Paolo Di Canio of West Ham United
An international cap is often regarded as an approval of a players ability and seen as one of the proudest moments in a footballers career. Winning an international cap for Germany or Brazil is obviously far more difficult than winning one for San Marino or Haiti. Having said that, you would think that if a player was good enough, they would still rise to the top and receive international honours, regardless of the strength of competition.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of players on this list come from nations with highly respectable footballing pedigree. In fact, all seven are from countries which have won the World Cup. Some players missed out purely because they came on the scene during an era of outstanding ability in their position. Others fell victim to national rules or requirements, and some appear to have no valid reason why they didn’t get a call-up.
You may expect this list to be made up of mostly half-decent or second-rate players, yet it includes players who have won various domestic, European and individual honours for their clubs and are some of the finest players in their respective positions. Here are the top 15 greatest uncapped footballers of all-time:
7. Dario Hubner
17 Feb 2002: Dario Hubner of Piacenza celebrates after scoring during the Serie A match between Piacenza and Venezia
Dario Hubner was eligible for both Italy and Germany, given that his father was German, but having been born and raised in Italy and having lived there all his life, being unable to even speak German, Hubner considered himself an Italian. Sometimes criticised for his lack of work rate, Hubner was an instinctive striker who scored prolifically. He scored 262 goals in 543 games over his career, including becoming the oldest Serie A top scorer in 2001-02 at the age of 35, a record which was beaten a few years ago by a 38-year-old Luca Toni.
With Italy boasting forwards such as Inzaghi, Totti, Del Piero, Vieri and more at the time, Hubner had much competition, but his goals warranted at least a cap, and he probably would have won one had he played for one of Italy’s top sides, but Hubner only ever played for mid-lower Serie A teams.
6. Albert Stubbins
Unfortunately, we only have two pictures of Albert Stubbins, and as you've already seen them both, the rest of this section will be filled with England players Stubbins was better than. With all due respect to recent England internationals such as Danny Ings and Rickie Lambert, it shows how far the English national team has fallen over the years. Just after WWII, Albert Stubbins was Liverpool’s star centre-forward, in a squad which won the First Division title in 1947, yet he still couldn't get a game for the Three Lions.
In total, he scored 83 goals in 178 games for Liverpool, and is regarded as one of the greatest English players to never win a cap. Stubbins later claim to fame came in 1967, when he featured on the cover of the legendary Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the only footballer to do so.
5. Paolo Di Canio
As mad as he was brilliant, Paolo Di Canio is a proud and self-confessed fascist, who even has a tattoo of Benito Mussolini on his back. Few can question his loyalty to Italy then, and there’s no doubt that he would have taken great pride in representing his country. Despite playing for Italian giants such as Lazio, Juventus, Napoli and AC Milan, as well as taking the Premier League by storm, with Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham United, Di Canio never received so much as a call-up, although he did play for Italy’s under-21 side.
4. Jimmy Case
Jimmy Case of Liverpool in action during a match against Everton at Anfield in Liverpool, England
Quite possibly the greatest English player to never play for England, Jimmy Case was part of the legendary Liverpool team of the late 1970s and early 80s. The England squad was very Liverpool-centric at that time, with three of Case’s Liverpool midfield teammates in the squad; Terry McDermott, Ian Callaghan and Alan Kennedy, yet Case somehow failed to pick up a single cap. Liverpool manager Bob Paisley criticised the decision, saying it forced the other three into doing jobs they weren’t used to in Case’s absence. Case won four league titles, three European Cups and one UEFA Cup in an incredibly successful spell at Anfield.
3. Mario de Castro
This is the second time Mario de Castro has featured on HITC Sevens, and the second time we have no pictures of the most prolific striker of all-time, so here are some images of strikers who couldn't score for toffee compared to him.
The most prolific goal scorer in football history, with an average of 1.95 goals per game, Mario de Castro is up there with some of the finest players of the pre-war era. His career was short but outstanding. He began playing late having been denied the chance to play football by his mother, and it ended early, after he retired due to an opposition fan being shot by his club director.
In total, he scored 195 goals in 100 games for Atletico Mineiro. He was the first player from outside of Rio and Sao Paolo to be called up to the Brazil squad, but rejected the call-up when he was told he would be the second choice striker and was never called upon again.
2. Agostino Di Bartolomei
Legendary Roma midfielder Agostino Di Bartolomei is often described as the greatest Italian not to represent the country’s national team. He was a cult hero at Roma, where he spent 12 years, captaining the team for four and often being regarded as the club’s star player. A gifted playmaker, he won three Coppa Italias, one Serie A and lost in a European Cup final to Liverpool on penalties with Roma, before transferring to AC Milan.
Remarkably, he never won a single cap for Italy, despite scoring seven in eight from midfield for Italy’s under-21s. In 1994, aged 39, Bartolomei shocked the world of football when he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head having suffered from depression.
1. Bert Trautmann
German goalkeeper Bert Trautmann (1923 - 2013) of Manchester City FC, makes a save during a First Division match against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane
The greatest player to never be capped by his country, Bert Trautmann was a world class goalkeeper. A former Luftwaffe paratrooper who was captured by the British, there was some trepidation when he was signed by Manchester City in 1949, but despite 20,000 protesting his signing, Trautmann won over the majority of Manchester City fans with his marvellous and brave performances, spending 15 years with the club, once playing with a broken neck but still emerging victorious in an FA Cup final.
Trautmann was unable to represent Germany due to a rule against fielding non-domestic based players at the time, a rule which even saw Franz Beckenbauer dropped after he left the Bundesliga. Although West Germany won the 1954 World Cup without Trautmann he certainly would have made them a stronger team. He was a better goalkeeper than German regulars of the time, and under today’s more lenient German rules, he would probably have won a century of caps for his country.