Kane’s incredible curse and star Ferguson ‘singled out’ among five greatest players who won sod all

Matt Stead
Bayern Munich striker Harry Kane reacts
Harry Kane doesn't even have an Intertoto Cup winner's medal to hand down

Harry Kane is the single greatest footballer ever to not win a single trophy – Champions League, Intertoto Cup or anything in between. It’s an achievement.

 

Harry Kane
It is underappreciated just how phenomenally difficult an achievement it is to be quite so consistently brilliant for a decade towards the elite level of the club and international game, without ever winning so much as a single team trophy to accompany those myriad individual awards.

Some of the competitions and tournaments which disqualified otherwise legitimate candidates for this list include the Intertoto Cup (Giuseppe Signori), the Brazilian state championships Socrates won with Corinthians and Flamengo, and even the Asian Games gold medal Heung-min Son claimed as one of South Korea’s over-aged players in 2018.

Kane dreams of following in the footsteps of Laurent Robert and lifting the Confederations Cup, of matching Antonio Di Natale with a Serie B title. But 340 goals for his six clubs and 62 for his country have been converted only into a whole load of the wrong kind of silver.

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He has been runner-up in the Champions League, the European Championships, the Premier League and the League Cup (twice), a two-time FA Cup semi-finalist, and even lost in the 2013 Championship play-offs with Leicester.

Tottenham’s all-time record scorer has not been present for any of their 26 trophies, winning three Premier League Golden Boots but never coming within six points of first place. England’s all-time record scorer won a World Cup Golden Boot and scored in a Euros final penalty shoot-out, but has been unable to remedy those years of hurt.

The move to Bayern¬†Munich seemed like a blatant yet understandable attempt to break the curse. But it only became stronger: records have been shattered in a 44-goal season, which will simultaneously be Bayern’s first without any silverware since 2011/12.

“It’s hard to put a number on how many trophies you want to win,” Kane said at the start of this season. It’s far easier to put a number on how many he has won.

 

Bernd Schneider
The chief culprits for this latest chapter of Kane heartbreak are Bayer Leverkusen. The Champions League hammer blow was dealt by Real Madrid, a Stoke reject and his own manager, but the breaking of a domestic stranglehold has been most surprising.

Leverkusen stand on the brink of a historic achievement: an unbeaten Treble. Five games remain of their ludicrous campaign, with two in a Bundesliga they won some time ago, a DFB-Pokal final against second division Kaiserslautern, and the Europa League, in which they lead their semi-final 2-0.

Schneider walked so Xabi Alonso and his players could run.

A member of the infamous 2001/02 Neverkusen side which imploded down the home straight, no outfielder played more games than Schneider that season as they squandered a five-point Bundesliga lead with three games remaining, lost the German Cup final to Schalke and were beaten at the last European hurdle by Real Madrid.

It was Schneider’s cross which set up Lucio’s equaliser in one of the better Champions League finals, but his nine goals and 16 assists that campaign were for nought.

‘The White Brazilian’, nicknamed as such for his dribbling and passing ability, then spent a fruitful summer with Germany which ultimately ended in disappointing defeat to the¬†Sele√ß√£o in the World Cup final.

Schneider was also a key part of the 1999/2000 Leverkusen side which lost to Unterhaching on the final day when a draw would have been sufficient to win the Bundesliga, before finishing third with Germany at both the 2005 Confederations Cup and 2006 World Cup.

The last squad he made before retirement due to injury was the 2009 DFB-Pokal final against Wolfsburg. No points for guessing who won.

 

Yildiray Basturk
Another cog in Klaus Toppmoller’s bottling machine, Basturk missed just five games in that Leverkusen season and assisted goals against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United in Europe.

“Even Sir Alex Ferguson singled me out after the game,” the winger later said after a man-of-the-match performance at Old Trafford.

But the return for such brilliance was scant, and Basturk could point to similarly immediate anguish at the World Cup. His Turkey side fell to Ronaldo and Brazil in the semi-finals before claiming a bronze medal with victory over co-hosts South Korea.

It added up to a ninth-place finish in the 2002 Ballon d’Or, nestled between Rivaldo and Alessandro Del Piero, for a player whose last career appearance came under Sam Allardyce at Blackburn. They did not win anything – although they did score four goals in a losing League Cup semi-final effort, shortly before Basturk signed.

 

Julen Guerrero
A legend of the one-club man genre, Guerrero broke emerged at Bilbao and never left. The 1993 La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year became outright Spanish Player of the Year 12 months later but he could not take Athletic any higher than second, nine points off Barcelona, in 1998.

Guerrero represented Spain at his second World Cup that year, having made his international debut as a teenager. He scored two hat-tricks for the national team but suffered for their major tournament struggles which would not be overcome until after he retired in 2006.

Real Madrid, Barca, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Lazio and Manchester United were interested in signing Guerrero but the attacking midfielder committed himself to a ten-year contract at San Mames which would unsurprisingly be his last.

There was a stark and sudden decline from 2002 onwards but Guerrero had been a considerable force over the previous decade. As the inimitable Sid Lowe once wrote: ‘This boy was the la leche, the milk, the business.’

A free-kick specialist and club captain by the age of 21, Guerrero remains a beloved Athletic figure who nevertheless reached a couple of Copa del Rey semi-finals and appeared in neither.

 

Matt Le Tissier
Basically, jet fuel doesn’t melt steel beams plus government-controlled weather, multiplied by 5G masts and NHS actors equals a 1992 Zenith Data Systems Cup final, some laughably brilliant goals, an entirely wasted reputation as an adored former player¬†and zero trophies.

For Le Tissier, it was simple. Southampton gave him what perhaps no other club could. Le God was worshipped and accommodated in a style befitting the moniker.

“I put personal happiness above money and trophies and I enjoyed being a big fish in a small pond,” is one of the many post-retirement explanations Le Tissier has given for staying at the Dell, whether the MSM accept that or not. Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs were known to have sniffed around at various points with other clubs linked, perhaps none of whom would have embraced his penchant for sausage and egg McMuffins quite so readily.

Le Tissier traded in his excellence to instead help prolong Southampton’s lengthiest spell in the top flight, during which they reached one League Cup semi-final and lost that Full Members’ Cup final in extra-time to Nottingham Forest, having inspired a comeback with the first goal from 2-0 down in normal time.

Saints made the FA Cup final the season after he retired. They could have at least tried to hide the conspiracy.

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