The World Cup is considered the pinnacle of a footballers’ career. Unfortunately for some top stars they miss out on some of the tournaments that come around every four years, or their country simply never qualifies during their playing career.
Italy, the Netherlands, Chile and USA were the big names who failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, meaning a number of the top stars in today’s game will be absent in Russia.
There have also been a few big names who didn’t make their respective nations’ 23-man squads, and others who have picked up an injury at the wrong time. Here’s a list of the 50 best players absent from the 2018 World Cup:
David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Austria)
The Bayern Munich left-back and Austrian left winger only started 17 Bundesliga games this past season due to a mixture of injuries and competition from Juan Bernat.
David Alaba is an exciting player who loves to bomb forward, whip crosses into the box and attempt long-range shots. Unfortunately for the 25-year-old his country failed to qualify for Russia 2018.
Marcos Alonso (Chelsea/Spain)
Another goalscoring left-back is Chelsea’s Marcos Alonso who netted seven in the Premier League this past campaign despite Antonio Conte’s side underachieving.
Alonso missed out on a call-up to the Spanish squad with head coach Julen Lopetegui’s going with Barcelona’s Jordi Alba and Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal instead.
Dani Alves (Paris Saint-Germain/Brazil)
The 35-year-old was fairly regular in Unai Emery’s Paris Saint-Germain team this past season, making 23 Ligue 1 starts and a further eight in the Champions League. He recorded seven assists domestically from right-back and scored twice in Europe’s elite club cup competition.
Unfortunately for Dani Alves he suffered an ACL injury at the end of the season that prevents him going to this third World Cup. The latest odds on who will win the World Cup 2018 suggest Brazil will be fine without the experienced defender. However, defending champions Germany closely follow in the odds with Betfair.
Marko Arnautovic (West Ham United/Austria)
David Moyes got the best out of Marko Arnautovic by sticking him up top. This resulted in the makeshift striker produced his most prolific season in the Premier League by scoring 11 goals and setting up six more.
Unfortunately the former-Internazionale and Stoke City man couldn’t replicate this form at international level as Austria missed out on this summer’s tournament after finishing below Serbia, the Republic of Ireland and Wales in qualifying.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal/Gabon)
Arsenal landed the prolific striker for a club record £54 million in January and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ended the season on a high.
After scoring goal after goal, season after season with Borussia Dortmund, Aubameyang is considered one of the top strikers in football. Unfortunately he won’t get to produce this on the world stage this summer as Gabon didn’t reach the finals.
Eric Bailly (Manchester United/Ivory Coast)
A second season disrupted with injuries saw Eric Bailly make only 11 Premier League starts in 2017-18. However, the Ivorian was still a rock when he did play as Manchester United kept seven clean sheets when Bailly was named in the starting lineup.
Despite a wealth of talent in their squad, Ivory Coast finished behind Morocco in their qualifying group and therefore aren’t competing at the 2018 World Cup.
Gareth Bale (Real Madrid/Wales)
Real Madrid’s match winner in this season’s Champions League final – Gareth Bale came on for the final half hour and scored twice in a 3-1 victory over Liverpool. When fit there is no doubt that the Welsh winger is one of the top players in the world.
Unfortunately Bale wasn’t fit for all of Wales’ qualifiers as they missed out on a playoff spot by two points after doing so well at Euro 2016 two summers ago.
Hector Bellerin (Arsenal/Spain)
The pacey right-back spent some time in the second half of the season as a wingback when Arsene Wenger altered his formation. Hector Bellerin is excellent at getting forward and has the speed to get back quickly, but could still do with improving his delivery when he gets in the final third.
Perhaps a victim of Arsenal’s poor defensive record this season, Hector Bellerin has been overlooked by Spanish national team head coach Julen Lopetegui in favour of Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Odriozola.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/France)
Some were surprised not to see Karim Benzema make Didier Deschamps’ 23-man World Cup squad this summer but the 30-year-old is coming off a season with freescoring Real Madrid where he started 25 La Liga games and only scored five goals.
Benzema missed out to Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe in the France squad.
Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan/Italy)
Leonardo Bonucci made a bold move last season to leave Italian champions Juventus for AC Milan. The 31-year-old was steady for a side that struggled for much of the season, which included being the first team to drop points and lose to Benevento.
Italy finished runners-up to Spain in their qualifying group before being shocked by Sweden in the playoffs. As a result the four-time World champions will not be participating in Russia.
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus/Italy)
The legendary goalkeeper announced his retirement from Italy after they were eliminated from qualification back in November, missing out on becoming the first player to be selected at six different World Cups.
Gianluigi won this tournament back in 2006 and will be a sad loss to the game if the 40-year-old decides to hang up his boots for good this summer.
Emre Can (Liverpool/Germany)
Emre Can had a good season in the Liverpool midfield as part of a high-scoring side. The central midfielder’s performances have seemingly earned him a job with Italian giants Juventus too.
However, the 24-year-old simply has too much competition for a place in the German squad this summer and wasn’t selected by Joachim Low.
Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus/Italy)
The talented Italian centre-back was once again part of Juventus’ Serie A title-winning side. That’s now seven in a row for both Giorgio Chiellini and The Old Lady.
Spain stuck four goals past Italy in two qualifying games but it was the lack of attack in their playoff defeat to Sweden that ultimately cost Chiellini and co going to Russia this summer.
Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich/France)
The 21-year-old attacker already has six consecutive league titles to his name in three different countries. Though despite his ability Kingsley Coman has yet to be a regular in the first team for Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich.
This past season Coman only made 10 Bundesliga starts for the champions and only four more in the Champions League. Didier Deschamps ultimately selected players with more football under their belt than the youngster.
Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan/Italy)
The highly-rated teenager already has 106 Serie A appearances for AC Milan to his name and six caps for the Italian national team.
Gianluigi Donnarumma is another victim of his country failing to qualify for this summer’s World Cup.
Edin Dzeko (Roma/Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Edin Dzeko has put together back-to-back prolific seasons for Roma after being inconsistent with Manchester City in the Premier League previously. The Bosnians goals helped the Italian side make a surprise Champions League semi-final appearance this past season.
However, the striker failed to get his country to Russia as Belgium and Greece both finished above Bosnia & Herzegovina in their qualifying group.
Liverpool have recently agreed to bring Fabinho to the Premier League in what is expected to be an excellent signing. The 24-year-old has been one of Monaco’s top defensive players over the past two seasons which includes their surprise 2016-17 Ligue 1 title.
Fabinho was originally a right-back before being converted into a holding midfield role where he breaks up the opposition attacks time and time again.
Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea/Spain)
110 caps, has played in three World Cups and three European Championships, winning the former once and the latter twice. However, Cesc Fabregas has not been selected for the Spain squad this summer.
Admittedly, the 31-year-old has been below par this season, much like Chelsea in general. The playmaker was only involved in six goals (2 goals, 4 assists) in 32 Premier League appearances this past season.
Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund/Germany)
The 2014 World Cup final winning goalscorer has not been selected for this summer’s tournament by head coach Joachim Low. Germany are simply spoiled for choice when it comes to attacking midfielders.
Mario Gotze missed a few games through injury this past season and it wasn’t his most productive season in a Borussia Dortmund side that only just sneaked a Champions League spot for next season.
Pascal Gross (Brighton & Hove Albion/Germany)
Brighton & Hove Albion made one of the best buys of last summer with the acquisition of Pascal Gross from Ingolstadt. The central midfielder scored seven goals and recorded eight assists for Chris Hughton’s low-scoring side which was essentially the difference between the Premier League debutants staying up or not.
Gross has never played for Germany and faces tough competition as it is, so whilst it’s not a surprise he didn’t get a call-up, he has certainly been a top player this past season.
Marek Hamsik (Napoli/Slovakia)
The long-serving Napoli midfielder saw his side narrowly miss out on the Serie A title at the very end of the campaign and doesn’t have a World Cup to look forward to this summer to help him get over it.
Marek Hamsik’s Slovakia missed out on the playoffs by being the unlucky runner-up who had the fewest points.
Mauro Icardi (Internazionale/Argentina)
Mauro Icardi is one of the top strikers in world football but still cannot get a call up to the Argentinian national team. Now 25 years old, the Internazionale captain still only has four caps to his name.
Jorge Sampaoli has gone with Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala instead this summer.
Ciro Immobile (Lazio/Italy)
Ciro Immobile scored a stunning 29 goals in 33 Serie A appearances this season as Lazio only missed out on Champions League football on the final day of the season.
Unfortunately, the striker hasn’t replicated that on the international scene with only seven goals in 32 caps. Italy failed to score a single goal in their two-legged playoff against Sweden that prevented them qualifying for Russia.
Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli/Italy)
Lorenzo Insigne is coming off an excellent season with Napoli where he scored eight goals and set up 11 more in 37 Serie A appearances. He also scored three goals in his five Champions League matches.
One of several top players who are a victim of Italy not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
The Brazilian-born Italian international has had such an excellent season with Napoli that he is being linked with a summer transfer to both Manchester City and Manchester United.
Jorginho only has eight caps for the Italian national team having had Italian citizenship for a number of years.
Naby Keita (RB Leipzig/Guinea)
The box-to-box midfielder has had another excellent season with RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga after agreeing to sign for Liverpool last summer. Naby Keita scored six goals and recorded five assists as well as winning the ball back for his team time and time again.
Guinea were eliminated from qualification before even reaching the group stage.
Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal/France)
Alexandre Lacazette is a victim of the amount of talent France currently have in attack. The striker finished his debut Premier League season very well after a slow start following his big money move from Lyon.
Didier Deschamps has selected Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe instead.
Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City/France)
Manchester City’s big money January signing, Aymeric Laporte set the 2017-18 Premier League champions back £57 million. The French defender made nine starts under Pep Guardiola for the second half of the season, mostly at left-back.
There are a couple of youngsters going to the World Cup with France but Laporte isn’t one of them. In fact, he’s still yet to be capped at senior international level.
Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City/Algeria)
A star in Leicester City’s shock 2015-16 Premier League title win, Riyad Mahrez has been largely inconsistent for the Foxes over the past two seasons following Manchester City’s interest.
Mahrez is excellent at cutting in front the right on his left foot but was unsuccessful in trying to help Algeria qualify for the World Cup.
Anthony Martial (Manchester United/France)
Seemingly a victim of Alexis Sanchez arriving at Manchester United in January, Anthony Martial’s form certainly dipped in the second half of the season as he faced more competition for a starting berth.
The 22-year-old had made an excellent start to the season, splitting time with Marcus Rashford, but not Martial has now been linked with a move away from Old Trafford.
Juan Mata (Manchester United/Spain)
Another player who has not been a regular in the Manchester United first team under Jose Mourinho is Juan Mata. This is despite everyone else seemingly noticing his great ability.
The playmaker didn’t have the most productive campaign with two goals and four assists but the Spaniard rarely completed the full 90 minutes nor got a consistent run in the starting lineup.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal/Armenia)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan had an excellent opening three games for Manchester United this past season before his form and playing time faded and was then traded to Arsenal in January.
The Armenian was inconsistent under Arsene Wenger too but the reason he’s not going to the World Cup is simply because Armenia fell well short of qualifying.
Alvaro Morata (Chelsea/Spain)
Chelsea’s summer signing had been highly-rated at both Juventus and Real Madrid despite never being a regular starter at either. After falling out with Diego Costa, Antonio Conte gave the Spaniard the chance to be a regular at Stamford Bridge.
Unfortunately, Morata failed to live up the hype and only netted seven goals for the 2016-17 Premier League champions.
Radja Nainggolan (Roma/Belgium)
Box-to-box midfielder Radja Nainggolan has had another great season with Roma and is a surprise omission from Roberto Martinez’s Belgium squad for this summer.
The 30-year-old scored four goals, recorded nine assists and helped out defensively for Roma in Serie A this season, as well as helping the Italian club reach the Champions League semi-finals.
Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid/Slovenia)
One of the top goalkeepers in the world since joining Atletico Madrid from Benfica in 2014, Jan Oblak keeps clean sheet after clean sheet in Spain.
However, Slovenia finished fourth in their qualifying group so we will not be seeing the 25-year-old in Russia this summer.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool/England)
It was a big surprise when Liverpool paid £35 million for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the final day of the summer transfer window when he was in the final year of his contract at Arsenal and never really established himself.
The attacking midfielder turned out to be an excellent signing but misses the World Cup after suffering an ACL injury late in the season.
Dimitri Payet (Marseille/France)
Former-West Ham United midfielder Dimitri Payet was one of the stars at Euro 2016 two years ago as France reached the final.
The 31-year-old has had an excellent campaign with Marseille too – six goals and 13 assists in 31 Ligue 1 appearances and three goals and seven assists in 12 Europa League games, making it a surprise that Payet is an absentee from the France squad this time around.
31-year-old Pedro appears to be a victim of Antonio Conte’s rotation between the Spaniard and Willian as he only started 17 Premier League games this past season.
The Chelsea forward previously won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 but will not have the opportunity to add to that list this summer.
Miralem Pjanic (Juventus/Bosnia & Herzegovina)
Juventus’ central midfielder has had another excellent season, setting up goals and chipping in with five himself in Serie A as he picked up another winners’ medal.
Unfortunately Miralem Pjanic failed to help Bosnia & Herzegovina reach the World Cup like they did four years ago.
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/USA)
USA’s best hope of producing a World Class player, 19-year-old Christian Pulisic is currently plying his trade with Borussia Dortmund whilst being linked to the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.
Pulisic has excellent technical ability and is used down both wings in Germany. He can still improve his decision making and productivity in the final third but has several years ahead of him to do so.
Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal/Wales)
A big part of the Wales side that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 two years ago, Aaron Ramsey failed to help his country reach their first World Cup since 1958.
The Arsenal midfielder had a very productive season when fit despite Arsenal failing to qualify for next season’s Champions League nor pick up any silverware this past season.
Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich/Netherlands)
34-year-old Arjen Robben has been plagued by injuries over the years but is still playing at the top flight. The Bayern Munich forward started half of their Bundesliga games this past season, netting five goals and setting up the same number.
Netherlands missed out on the playoffs on goal difference despite Arjen Robben’s desperate efforts in the final few qualifying games.
Alexis Sanchez (Manchester United/Chile)
Alexis Sanchez certainly failed to replicate his Arsenal form at Manchester United following his January move, but the Chilean superstar remains one of the top footballers in the world.
Despite winning back-to-back Copa America’s in 2015 and 2016, Chile failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Leroy Sane (Manchester City/Germany)
One of the biggest headlines heading into the World Cup has been Leroy Sane’s exclusion from the Germany squad. The winger had an excellent season as part of Manchester City’s record-breaking Premier League team.
10 goals and 15 assists in 32 Premier League appearances weren’t good enough to get Sane the nod ahead of Julian Brandt! Even without the Premier League winner Germany are many people’s favourites among World Cup betting tips.
Antonio Valencia (Manchester United/Ecuador)
The Manchester United right-back is coming off a very good season as part of the back four that kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League this past season.
However, Antonio Valencia misses out on appearing in a third World Cup simply because Ecuador failed to qualify.
Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool/Netherlands)
The Netherlands have now failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup since finishing third in Brazil four years ago. This despite now having the most expensive defender in the world.
Virgil van Dijk set Liverpool back £75 million from Southampton in January after the Dutch had failed to even reach the playoffs, finishing below France and Sweden in their group.
Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain/Italy)
Marco Verratti has been a regular in the Paris Saint-Germain midfield ever since signing for them as a 19-year-old in 2012. The Italian international is a great passer of the ball who starts attacks for both club and country.
With the list of talented Italian internationals in this article alone it’s a wonder how the four-time world champions didn’t reach Russia 2018.
Arturo Vidal (Bayern Munich/Chile)
The exciting box-to-box midfielder continues to win Bundesliga title after Bundesliga title with Bayern Munich. Now 31 years old, Chile’s failure to qualify for this summer’s tournament may mean Arturo Vidal may not get to play in another World Cup.
Vidal finished the season with a knee injury that could have kept him out anyway.