Salah, Robben, Ferdinand: Combined XI of greatest players to never win an international trophy

Sadio Mane and Senegal claimed continental glory as they clinched their first Africa Cup of Nations title on Sunday night.

After a turgid, tense affair, the honour of being crowned champions of Africa would be decided by a penalty shootout.

Having missed from the spot in regular time, Mane would’ve breathed the biggest sigh of relief ever heaved as his side efficiently out their spot kicks away.

What it meant, however, is that his Liverpool teammate, Mohamed Salah, would leave Cameroon with nought but heartbreak as Egypt fell short yet again.

Salah has made no secret of his desperation to win an international trophy but it just wasn’t to be in 2022.

However, as he returns to Merseyside, Salah can find solace in the fact that he isn’t the only global superstar to have never won international silverware.

In fact, a combined XI of 21st century players to have never tasted international glory actually makes for what would be a truly unstoppable side.

Combined XI of great players to have never won an international trophy

Goalkeeper: Keylor Navas

MONTERREY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 11: Keylor Navas of Costa Rica looks on during the international friendly match between Mexico and Costa Rica at Universitario Stadium on October 11, 2018 in Monterrey, Mexico. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Navas played a key role in the Real Madrid dynasty that dominated Europe under Zinedine Zidane.

The Costa Rican won the title in his first three season at Los Blancos but sadly, even his spider like, lightning reflex saves weren’t enough to help guide his home nation to silverware.

Right Back: Javier Zanetti

Zanetti’s evergreen run bombing down the flank for his beloved Argentina never yielded any fruit in terms of silverware.

Despite spending 17 years in the famous blue and white shirt, and playing in some ludicrously talented sides, it just never panned out for the Inter Milan legend.

Centre Back: Rio Ferdinand

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS – NOVEMBER 15: Rio Ferdinand of England in action during the International Friendly match between Holland and England at The Amsterdam ArenA on November 15, 2006 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Ferdinand spent his years at Manchester United swimming in silverware but was never able to help the English ‘Golden Generation’ do the same.

One of United’s greatest ever defenders, Ferdinand’s international career was largely made up of a string of painful ‘what ifs’.

Centre Back: Virgil van Dijk

BERGAMO, ITALY – OCTOBER 14: Virgil Van Dijk of Netherlands looks on during the UEFA Nations League group stage match between Italy and Netherlands at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia on October 14, 2020 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

The towering titan of Liverpool came within inches of clinching an unprecedented Ballon d’Or in 2019, losing out by just seven votes to Lionel Messi.

He has enjoyed an incredibly fruitful career at Liverpool and still has time to haul his Netherlands side all the way to international immortality.

Left Back: Ashley Cole

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – OCTOBER 07: Ashley Cole of England poses for a picture before the Euro 2008 Qualifying match between England and Macedonia at Old Trafford on October 7, 2006 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

We don’t talk often enough about just how good Ashley Cole was in his pomp.

Cole is another member of the fabled ‘Golden Generation’ for England that could have conquered the world, but just never managed to get over the line.

Centre Midfield: Claude Makelele

PARIS – MAY 27: Claude Makelele of France in action during the international friendly match between France and Mexico at the Stade de France on May 27, 2006 in Paris, France. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The French engine is one of the greatest defensive shields to have ever kicked a ball about.

He came agonizingly close to winning the World Cup with Les Bleus in 2006 only to come undone in a penalty shootout.

Centre Midfield: Luka Modric

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – JUNE 28: Luka Modric of Croatia reacts after the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between Croatia and Spain at Parken Stadium on June 28, 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

There was some truly hot competition for the other spot in this midfield but, having won the Ballon d’Or and a glut of Champions League titles, Modric was always going to have the edge.

The less said about that 2018 final in Russia, though, the better.

Right Wing: Mohamed Salah

VOLGOGRAD, RUSSIA – JUNE 25: Mohamed Salah of Egypt looks on during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group A match between Saudia Arabia and Egypt at Volgograd Arena on June 25, 2018 in Volgograd, Russia. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Salah is easily the form player on the planet right now and so you can imagine the loss in Cameroon will come as a bitter blow.

Fortunately, he still has time to try again at some point in the future.

Attacking midfield: Arjen Robben

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – JULY 11: Dejected Arjen Robben of the Netherlands after defeat during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Now we know this isn’t Robben’s preferred position but we simply had to find a way to squeeze him in.

Another superstar to have fallen short at the last World Cup hurdle, you can imagine that Robben’s nightmares are largely made up of that one-on-one miss when clean through in Johannesburg.

Left Wing: Franck Ribery

Ribery will surely go down as one of the most under-appreciated stars of a generation.

He played in some supreme Bayern Munich sides but, while he was part of the 2006 French side that went all the way to the World Cup final, he was also part of some dire international campaigns.

Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The mighty Zlatan is one of the great characters of our game. He has done the business across the length and breadth of the globe and is still going at the ripe old age of 40.

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