UEFA Europa League, a situation he surely did not envisage when agreeing to move to White Hart Lane.