Uncapped wonders: snubbed players with multiple European Cup medals

<span>Clockwise from top left: Filippo Galli, David Fairclough and Sammy Lee with the European Cup in 1978, Rainer Zobel, José Becerril, Horst Blankenburg.</span><span>Composite: Getty, Shutterstock, Alamy</span>
Clockwise from top left: Filippo Galli, David Fairclough and Sammy Lee with the European Cup in 1978, Rainer Zobel, José Becerril, Horst Blankenburg.Composite: Getty, Shutterstock, Alamy

“I read today of Horst Blankenburg, who won the European Cup three times with Ajax, but never played for his country, West Germany. Have any other uncapped players won as many (or more) European Cup/Champions League medals?” asks Robbie Paterson.

Horst Blankenburg had the misfortune to play in a position as specific as sweeper at a time when Franz Beckenbauer was the boss of world football. We only know of one team that has played with two sweepers, and that was Steve Coppell’s Crystal Palace away at Nottingham Forest in 1990-91. Blankenburg played with Beckenbauer only once: in the Common Market Match of 1973, a celebration of the UK’s entry into the European Economic Community.

Related: Charlton v Netzer: when stars faced off to celebrate the UK joining Europe

Whatever chance Blankenburg had of playing with Beckenbauer at international level disappeared a few months later when the West Germany coach Helmut Schön made some negative comments about Blankenburg. He responded by saying – emphatically on the record – “Schön can lick my arse!”

Ajax won three straight European Cups from 1971–73, and Blankenburg was the only regular outfield player who wasn’t capped. The goalkeeper Heinz Stuy was the other.

Blankenburg and Stuy played in all three finals, which puts them in an elite club within the elite club. For this question we’ve included those who played a part in three successful campaigns but didn’t necessarily appear in the final.

All bar one of the answers to this question come from the days before the Champions League, when there were fewer international games and teams were more likely to win multiple European Cups – often in consecutive seasons. Ángel Atienza and José Becerril did just that at Real Madrid between 1956 and 1958 (Becerril didn’t play in any of the finals, though he was involved en route), as did Bernd Dürnberger and Rainer Zobel at Bayern Munich when they won three in a row in the mid-1970s. Liverpool’s first three European Cups were spread over five years, but the uncapped pair of Jimmy Case and David Fairclough played a part each time.

The only uncapped player to win three European Cups, at least one of which was in the Champions League era, is the Milan defender Filippo Galli. The existence of Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini made it hard to get a game for club, never mind country, but Galli became an ultra-reliable back-up.

He came on as substitute in the finals of 1989 and 1990 and started the 1994 final against Barcelona in the absence of Baresi and Costacurta. Much of Europe – and all of Johan Cruyff – expected Romário and Hristo Stoichkov to ransack Milan’s weakened defence. Wrong!

Here’s the full list of uncapped players with three European Cup medals. Those in capital letters appeared in all three finals.

  • Ángel Atienza Real Madrid (1956–58)

  • José Becerril Real Madrid (1956–58)

  • HORST BLANKENBURG Ajax (1971–73)

  • HEINZ STUY Ajax (1971–73)

  • BERND DÜRNBERGER Bayern Munich (1974–76)

  • Rainer Zobel Bayern Munich (1974–76)

  • JIMMY CASE Liverpool (1977, 1978, 1981)

  • David Fairclough Liverpool (1977, 1978, 1981)

  • FILIPPO GALLI Milan (1989, 1990, 1994)

Thanks to everyone, and there were plenty of you, who wrote in with answers for this one. And before you ask, we think no uncapped player has won more than one title in the Champions League era. The Milan goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi played in three consecutive finals from 1993–95, winning just the one in 1994.

For club & country

“The Antigua & Barbuda international Dion Pereira has been loaned to Dagenham & Redbridge from Luton,” begins Paul Quinn. “Are there any other players who have played for a club and country with ‘and’ in their name at the same time?”

Thomas Biltcliffe has done the hard work on this question. “There are a few of examples that I could find,” he writes. “Myles Weston has made seven appearances for Antigua & Barbuda while in his time at Dagenham & Redbridge. Chris Birchall, the one-time Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder, also played for Trinidad & Tobago while on the south coast. The most leftfield answer I could find concerned Raheem Hanley, who represents St Kitts & Nevis at international level. He played for West Didsbury & Chorlton of the North West Counties Premier Division (tier nine) in August 2023. Finally Sejad Salihovic represented Bosnia & Herzogovina while playing for TSG Hoffenheim. It’s tedious, but the TSG prefix stands for Turn und Sportgemeinschaft (literally: gymnastics and sport community).” And, or should we say &, Don Berno has this example from the 2003-04 season: “You could also have Rodney Jack who played for St Vincent & The Grenadines whilst contracted to Rushden & Diamonds.

Heads up

“All four goals in Liverpool v Burnley were headers,” tweets Alan Whitehill. “I can’t recall a game with as many goals when they were all headers. Can anyone better this?”

“Yup,” responds Jim Hearson, getting straight down to brass tacks. “Manchester City overcame Bristol City 5-0 in the WSL earlier in the season, with nary a boot involved in any of the finishes.” All five were scored in the first half as well, which offers scope for some kind of ‘head first’ pun that is probably best left.

Five is good, six is better. “You had the answer in front of you in Andy Hamilton’s book about his life supporting Chelsea,” writes Peter Collins. “His first game was Chelsea 4-2 Newcastle in 1960, and all six goals were headers.”

Knowledge archive

“Down at Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill stadium every match we still sing two terrace chants in celebration of Edgar Kail, the last non-league player to represent England and a one-club man who last played for Hamlet in 1933, 80 years ago,” wrote Robert Molloy-Vaughan in April 2013. “I wonder what clubs can beat us for antiquarian bygone-dom in celebrating old players through song?”

A couple of clubs can claim still to sing the praises of players even longer departed than the great Edgar Kail. “Derby County’s idolising of Steve Bloomer takes some beating,” wrote Matt Lewis. “He played for the Rams from 1892 to 1906, then moved to Middlesbrough, before returning to Derby in 1910. He eventually hung up his boots for good in 1914.

“With 332 goals, he is by far Derby’s all-time top scorer and only Jimmy Greaves has scored more goals in the English top flight. He still sits joint 10th on England’s all-time top scorers list, with 28 goals from 23 games, despite playing his last international match over a century ago. The song Steve Bloomer’s Watchin’ is played before every game at Pride Park.”

And in Scotland those on the terraces at Parkhead also have long memories. “Celtic fans still regularly belt out The Ballad of Willie Maley,” noted Mark Sheffield. “Maley played for the club from 1888-1897, before taking over as manager, a post he held until 1940. The song also references Jimmy McGrory, another player who would later manage the club and whose last appearance as a player came in 1937; and Charlie Tully, who last turned out in the Hoops in 1959.”


Can you help?

“James Tavernier scored twice in Rangers’ 3-0 win over St Mirren, bringing his tally for the club to 129. In terms of goals scored for one club, not across an entire career, is this a record for a full-back? Or even a defender?” asks Derek Robertson.

“Manchester City are trying to become the first English side to win four titles in a row. Are there any other long-running leagues where the most consecutive top-flight titles is three, or even fewer?” wonders Steven Higgins.

“After 25 games of the Scottish Premiership season, Hibs and Aberdeen have the same record: W6 D9 L10 F31 A41 Pts 27. What’s the latest point in a season that two clubs have had identical records?” enquires Matt Guthrie.

“Saudi Arabia manager Roberto Mancini disappearing down the tunnel before South Korea’s deciding penalty in their Asian Cup made me wonder: has a manager ever clocked off early to beat the traffic?” asks Albert Farkas.

Mail us your questions or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU