Lists

The European players with the most appearances at major international tournaments

Mitchell Wilks
Schweinsteiger has 38 appearances across the Euros and the World Cup
Schweinsteiger has 38 appearances across the Euros and the World Cup / Clive Rose/Getty Images
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Earning full international honours for your country is an achievement in itself as a player. Earning a cap for the nation is often a significant privilege, and it goes underestimated how hard it is to carve out a successful international career.

Plenty of players who thrive at domestic level miss out on reaching the same levels internationally. And while many will rack up appearances in friendlies - or the prestigious Nations League these days - the real plaudits are earned with major tournament appearances.

The Euros and the World Cup each work in four year cycles, meaning a call up to either tournament is a serious honour and one that cannot be taken for granted. 90min has compiled a list of the 30 players who have managed to appear at the two more than anybody else.


30. Jan Ceulemans (23)

Jan Ceulemans
Jan Ceulemans was Belgium captain / Mike King/Getty Images

A prolific midfielder, Jan Ceulemans remains Belgium's fourth most-capped player and was a part of one of their brightest eras.

Ceulemans was a part of the squad that reached the Euro 80 final and captained Belgium to fourth place at the 1986 World Cup.

29. Phillip Cocu (24)

Phillip Cocu
Cocu tries his hand as a manager these days / Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Midfielder Phillip Cocu had a troubled start in the early years of his Netherlands career, missing a penalty against Brazil in the semi-final of France '98.

He recovered, though, and was a key man for the Dutch all the way up until 2006.

28. Pierre Littbarski (24)

Lothar Matthaeus, Pierre Littbarski
Littbarski (right) celebrates the World Cup win / STAFF/Getty Images

A tricky winger who could be deployed through the middle, Pierre Littbarski was a hit for West Germany throughout the 1980s and early 90s.

Having been a runner-up twice in the World Cup in 1982 and 1986, Littbarski finally became a world champion in 1990.

27. Luis Figo (24)

Mehrzad Madanchi, Luis Figo
Figo battles for possession / Clive Mason/Getty Images

Controversially swapping Barcelona for Real Madrid is often the narrative that clouds the career of Luis Figo which is unfair. Because Figo was absolutely sublime.

Figo's club career was covered in stardom and silverware, but the height of his career with Portugal was reaching the final of Euro 2004.

26. David Silva (24)

Spanish midfielder David Silva (R) and f
Silva celebrates Spain's Euro 2012 win / FRANCK FIFE/Getty Images

When not tying up the Premier League in knots for Manchester City, David Silva was providing his genius for country, too.

Forming a seriously dangerous alliance with Xavi and Andres Iniesta, Silva was vital in a run of three consecutive major tournament victories from 2008 to 2012.

25. Pepe (24)

Pepe
Hard man. / Dan Mullan/Getty Images

It feels like it's only later on in his career that football has begun to truly appreciate Pepe as a great defender.

Despite holding it down alongside Sergio Ramos at Real Madrid for an age, it has been his more recent performances with Portugal that have seen fans appreciate him more. Seven major tournaments which peaked with winning Euro 2016. Class.

24. Alessandro Del Piero (25)

Alessandro Del Piero
Del Piero was a genius / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Italy's little magician was a hit with the national team. His flair and creativity brought a charm to a side that had all the other components needed for success.

Del Piero appeared at the Euros three times and the World Cup four, becoming a world champion in 2006 and scoring in the semi-final against Germany.

23. Dennis Bergkamp (25)

World Cup - Holland v Mexico
Bergkamp scored a fine goal at France '98 / VI-Images/Getty Images

Having impressed at Euro 1992, Dennis Bergkamp's true introduction with the Netherlands was his fine goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.

The way he plucked the ball out of the air and seamlessly slotted into goal was obscene, which the commentator did a fair job of getting across.

22. Fabien Barthez (26)

Fabien Barthez
Barthez couldn't take his World Cup form to Manchester / Simon M Bruty/Getty Images

It was the form that Fabien Barthez was producing between the sticks for France as they became world champions in 1998 that had convinced Sir Alex Ferguson he was the man to take the number one at Manchester United.

It didn't quite work, but Barthez was always a different beast for France and, more importantly, has since pursued a career in motorsport since retiring in 2007. Respect.

21. Cesc Fabregas (26)

Cesc Fabregas
Magnificent quiff, that / Clive Rose/Getty Images

Spain love a technically savvy midfielder. They thrive off it.

Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta. No wonder nobody could get anywhere near them from 2008 to 2012; why bother trying?

20. Fabio Cannavaro (26)

Fabio Cannavaro
Machine / Simon M Bruty/Getty Images

Sure, Fabio Cannavaro has won like dozens of important football accolades or whatever. We get it.

What really matters, here, is that he's actually towing the line for the shorter Sunday league defenders. Being 5'9 didn't stop the Italian from representing Italy at six major tournaments and becoming a World Cup winner.

19. Hugo Lloris (26)

Hugo Lloris
Captain. / Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Hugo Lloris one of football's most handsome chaps. He's also pretty good at that goalkeeping lark, too.

Not only has Lloris become a world champion with France, he has captained the side throughout the bulk of the 2010s and serves as the undisputed number one. Age is but a number.

18. Thomas Haessler (27)

Thomas Hassler
Scotland chasing the play / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

As if major tournaments weren't enough, Thomas Haessler racked up over 100 caps for Die Mannschaft and appeared for them at 1988 Olympic Games.

Haessler was a part of the squads that won the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96, producing playmaking of the highest order with supreme chance creation and creativity.

17. Fernando Torres (27)

Spanish forward Fernando Torres celebrat
Bring back the frosted tips / OLIVER LANG/Getty Images

Be it for Spain or Liverpool (we'll forget Chelsea happened), the frosted tips and white sock tape combo from Fernando Torres spelled trouble.

The striker is Spain's third-highest scorer and has earned over 100 caps, 27 of which have come at major tournaments in a time where no other nation could get anywhere near the Spaniards.

16. Edwin van der Sar (27)

Edwin van der Sar
Van der Sar didn't enjoy the same fortunes at international level / Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The flying Dutchman was a hit at club level over his mammoth career, and was equally as handy for his country at major tournaments.

Van der Sar was always around for the Dutch, but unfortunately his storied career fell just after the nation's real peak and his appearances at major tournaments never yielded trophies.

15. Andreas Brehme (28)

Andreas Brehme, Kim Vilfort
Brehme in action at Euro 88 / Inpho Photography/Getty Images

Andreas Brehme was the modern attacking full back that every 21st century side wants well before it was remotely cool.

In fact, it was full back Brehme who took the penalty and subsequently scored the winning goal for Germany at the Italia 90 World Cup. Ice in his veins.

14. Thierry Henry (28)

Thierry Henry
Henry at the 2006 World Cup / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

When not balling out across Europe at club level, Thierry Henry was sprinkling his magic on the international game.

He shone at the 1998 World Cup despite being relatively unknown at the time and was subsequently key in France's capture of the European Championship two years later. Henry is currently France's record scorer.

13. Thomas Muller (28)

Thomas Mueller
Don't hold back, Thomas / Martin Rose/Getty Images

Is his football the prettiest? No. But is Thomas Muller effective? Absolutely.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and while Muller isn't graced with endless technical flair, watching him wriggle into spaces in between the opposition that nobody else can see and then poaching a simple goal or assist is pretty damn appealing on the eye.

12. Manuel Neuer (28)

Manuel Neuer
You'll need those, mate / Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Manuel Neuer is so undeniably good that the rest of the football world has just accepted it and quietly let him crack on with being very good, while also being a bit eccentric.

The German re-popularised the role of the sweeper keeper and made it a vital part of the modern game. He also picked up the Golden Glove as Germany won the 2014 World Cup.

11. Jurgen Klinsmann (30)

Juergen Klinsmann
Klinsmann loved a celebration / KAZUHIRO NOGI/Getty Images

A striker that flies under the radar in the never ending list of pretty footballers, Jurgen Klinsmann was perfect for Germany.

Eccentric, passionate and full of goals, he scored in each of the six major tournaments he was called up for and won both the World Cup and European Championship with his country.

10. Andres Iniesta (30)

Andres Iniesta
Iniesta was incredible / Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The Spanish wizard has spent the latter stages of his career winding down in the Japanese top fight, but was one of the first names on the team sheet in one of international football's strongest sides in his prime.

Be it for Barcelona or Spain, opponents knew they were in for a tough day when they had to deal with Andres Iniesta in midfield. Key to Spain's early 2010s success.

9. Iker Casillas (31)

Iker Casillas
Casillas celebrates becoming a world champion / Clive Mason/Getty Images

The man with the most clean sheets in the Champions League was also pretty handy for his nation.

Iker Casillas' unrelenting athleticism and reactions were also key to Spain during their peak, keeping the net secure across his tenure as number one. He recorded five clean sheets at the 2010 World Cup; incredible.

8. Gianluigi Buffon (31)

Gianluigi Buffon
Cool as you like / Clive Mason/Getty Images

There are few who have achieved the levels that Gianluigi Buffon has.

If well over 1,000 career appearances wasn't enough as one of the game's finest goalkeepers, the Italian has been a constant in the sticks at major tournaments with 31 appearances. Five different World Cup appearances and the most caps for his country, Buffon is timeless.

7. Lilian Thuram (32)

Lilian Thuram
One for the Thuram family fireplace / Simon M Bruty/Getty Images

Of his 32 appearances across major international tournaments, Lilian Thuram certainly made his presence known and made it count, too.

Thuram was a rock at the back for Les Bleus as they swept up the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, and played all the way up until Euro 2008 before retiring from the game fully. Irreplaceable.

6. Sergio Ramos (32)

Sergio Ramos
The game needs Sergio Ramos / David Ramos/Getty Images

Despite not making the cut for Euro 2020, Sergio Ramos has been indispensable for Spain throughout his career.

The hard line defender brings just about everything you want at a tournament, from undying passion and leadership to appropriate levels of s**thousery and the goal when you need it most. He definitely has more in the tank, too.

5. Philipp Lahm (34)

FBL-WC-2018-MATCH64-FRA-CRO
World champion / ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

Like with sunbeds in Spain, the Germans don't mess around when it comes to major tournaments.

Philipp Lahm's versatility and ability to operate at a world class level in a variety of positions was of invaluable service to anyone in possession of it. Particularly at a major tournament, that's a manager's dream. 34 appearances is understandable.

4. Paolo Maldini (36)

Paolo Maldini, Thierry Henry
Maldini protects the ball from Thierry Henry / Simon M Bruty/Getty Images

A storied 25 season playing career as one of the game's greatest ever defenders is an accolade enough for Paolo Maldini.

But in that time - devoted entirely to Milan - Maldini also managed to make 36 appearances at major tournaments for Italy. Despite his success, Maldini was never in a side that won either the World Cup or the Euros.

3. Lothar Matthaus (36)

Lothar Matthaus, Giuseppe Giannini, Roberto Mancini
Matthaus evades a challenge / Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

One of football's finest brains, Lothar Matthaus is also Germany's record appearance holder with 150 caps.

Matthaus appeared in a record five World Cups for Die Mannschaft and finished up with a World Cup and a European Championship to his name.

2. Bastian Schweinsteiger (38)

Bastian Schweinsteiger
Schweinsteiger was immense / Pool/Getty Images

The Deutscher Fussballmeister takes second at the expense of greatness, but racked up an incredible 38 appearances for Germany.

Bastian Schweinsteiger has had a storied career at football's top level, which translated seamlessly onto the international stage. Years of hard work and talent culminated with winning the World Cup in 2014.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (39)

Cristiano Ronaldo
Inevitable / Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

*And counting. Which is terrifying.

Appearing at Euro 2020 against Hungary saw Cristiano Ronaldo break another record, becoming the first player to play at five different European Championships. That is genuinely unthinkable. And with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner showing no signs of slowing, don't expect him to stop there.

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