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Who is the greatest uncapped footballer of all time?

Posted by john smith on

Mark Noble

Having captained West Ham in the Premier League for the good part of a decade, Mark Noble has never got his chance in an England shirt.

Set to retire at the end of the 2021/22 season, Noble will go down as one of England's greatest ever uncapped players.

Noble captained the England U21 team which finished runners-up at the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, but never got a call-up to the senior side.

In February 2017 Noble rejected a call up to the Irish national side, stating: "There are young Irish kids playing well that deserve and would appreciate an Irish cap more than I would. I played through all the age groups as a youth international (with England), went to tournaments and sang the national anthem. But obviously I've never got a senior cap. So for me to turn up to play for Ireland without it having been a dream of mine, and there's an Irish kid out there who might miss out when it's their dream to play for Ireland, I couldn't do that."

Dario Hubner

With 217 goals in 436 games, no player has ever scored more goals without being capped for their country.

Dario Hubner was eligible for both Germany and Italy - but neither picked him.

A 3-season period of 55 goals in 91 Serie A games for Brescia and Piacenza would have seen most strikers get selected for their country. But at that point in his career Hubner was already in his mid-30s having spent much of his career in the Italian second division.

Even winning the Serie A golden boot at 35-years-old was not enough for Hubner to even get a sniff.

With the likes of Filippo Inzaghi, Christian Vieiri, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Perio at their disposal, italy did not feel the need to call up the ageing striker.

Mikel Arteta

From 2008 - 2012 Spain dominated international football and Mikel arteta could not get a look in.

Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fàbregas & Sergio Busquets. Not just some of the greatest central midfielders of their time but also 5 of the greatest of all time.

All 5 won well over 100 caps for Spain, which meant that any other central midfielder in the same era would barely get a look in.

Had Arteta been 5 years younger, 5 years older, or any other nationality in the world, he surely would have won over 50 caps.

Paolo Di Canio

The second West Ham player on this list, Paolo Di Canio also played for the likes of Juventus, Napoli, Milan and Lazio.

He was unlucky that his career crossed over with some of the greatest second strikers in Italy's history - Roberto Baggio, Gianfranco Zola, Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti.

Sylvain Distin

No outfield foreign player has more Premier League appearances than Sylvain Distin.

469 appearances across 15 seasons for Newcastle United, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Everton and Bournemouth.

Distin holds the record for most Premier League appearances without ever being capped - a record that will surely never be beaten.

In 2014, Distin announced his retirement from international football on Twitter.

 Billy Bonds

West Ham player number 3 on this list, Billy Bonds played 799 first-team games for West Ham in a career spanning 21 seasons.

Trevor Brooking believed that Bonds quiet demeanor off the field cost Bonds his England chance.

"Had he pushed himself to the forefront more I believe he would have played for England. He’s one of the best players of my generation never to have won an England cap,” wrote Brooking in his autobiography.

The closest Bonds got to appearing for England was on the bench as a non-playing substitute for a World Cup qualifying match against Italy in November 1977.

West Ham Beer Mats

Carlo Cudicini

Like Di Canio before him, a key reason for Carlo Cudicini's non-selection for Italy is he spent his peak years playing in England.

His peak years at Chelsea also coincided with the legendary Gianluigi Buffon.

Buffon was undisputed Italian number 1 for over 2 decades - winning 175 caps himself. That left very little caps for other goal keepers to pick up.

With Francesco Toldo, Angelo Peruzzi, Christian Abbiati often competiting for a place as his number 2, Italian management ignored Cudicini opting to pick those playing in Serie A.

Carlo's father Fabio Cudicini also failed to be capped for Italy, despite helping them to win the 1969 European Cup.

Steve Bruce

In a career that saw him spend 9 seasons at Manchester United and accumalate 926 first team appearance across 3 decades, Steve Bruce has jusrt 1 England B cap to his name.

Bruce was the Manchester United Captain who led his side to 3 Premier League titles, 3 FA cups as well a European Cup Winners Cup.

Sir Bobby Robson once apologised to Bruce for not selecting him for England saying "I just want to say sorry to Steve Bruce because I really should have given him an England cap. You were so well worth an England cap – I just want to apologise for not giving you one."

Ron Harris

Ron "Chopper" won the League Cup for Chelsea in 1965 before captaining them to the FA Cup in 1970. A year later he would also captain them to victory over Real Madrid in the European Cup Winners' Cup a year later in 1971 - Chelsea's first ever trophy in Europe.

Despite playing 871 senior games in a career spanning 23-years, Chopper was never capped for England.


Gabi captained Atletico Madrid to Europa League glory in 2012, repeating the feat in 2018. In between he would also captain his side to the La Liga title in 2013/14 and Copa del Rey in 2013. there were also 2 Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016.

Like Mikel Arteta, Gabi's failure to be capped for Spain was more about who else was about in the same era rather than due to his own ability.

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