By 90Min
March 23, 2019

One of the biggest markers of a footballer's qualities is undeniably getting that call-up to the international stage. Whether it's coming on as a substitute for a mid-season friendly or starting in the World Cup final, earning a cap for your country can be the pinnacle of many players' career.

But even some of the best to have graced England's shores have struggled to gain international recognition, going their entire playing days without having the honour of representing their country.

Despite their travails at international level, here at 90min we like to pay fair dues to those who never fully attracted the spotlight, and so, below is look at the Premier League's best ever uncapped players.

Paolo Di Canio (Italy)

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In an age where personalities and flamboyant characters are slowly dying out, Paolo Di Canio was the absolute epitome of a maverick. Think Mario Balotelli, but even nuttier. A legend at West Ham and revered even at Charlton, the Italian made headlines for both the right and wrong reasons.

Equally famous for pushing referee Paul Alcock to the floor and slamming a thunderbolt into the top corner, Di Canio had it all. That scissor-kick volley against Wimbledon will undoubtedly forever be remembered. Grazie, Paolo. 

James Maddison (England)

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A bit early perhaps in terms of his career to include on this list, but the longer England manager Gareth Southgate leaves out the Leicester star the more eyebrow-raising it becomes. The 22-year-old has been in sparkling form since enjoying a prolific campaign for Norwich in the 2017/2018 season, so much so that he earned himself a £20m move to the King Power Stadium. 

Despite the step-up from the Championship to the Premier League, the midfielder has enjoyed a fine debut campaign in the top flight and is European football's most creative player with 81 chances created; more than Eden Hazard (74) and Lionel Messi (76).

Aymeric Laporte (France)

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At £57m, Aymeric Laporte may well be the most expensive uncapped player of all time. Having represented France in all their youth sides, and captaining them too, the 24-year-old became eligible to represent Spain due to his Basque descent. But after receiving a call-up for the French senior side for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Bulgaria and the Netherlands, Laporte rejected La Furia Roja. 

In the end, the Manchester City star failed to feature in either game, and could now consider himself unlucky that he is part of a centre back generation for France that includes Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti and Presnel Kimpembe.    

Sylvain Distin (France)


A Premier League veteran, Distin was a defensive stalwart in the Premier League in his spells at Newcastle, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Everton and Bournemouth respectively. In his prime, the French centre back was strong, quick and excellent in the tackle and formed a particularly resilient defensive partnership alongside Phil Jagielka at Goodison Park. 

In his two years at Pompey, Distin won the FA Cup, and at his retirement had played 16 consecutive seasons in the Premier League and featured 459 times - the most of any foreign outfield player.

Kevin Nolan (England)

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One of the Premier League's more prolific goalscoring midfielders, Kevin Nolan could undoubtedly consider himself unlucky not to have earned a single cap with England.

A mainstay of Sam Allardyce's relatively successful Bolton side of the early 2000s, Nolan could be counted on to chip in with goals and enjoyed a telepathic understanding with target man Kevin Davies at the Reebok Stadium. The midfielder also enjoyed spells with Newcastle and West Ham and finished with 401 appearances in the top flight.

Mark Noble (England)

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Another Premier League stalwart to have played at West Ham but not earn international recognition, Mark Noble has Hammers blood running through his veins. The 31-year-old has represented England through all the age groups, including 20 appearances for the Under-21 side, but has struggled to force himself into contention for the seniors. 

Having made his debut for West Ham aged just 17 in August 2004, Noble has played 461 times for the Hammers, scoring 54 goals.

Mikel Arteta (Spain)

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Now an assistant to Pep Guardiola's all-conquering Manchester City side, Mikel Arteta was one of the Premier League's most under-appreciated midfielders. Since his arrival in English football from Real Sociedad in 2004, the Spaniard adapted to the pace and intensity of the game incredibly quickly, and became the heartbeat of Everton's midfield in the mid-2000s. 

Then, following Cesc Fabregas' departure from Arsenal, the Gunners turned to Arteta as their choice of replacement, with the playmaker eventually earning the captain's armband at the Emirates. But with Spain being blessed with some of the most incredible midfielders of this or any generation, Arteta never really came close to breaking into the senior squad.

Carlo Cudicini (Italy)

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When you think of the Premier League's best deputy goalies, Carlo Cudicini's name always pops up. The Italian may go down as one of the most unluckiest goalkeepers of his time simply due to the competition he had to face at both club and international level. 

At Chelsea, Cudicini was sidelined by the arrival of Petr Cech in 2004, whilst with the Azzurri he had to just sit at home and watch the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Francesco Toldo, Angelo Peruzzi and Christian Abbiati take the limelight.

Kevin Campbell (England)

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Back in the days when England caps were much harder to come by, Kevin Campbell enjoyed a seven-year spell at Arsenal, making over 228 appearances for the club, but still found himself on the sidelines for the Three Lions. Perhaps not the most prolific of goalscorers judging by his tally of 46, the forward was playing in a time when England had an abundance of quality strikers. 

A decade later, he was still in the top flight scoring goals for Everton, and with no international cap to recognise his achievements, Campbell has the undesirable record of scoring the most Premier League goals as an Englishman without earning a single appearance for the Three Lions.

Abdoulaye Doucoure (France)

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What a fantastic signing Doucoure has been for Watford. The Frenchman has impressed considerably in his time at Vicarage Road, showing great defensive strength and an uncanny knack of finding himself in goalscoring positions. 

At 26 years old, the midfielder is entering his prime years, and was named Watford's Player of the Season last campaign. The competition for places in France's squad is frankly ridiculous, and on the one hand it is understandable to see why Doucoure hasn't yet featured for the reigning World Cup holders. But if he continues to shine in the Premier League, then Didier Deschamps surely can't ignore him for much longer.

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