Who has played most games without winning the Champions League?

Zlatan Ibrahimović, Gianluigi Buffon, Robert Lewandowski and Sergio Agüero are among the players who seem to have done everything but win the UEFA Champions League.

©Getty Images

As UEFA.com discovered a while ago, Arsenal hold the unenviable distinction of having played the most UEFA Champions League/European Cup games without winning the continent's top club competition. It got us thinking.

After extensive research, we can now confirm that Zlatan Ibrahimović and Gianluigi Buffon have made the most appearances in Europe's top club competition without winning it* – with the Manchester United striker also having the double misfortune of being one of the most prolific scorers in the #UCL never to have featured in a final victory. Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani and Sergio Agüero figure in our lists too.

Highest-ranked appearance-makers in the UEFA Champions League/European Cup who have never won* the competition

Highlights: Gianluigi Buffon showreel
Highlights: Gianluigi Buffon showreel

124 appearances (12th in all-time rankings): Zlatan Ibrahimović (Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris, Man. United )
121 (13): Gianluigi Buffon (Parma, Juventus)
111 (=22): John Terry (Chelsea)
109 (=26): Olexandr Shovkovskiy (Dynamo Kyiv)
108 (=28): Cesc Fàbregas (Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea)
107 (=31): Roar Strand (Rosenborg)
99 (=40): Guti (Real Madrid)
97 (=44): Sergei Ignashevich (Lokomotiv Moskva, CSKA Moskva)
97 (=44): Maxwell (Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Paris)
96 (=45): Michael Ballack (Kaiserslautern, Leverkusen, Bayern, Chelsea)

John Terry celebrates Chelsea's 2012 success
John Terry celebrates Chelsea's 2012 success©Getty Images

While Ibrahimović is still to play in a UEFA Champions League final, Buffon has been on the losing side in three with Juventus (2003, 2015, 2017). Also on the list, John Terry has a winners' medal yet was suspended for Chelsea's 2012 final triumph; and Guti's situation is perhaps even more frustrating – he contributed to three successful Real Madrid campaigns (1998, 2000, 2002) but was an unused substitute the only time he was named in the actual final squad (2002).

Michael Ballack possibly had it even worse: he was a losing finalist with two clubs Leverkusen (2002) and Chelsea (2008). "It's hard to remember details of what happened when you lose such a big game," he said. "You just remember how much it hurt."

Highest-ranked scorers in the UEFA Champions League/European Cup who have never won* the competition

60 goals (4th in all-time rankings): Ruud van Nistelrooy (PSV, Man. United, Real Madrid)
49 (=9): Zlatan Ibrahimović (Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan, Paris, Man. United)
43 (14): Robert Lewandowski (Dortmund, Bayern)
36 (17): Sergio Agüero (Atlético Madrid, Man. City)
32 (=22): David Trezeguet (Monaco, Juventus)
31 (=24): Edinson Cavani (Napoli, Paris)
31 (=24): Serhiy Rebrov (Dynamo Kyiv)
31 (=24): Rivaldo (Barcelona, AC Milan, Olympiacos, AEK Athens) - unused sub in 2003
29 (32): Roy Makaay (Deportivo La Coruña, Bayern)
28 (=33): Hernán Crespo (Parma, Lazio, Inter Milan, Chelsea, AC Milan)
28 (=33): Mário Jardel (Porto, Galatasaray)
28 (=33): Jean-Pierre Papin (Marseille, AC Milan, Bayern)

Ruud van Nistelrooy adopts a philosophical line on any missing silverware in his cabinet, saying: "I am proud to have won team and individual trophies, but my greatest satisfaction was to be able to work day after day, year after year." Ibrahimović may take similar comfort if he too retires having never experienced a European Cup final. Lewandowski, Agüero and Cavani can also remove themselves from the list with a 2017/18 triumph.

Watch highlights of Juve's 1996 final win
Watch highlights of Juve's 1996 final win

Players who have appeared in the most UEFA Champions League/European Cup finals without winning

3: Gianluigi Buffon (2003, 2015, 2017 – all Juventus)
3: Paolo Montero (1997, 1998, 2003 – all Juventus)
3: Alessio Tacchinardi (1997, 1998, 2003 – all Juventus)

Juventus's 1996 final triumph was followed by defeats in successive deciders; Paolo Montero only joined them after that 1996 victory, and while Alessio Tacchinardi was on the books at the time, he did not feature in the shoot-out success against Ajax in Rome. So both made it three finals without a win, handing on an unwanted baton to Buffon, who has now matched their barren run.

*For the sake of these statistics, 'winning' is defined specifically as playing in a final victory