Steven Gerrard: The man who conquered Europe, but fell short in the Premier League

English football giants Liverpool FC has won the top prize in English football 19 times, just one behind the most successful club, Manchester United.

So, it’s a bit ironic that perhaps their greatest ever footballer who was a part of the club for 17 years but never tasted the Premier League title.

Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard
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Steven Gerrard, the midfield maestro from Liverpool, began his club career at the senior level in 1998 in Liverpool. Gerrard attracted interest Premier League rivals Manchester United and even from Spanish giants Real Madrid, but he never switched his allegiance.

Gerrard netted 121 goals, made 99 assists in the league, came agonisingly close to winning the title a few times but always fell short.

Although he could never become the champions of England with Liverpool he did lead his club to the European supremacy for the very first time in 2005.

LIverpool players celebrate after winning the UEFA Champions League in 2005
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Gerrard’s Liverpool were down 0-3 at the end of the first half against a star-studded AC Milan side in Istanbul. Gerrard led the incredible fight back for Liverpool by scoring the first of three goals in the second half and also winning a penalty.

In the penalty shootout, Liverpool edged out AC Milan to complete the victory which is known as ‘The Miracle of Istanbul’.

AB de Villiers: The maverick who never won the big one

AB de Villiers is a name that follows with a collective sigh among cricket fans. The South African was perhaps the most naturally gifted batter of his generation, a trend-setter in terms of stroke-making in the shorter formats and a maverick cricketer who entertained the fans everywhere he played.

De Villiers debuted for South Africa in 2004 and played till 2018 before announcing his retirement from international cricket at 34 years of age.

Former South Africa batsman AB de Villiers
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In ODIs, De Villiers has scored over 9500 runs at average of 53.50 and a strike rate of 101.09. The right-hander played three World Cups for South Africa in 2007, 2011 and 2015.

In each of those editions, South Africa was considered one of the favourites to win. De Villiers’ record in the marquee event is also impressive. He has scored over 1200 runs at an average of 63.52 and an astonishing strike rate of 117.29.

But his performance was not enough for South Africa as the perennial chokers of cricket stayed true to their reputation and found new ways to lose knock-out games.

His best finish remained the semifinal in the 2015 World Cup, where New Zealand handed them a heart-breaking defeat which reduced De Villiers, his teammates and fans to tears.

Gianluigi Buffon: The World champion who never won the Champions League

To say that Gianluigi Buffon is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all times is not a hyperbole at any stretch.

He has won the Serie A trophy 10 times, has won the Ligue 1 in France at the twilight of his career and also won the FIFA World Cup with Italy in 2010.

Gianluigi Buffon is currenlt playing for Italian club Parma
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He has been named Italy’s footballer of the year, has been named the player of the season twice in Serie A and was named the best player in Europe in 2003.

Still, there is one glaring omission in his list of achievements. Buffon never won the UEFA Champions League.

Buffon came inches away from lifting the trophy thrice. He played in three UEFA Champions League final with Juventus in 2003, 2015 and 2017. But on each of those occasions, he and his team fell short.

At 45 years of age, Buffon is playing  professional football. He is currently guarding the post of his boyhood club Parma in Italy’s second division and even has plans to ply his trade in the US after that.

The Italian World Cup winner is searching for more new experiences to fill the void left by not ever winning the Champions League, something the goalkeeper himself has admitted.

Johan Cruyff: The maestro without a World Cup

Many incredible players and coaches have come and gone in football. But none of them has had as much of an impact in the way the game is played as the Dutch booter Johan Cruyff.

The Ajax and Barcelona legend is widely regarded as the mind behind the Dutch total football and the man who ingrained ‘tiki-taka’ in Barcelona.

Johan Cruyff in action against Argentina in the 1974 FIFA World Cup
AFP

Although he no longer exists in the realm of the mortals, his teachings are still very much alive through the works of many coaches which includes perhaps the current best coach in the world Pep Guardiola.

The Dutch midfielder played in just one World Cup, the 1974 edition in West Germany. In that single appearance, Cruyff led his team to the final for the very first time.

Cruff had scored three goals in six matches enroute to the final. But against hosts West Germany, Cruyff’s Netherlands fell short, losing the final 1-2.

Virat Kohli: IPL’s run machine with an empty trophy cabinet

Virat Kohli ascended to the top of yet another list on Sunday when he brought up his second consecutive century in this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL).

It was the right-hander’s seventh century in the Twenty20 competition, the most by any batsmen in the world’s most expensive cricket league.

But Kohli’s smile was wiped off his face by the time the match ended. Shubhman Gill’s century in the second innings cancelled out his ton and Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) lost their must-win final group-stage match against Gujarat Titans to be eliminated from the group-stage once again.

RCB batsman Virat Kohli
Reuters

This defeat extended Kohli’s trophyless run in the IPL by yet another year. Kohli has been part of the tournament from the very first season from RCB.

The right-hander started his IPL career as a rookie player for RCB and later went onto become the face of the franchise, leading the side for a few years and playing three finals for the side.

But the final hurdle has so far proved too tough for RCB as despite of being one of the most celebrated clubs in the league, their trophy cabinet has nothing but cobwebs.

Kohli’s own record in the competition has been stellar to say the least. The Delhi-born batter is the highest run-getter in the competition’s history with 7263 runs to his name, ahead of second-placed Shikhar Dhawan by more than 600 runs.

Although Kohli still has quite a few years of IPL left in him, the time is gradually running out for the 34-year-old. Many of his fans have already began saying that perhaps Kohli should go to another franchise to win the league. But that’s highly unlikely.