It’s impossible to please everyone. With the 32 squads for the 2018 World Cup in Russia officially cemented, several big-name players will be staying home.
Related: The 10 best players who won’t be at the World Cup
Not including those ruled out with late-season injuries like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (England), Dimitri Payet and Laurent Koscielny (France), Dani Alves (Brazil), and Sergio Romero (Argentina), here’s a look at the most notable World Cup omissions.
Related: Full squad lists for each nation
Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Alvaro Morata (Chelsea), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea), Pedro (Chelsea), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich), Ander Herrera (Manchester United), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)
Julen Lopetegui faced the kind of squad-selection headache that most managers dream of. He couldn’t find room for Chelsea quartet Fabregas, Morata, Alonso and Pedro, with the latter missing out despite 17 goals in 65 caps. Like Alonso, Bellerin’s absence highlights a wealth of full-back options, and it’s the same situation with central midfield roles, leaving Martinez, Herrera, and Mata in the cold.
Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Adrien Rabiot (Paris Saint-Germain), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City)
Like Spain, Euro 2016 finalist France has depth in every position. Lacazette, Martial, and out-of-favour Benzema represent a glut of attacking options, while the young Rabiot, Coman, and Laporte highlight the abundance of emerging stars within Les Bleus’ ranks. Credit to those who handled the shaft with more sophistication than Rabiot.
Nelson Semedo (Barcelona), Ruben Neves (Wolves), Andre Gomes (Barcelona), Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich), Rony Lopes (Monaco)
Euro 2016 holder Portugal did not have room for prodigious youngsters Semedo and Neves despite their solid campaigns. Barcelona’s Gomes isn’t going to Russia either after starting just six La Liga matches this season, and while Sanches’ exclusion may shock casual fans, the midfielder’s disastrous loan with spell Swansea City merited it.
Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund), Leroy Sane (Manchester City), Emre Can (Liverpool), Sandro Wagner (Bayern Munich), Shkodran Mustafi (Arsenal)
Gotze and Sane stand out among the glaring omissions from Jogi Low’s star-studded 23-man Die Mannschaft squad. The Borussia Dortmund man and scorer of the 2014 World Cup-winning goal has struggled with a metabolic disorder and will be forced to watch from home alongside Sane, who has been excluded in favour of the Julians, Brandt and Draxler.
Fabinho (Liverpool), Alex Sandro (Juventus), David Luiz (Chelsea), Rafinha (Bayern Munich)
The favourite to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy for a record sixth time, Brazil left a quartet of influential players at home. Juventus full-back Sandro sticks out, as does four-time-capped Liverpool newcomer Fabinho, who has yet to attract Tite’s interest despite a varied set of skills. Luiz, who was surplus to requirements at Chelsea, and Bayern faux-blonde Rafinha also missed out.
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Joe Hart (West Ham), Adam Lallana (Liverpool)
England boss Gareth Southgate told Wilshere he needed to play more first-team minutes to earn a spot, and the Arsenal midfielder made 20 league appearances for the club, his most since 2013-14. Nevertheless, it wasn’t to be for Wilshere, nor fellow veterans Hart and Lallana. The latter failed to find form this year after returning from multiple long-term hamstring worries.
Mauro Icardi (Inter), Lautaro Martinez (Racing Club), Javier Pastore (Paris Saint-Germain)
Inter co-Capocannoniere Icardi may be the biggest exclusion here after bagging 29 goals in 34 Serie A appearances this season. Like Icardi, emerging star Martinez is an attacker left on the outside looking in thanks to the selections of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, and Sergio Aguero. Meanwhile, Pastore’s veteran presence was deemed unnecessary by spark-plug tactician Jorge Sampaoli.
Radja Nainggolan (Roma), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace)
When Belgium boss Roberto Martinez chose not to bring tough-tackling Roma midfielder Nainggolan, the former Everton gaffer explained, “The reason is tactical. In the last two years, the team has worked in a specific manner.” Disciplinary concerns couldn’t have helped either after Nainggolan posted an unsavoury video on his Instagram account over the holidays.
Sofiane Boufal (Southampton)
An impact substitute and one of the Premier League’s most explosive dribblers, Paris-born Southampton stud Boufal wasn’t included in Herve Renard’s Morocco squad. If anything, that’s a testament to the Atlas Lions’ depth as the north African nation enjoys a spell of success courtesy of a golden generation.
Jonathan Gonzalez (Monterrey)
When Monterrey’s Gonzalez snubbed the United States for Mexico in January, the 19-year-old hoped to find a spot on Juan Carlos Osorio’s 23-man El Tri squad. No such luck for the once-capped midfielder, who, according to Mexican FA director Dennis te Kloese, wasn’t promised a spot. He wouldn’t have been headed to Russia had he stuck with the U.S. either.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)