There are some truly great players and managers who have never won the biggest prize in football.
Gianluigi Buffon said, “My biggest wish is to win the Champions League in this shirt and continue to prove myself with the national side.”
Javier Zanetti said, “The Champions League is more important than the Scudetto. We are desperate to do well. We want to celebrate our fifth league title in 2010, but I am desperate to go all the way in the Champions League, too.”
Arsene Wenger said, “You are not great until you have won the Champions League.”
And just as equally, there are some players who hoard medals at home that their talents barely deserve.
Life is full of winners and losers, and life isn’t fair either, so it’s to be expected that some lesser lights somehow find their way into the top drawer of European football.
Here, giving hope to Sunday footballers across the land, are the 10 worst players to win the Champions League final.
To qualify, a player must have started the match and ended with a winner's medal since the Champions League era began with Marseilles' win against Milan in 1993, and be inestimably shit.
10 —Dida, Milan (03 and 07)
Although Dida was not ranked amongst the 10 worst black goalies by In Behind earlier in the week, he is still an extremely shoddy goalkeeper, and the only player on this list to have started and won the Champions League final twice.
Dida joined Milan in 1999, and began life behind Christian Abbiati and Sebastiano Rossi in the pecking order. But he lept into the starting lineup in 2000, just in time for AC Milan's trip to Elland Road to face a young, injury-ravaged, and out-of-form Leeds United side.
Of course, Dida threw the ball into his own net, and Leeds won 1-0. He’s got quite a reputation, Dida. He’s something of an Italian David James.
His first Champions League win actually came courtesy of some quality saves in a penalty shootout against Juventus, three to be exact.
His second was the '07 final, where he gained some level of revenge over Liverpool with a 2-1 win, in which he had very little to do. However, it’s no coincidence that since then he’s lost his place first to Zelijko Kalac, and now to Christian Abbiati.
9—Christian Karembeu, Real Madrid (98 and 00)
Karembeu has the honor of being the only player to make this list who has won both the Champions League final and the World Cup final as a member of the first XI.
However, his second title in '00 came as an unused substitute. The lad’s obviously got pedigree, so what on earth is he doing on this list? Just ask fans of Middlesborough.
In his one season there, he played abysmally for five months, merely okay for the next four, and then packed his backs and went for a working holiday with Olympiakos.
They really should have bought Karembeu when he was actually some good, rather than a few years afterwards.
Notably, Karembeu is also the only Champions League winner ever to play for Kettering FC. Strange? Yes, very. He also has a famously hot wife.
8—Ivan Campo, Real Madrid (00)
Ivan Campo is one of two Champions League winners to play for Bolton Wanderers. One was his club's most inspiring and influential captains of all time, his country's all-time top goalscorer, and possibly the most respected player ever to some out of Spain. The other was this idiot.
Sadly, I cannot lay my hands on the footage of Ivan Campo's last stand at Real Madrid. In short, he’d started having panic attacks on the pitch, and suddenly and randomly playing opposing strikers in on his own goal.
Real grew tired and shipped him off to Bolton on loan until the end of the season, where he confirmed his insanity by deciding that he liked living in Bolton more than Madrid and opted to stay for six more years.
As well as his stupid hair, he’ll always be remembered for this goal…
Campo won the Champions League in '00, partnering Aitor Karanka in a stereotypically Basque central defensive partnership.
7—Ludovic Giuly, Barcelona (06)
Every now and then, a player hits a streak of freak form that is as inexplicable as it is short-lived. Leon Osman does it once every couple of seasons. Emile Heskey did it for Liverpool once upon a time.
The same happened to Ludovic Giuly, only he was fortunate enough to be playing in the Champions League knockout phase when it did.
He almost single-handedly carved teams apart, scoring himself and lying on goals for Morientes, as Monaco tore past Real Madrid and Chelsea en route to the final against Jose Mourinho’s Porto. Few eyebrows were raised when he was snapped up by Barcelona.
Here, if you can cope with the amazingly terrible europop soundtrack, is a video of him scoring a bunch of tap-ins and proving adept at finishing across the goalkeeper…
Which is surprising, because Ludovic Giuly is, in fact, a painfully average winger. After all, he’s only managed 17 caps and scored three goals for France (against the Faroe Islands, New Zealand, and Cyprus). He’s now back at PSG, lost somewhere in the French league, where he belongs.
6—Paul Lambert, Borussia Dortmund (97)
Here’s your first British Champions League winner. A couple of years before Beckham, Giggs et al brought home the trophy from the Nou Camp, Paul Lambert had remarkably won the Champions League less than a year after playing for Motherwell. That he marked Zidane off the field in the final is even more remarkable.
Before we get carried away though, we should remember who we’re talking about here. A really, really average, boring to watch defensive midfielder with merely average qualities.
He was no more than a cog in a Dortmund machine that was fortunate to reach the final and capitalized well on a Juventus side that choked on their big day.
Lambert himself spent only one season at Dortmund before returning to play for Celtic, guaranteeing him some silverware with the minimum of effort.
He’s won trophies with Celtic, Dortmund, and St. Mirren, played against Brazil at the World Cup, and captained Celtic to the UEFA cup final. How the fuck did he manage that?
5—Oleguer, Barcelona (06)
Catalan militant Oleguer Presas was one of just three Spanish players (all Catalan) to start the final against Arsenal.
With over 125 appearances for Barca under his belt, what’s he doing on this list? History has a habit of smudging reality, so let's remind ourselves of the actual events of that evening. Again, apologies for the music…
Oleguer loses his man, and Sol Campbell heads Arsenal into the lead. Oleguer is taken off in the 71st minute, to be replaced by Juliano Belletti. Ten minutes later Barca are 2-1 up and Belletti has scored.
So, had Oleguer not been taken off, it’s probably realistic to say that Barcelona may not have won the match, and he would have escaped this list.
Oleguer is also a raving lunatic, and having said that, in the unlikely event of him receiving a Spain call up, he would reject it, as he is Catalan.
An economics graduate, he drives a van to training and is in trouble with the police for his involvement in a riot in 2003. He also has written newspaper articles criticizing the Spanish government for their treatment of a convicted ETA terrorist.
4—Jesper Blomqvist, Manchester United (99)
Jesper Blomqvist is better than Pele.
Unfortunately, there are only three Champions League winners he isn’t worse than. Lars (Jesper is a middle name, but way cooler) was a promising youngster with IFK Gothenburg before spending a year each with Milan (where he was rubbish) and Parma, where he was a bit better.
For some reason, United snapped him up. £4.4m was a lot of money to pay at the time for Ryan Giggs backup, and he rarely started a game, picking up an FA Cup medal as an unused substitute.
However, his luck came in come the famous trip to the Nou Camp, as suspensions to Paul Scholes and Roy Keane meant that a midfield of Blomqvist, Butt, Beckham, and Giggs was the only real option available to Fergie.
He didn’t much fancy Jonathan Greening against Stefan Effenberg.
Blomqvist was anonymous for most of the game, and in circumstances spookily similar to those of Oleguer, was replaced by Teddy Sheringham towards the end of the game.
Thereafter, serious injury restricted him to just 37 games in nine years, and he retired in 2008 after a short spell with Enkoping. Whoever they are. Has a player ever won a treble yet contributed less?
3—Milan Baros, Liverpool (05)
The whole point of being a striker is to score goals. If you’re playing up front, the minimum expectation is that you, from time to time, pop the ball into the back of the net. Has any European-level striker been as bad at that as Milan Baros?
I mean, he didn’t look bad when he was at Banik Ostrava, and the elite took note. Of course, it’s usually Liverpool who signs the duds, and so it proved when they snapped up Baros.
A few goals in his first few games had people excited, but he quickly became very frustrating very quickly, and it seemed he was on his way out of Anfield.
In the main, he was extremely good at running forwards whilst looking at his own feet. Then came one of those inexplicable runs of form, just in time for Euro 2004.
Rafa kept him, and as such he got his chance in the '05 Final, Liverpool’s famous comeback. He lasted 85 minutes, and his replacement, Cisse, scored in the shootout.
Since his time at Liverpool, he has flattered to deceive at Aston Villa, Lyon and Galatasaray, always falling out of favor and being criticized for not scoring enough.
But he’s had his year, in '04 and '05, and nothing can take that away from his bumbling boots.
A friend of mine summed up Baros by once expressing surprise at something he’d done. He hadn’t turned someone inside out or made a staggering goal line clearance.
“Did I really just see Milan Baros look up?”
2—Finidi George, Ajax (95)
If you’re an Ipswich fan, you’re probably already in tears having read his name. I’m sorry. Really, really sorry.
How can a player go from winning the Champions League with a stunning Ajax side filled with talent that would return to the biggest game in European football the very next season, then be represented on no less than eight occasions by old boys in subsequent finals, to being considered one of the worst signings ever made by Ipswich Town? I mean, it’s not like he was just a hanger-on in that Ajax team…
George's arrival, on inflated wages and with ego in tow, rocked the boat which had propelled Ipswich to the UEFA cup and a win against Inter Milan.
They were a cohesive, hard working unit which was expertly balanced and reliant on every player pulling their weight. Their reward was that famous night at Portman Road.
George was a square peg in a round hole, and it pretty much capped off a slow slide into obscurity, from Ajax, to Betis, to Mallorca, to Ipswich, back to Mallorca, and into oblivion…
However, has a descent from Champions League winner into obscurity ever been quite as quick and painful as that of…
1—Djimi Traore, Liverpool (05)
“Don’t blame it on the Hamman, don’t blame it on the Biscan, don’t blame it on Steve Finnan, blame it on Traore. He just can’t, he just can’t, he just can’t control his feet.”
Djimi Traore, my goodness. The best thing about Djimi is that he didn’t just win the Champions League final with Liverpool. At 3-3, and with 20 minutes remaining, he did this… (fast forward to six minutes)
So, without Djimi Traore in the team, it’s highly likely that Liverpool would have had it all to do once again.
Of course you could argue that they’d never have been in that situation to begin with, but that’s not too kind on Traore, who can’t help being totally out of his depth.
He didn’t ask to be distantly the worst player on the pitch. He just tried really hard and got his moment. Then again, he did give away the free kick from which Milan took the lead in the first minute…
Of course, Traore has had other moments. The one that springs immediately to mind was this one against Burnley in the FA Cup, which denied fans of Bournemouth a trip to Anfield.
Lord knows what he was trying to do, but we really should keep him away from those Zinedine Zidane videos in future.
After his Champions League final appearance, which came about only because Riise was playing in Midfield and Josemi was completely shit, his decline was alarming.
He moved to Charlton, where he only ever got 11 games, and Portsmouth, where was even more anonymous, showing up 13 times in two years in between loan spells at Rennes and Birmingham. He’s now playing for Monaco, who aren’t very good these days.
But the story of Djimi should be a positive one. The message is that any player, no matter what their ability or heritage, can reach the very top of the game, if only briefly, through no more than hard work and a lucky break.
So keep at it, and you could one day follow in the footsteps of Djimi Traore.