With the 2018 World Cup to look forward to throughout the summer, football fans can expect to see some of the brightest talents in World football shining on the biggest stage of them all.
Throughout the years there have been some truly great national sides packed full of top talents and the World Cup in Russia will be no exception.
However, there remains a large pool of players who have eluded an international call up, in spite of their abundance of talent.
Some of these players still have much of their career ahead of them and subsequently have the potential to finally pick up that elusive international cap however, some have seen their chance at a career at international level pass them by without so much as a look-in.
Here is a ‘World XI’ of players who are yet to be capped by their country at senior level.
1. GK: Timo Horn
24-year-old FC Koln goalkeeper Timo Horn is among one of Europe’s most talented shot stoppers, having consistently proven himself to be one of Die Geißböcke’s best players, keeping an impressive 66 clean sheets since graduating from the Bundesliga outfit’s academy in 2011.
Assuming Horn was born in any other country in the world he would almost certainly be his country’s number one. However, it’s unfortunate for the Cologne born keeper that he has to compete against a host of top-class German shot stoppers in Manuel Neuer, Marc-André ter Stegen, Bernd Leno, Kevin Trapp, Loris Karius and Oliver Baumann.
Although Horn has competed for Germany at every youth level, he is yet to be called up to the senior team, and assuming Die Mannschaft continue in their habits of producing some of the world’s best goalkeepers, it is likely to stay that way.
Honourable mention: Gerónimo Rulli
2. LB: Alex Telles
Unfortunately for Alex Telles, the FC Porto man was born into a generation of top-class Brazilian left backs, including the likes of Marcelo, Alex Sandro and Filipe Luís.
Perfectly embodying the modern full back, Telles has pace to burn and is just as capable going forward as he is in defence, often proving to be Os Dragões creative outlet down the left flank, notching two goals and 18 assists from 37 games throughout the 2017/18 campaign.
At 25, there remains a chance Telles may be called up to the Seleção, with the pacey defender attracting attention from a host of top clubs and current first choice Brazil left back Marcelo potentially coming towards the tail end of his international career.
Honourable mention: Marcos Alonso
3. CB: Aymeric Laporte
Just how Aymeric Laporte hasn’t received a call-up to the France squad is a mystery. The young defender was a consistently stoic figure in the Athletic Bilbao back line since graduating from their second team midway through the 2012/13 season.
While competition for the position of centre back in the France squad is tight, Laporte is more than capable of matching, or even outclassing, his compatriots, with fellow Manchester City man Eliaquim Mangala picking up eight caps for Les Bleus.
As a confident ball-playing centre back, the 23-year-old defender would fit seamlessly into Didier Deschamps’ France squad, paying alongside either Raphaël Varane or Samuel Umtiti, the Manchester City new boy could prove to be a revelation at the World Cup.
4. CB: Jamaal Lascelles
Since returning from his loan to Nottingham Forrest, Jamaal Lascelles has proven to be one of Newcastle United’s key players, playing at the heart of the Magpies defence and playing a huge part in their return to the Premier League in the 2016/17 season as they were crowned champions of the second tier of English football, maintaining the joint-best defence in the league in the process.
Under the tutelage of former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager Rafael Benítez, Lascelles has steadily developed into onto of the finest English defenders in the league, pushing the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones for their spots in the Three Lions squad.
Possessing versatility as well as the leadership qualities that are lacking from many of the players in the current national team squad, it wouldn’t be surprising if Gareth Southgate handed the 24-year-old defender his first senior England cap before the World Cup this summer.
5. RB: Mariano
Throughout his career, Mariano has been a solid full back, plying his trade for the likes of Tombense, Fluminense, FC Girondins de Bordeux, Sevilla and now Galatasaray. Despite never playing for his native Brazil at a senior level, he did earn a call up to the Cananrinha squad twice in 2010 and 2017, although he didn’t make a single appearance, being kept out of the side by Dani Alves and Maicon.
Following the arrival of Luis Muriel, Mariano made a move to Istanbul to play for current Turkish Süper Lig leaders Galatasaray, whereby his contributions have seen Aslanlar maintain the third-best defensive record in the league, behind only Beşiktaş and İstanbul Başakşehir.
Throughout his career the tireless defender has made 396 appearances, winning the Coupe de France, the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A and the Europa League. However, at 31-years-old, it seems unlikely the veteran defender will ever earn himself a cap for Brazil.
6. CM: Gabi
Perhaps one of the best players in recent times not to receive international recognition, Atletico Madrid’s captain Gabi is considered the complete footballer by many fans, with the Spanish midfiedler becoming known for his industrious efforts across the centre of the park.
Being kept out of the Spain national side by the likes of Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Marcos Senna seeing the former Real Zaragoza man fail to make a single appearance for an already top quality La Roja side.
Playing as the beating heart of an immensely successful Atletico Madrid side in recent years, the 34-year-old midfielder has quality in numerous departments, a fantastic combative ball-winner with an unprecedented ability to distribute the ball and initiate the attack. As such, Gabi played a huge part in Los Rojiblancos 2013/14 La Liga winning campaign.
Honourable mention: Amadou Diawara
7. CM: Dani Parejo
An all-round midfielder, capable of being deployed in the centre of midfield or in a more advanced role, Valecia’s captain Dani Parejo has become known for his extraordinary vision and passing ability since joining Los Murciélagos in 2011.
Despite being an integral member of Valencia’s midfield since joining from Getafe with his metronomic passing has opening up numerous La Liga defences, seeing him rack up a total of 44 league assists from 272 appearances, Parejo has been kept out of the Spain squad by a wealth of world class talent, including Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and David Silva.
Although his quality passing and attacking play has garnered the attention of the likes of Liverpool in recent years, the 28-year-old has remained loyal to the side he has made over 250 appearances for.
8. CM: Arthur
One of the best young Brazilians to burst onto the scene in the 2017 Brasileirão, Arthur has proven himself to be the future of the Seleção. The young midfielder’s passing ability were second to none in Brazil last season, helping Grêmio to their third Copa Libertadores triumph.
Although Arthur doesn’t operate as a traditional Brazilian midfielder, incorporating an abundance of fancy turns and flicks into his play, his transitional play and incisive passing have garnered him worldwide acclaim.
Subsequently, Europe big clubs have come calling and Barcelona have agreed a deal that will allow them first refusal on the Brazil starlet. Arthur has already earned game time for his country at the Under-17 and Under-20 levels, and with the World Cup fast approaching it would be a surprise if Tite overlooked the 21-year-old for the trip to Russia.
9. LW: Leon Bailey
Eligible to play for Jamaica, the country of his birth, or (possibly?) England via ancestry, Bayer Leverkusen’s talented young winger Leon Bailey is already being compared to legendary Bayern Munich and Netherlands winger Arjen Robben.
This season, Bailey has become an integral component of Heiko Herrlich’s exciting Werkself outfit as they continue to cause problems for the rest of Germany’s top teams.
In turn, the youngster has attracted the attention of the media and the English FA who are courting the Jamaican-born attacker, as well as a host of top clubs across Europe including Manchester City.
The player’s agent and father however claims his son is prepared to wait until he is eligible to represent Germany.
Bailey’s pace and skill have allowed the 20-year-old to run rings around Bundesliga defences this season, racking up 11 goals and five assists from 25 appearances and helping Leverkusen compete with the likes of FC Schalke 04, Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt and RasenBallsport Leipzig for Germany’s much sought after Champions League spots.
10. RW: Malcom
Brazil have an abundance of talent across the pitch at all age levels, and FC Girondins de Bordeux’s Malcom is no exception. Between himself and Ajax’s David Neres (who is also uncapped by Brazil) the Canarinha have their right wing covered for years to come.
Throughout his time with Les Girondins, Malcom has caused a innumerable amount of Ligue 1 defenders headaches, whether it be his ability to beat his marker effortlessly in a one-on-one scenario or pick out a teammate with an inch perfect pass, the 21-year-old Brazilian has all the skills in his locker to one day become a legend of the Seleção.
Competing for a place against the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Douglas Costa, Willian, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino and, of course, Neymar is no easy task. However, Malcom has continued in a stunning vein of form, pushing his seniors all the way for a place in Tite’s squad.
11. ST: Wissam Ben Yedder
Wissam Ben Yedder has been enjoying a phenomenal season for Sevilla so far this campaign, moreover the Frenchman has consistently brilliant since breaking onto the scene at Toulouse, notching 80 goals across 206 games since the 2010/11 season.
At 27-years-old, the Sarcelles-born striker has had the option to represent Tunisia due to parental heritage, but has held out in the hopes he might one day represent Les Bleus on the international stage.
Unfortunately for Ben Yedder, he faces competition from a host of top attacking talent that hail from France however, his lethal form in the Champions League this season may just see Didier Deschamp’s head turned in the direction of the Sevilla hitman as he considers his options for Russia.
Honourable mention: Lautaro Martínez