Many high-profile players are not playing for their countries of birth, here’s who and why.
French-born Aymeric Laporte, seen behind Cristiano Ronaldo, made his international debut last night – for Spain, not France. The Manchester City defender was granted Spanish nationality last month and starred in the 0-0 draw against Portugal for his adopted nation. Having represented Les Bleus up until U21 level, he had never made his senior debut for the national team and was allowed to swap as he had spent eight years playing in Spain with Athletic Bilbao. Here’s a look at several other high-profile players that could have represented other nations.
Kylian Mbappe, Cameroon: The PSG star is one of the hottest talents in the world right now but rather than the French national team, he could have played for Cameroon as his father is from there. But then that would have meant he wouldn’t have won the World Cup. Clearly, it was a good decision to turn down the Indomitable Lions.
Erling Haaland, England: The goalscoring sensation was born in Leeds meaning he would have qualified for England, however, he chose Norway as that is where his father, Alfe-Inge (who played for Leeds) was born. But just imagine him up front with Kane and Calvert-Lewin. Now, that would have been a tasty front three.
Miroslav Klose, Poland: Born in Opole, Poland would have loved it if he had opted to play for them instead of Germany. He won the World Cup and is the all-time top scorer with 16 goals and if he hadn’t moved to Rhineland when he was 8, the Poles may have become a real powerhouse.
Christian Pulisic, Croatia: His grandparents were from Croatia which means he could have represented them. But, the Chelsea winger chose the US, because that is where he was born.
Zinedine Zidane, Algeria: His parents lived there before they immigrated to Paris but Zizou has stated several times that he has an affinity with the Arabic world. Had he chosen Algeria over France there would have been no infamous head-butts or red cards and he may have been friends with a fella named Marco…
Raheem Sterling, Jamaica: The lightning-fast Man City winger was born in Kingston but moved to England when he was five and chose the Three Lions over the Caribbean island. His mum was a track athlete for Jamaica – now we know where he gets that electric pace from.
Marcel Desailly, Ghana: He won the World Cup in 1998 for France but the colossal defender was born in Ghana. He could have represented them but when he was just four, his family relocated to Europe. He went on to play for France 116 times.
Patrick Vieira, Senegal: Born in Dakar, he moved to Europe when he was eight. It begs the question – would France have won the World Cup if a bunch of their household named played for other countries?
Lukas Podolski, Poland: He was born in Gliwice, Poland, but the powerful forward played his international soccer for Germany. Why? Well, it was a decision that was more or less made for him. Polish boss Pawel Janas left him out of the squads, so he chose to represent Germany – where he moved when he was two – and won the World Cup in 2014.
Diego Costa, Brazil: This is an odd one, as he has two caps for Brazil. Born in Lagarto, he put in a request to change nationalities in 2013 while playing for Atletico Madrid. The Spanish Football Federation couldn’t believe their luck and were on board with his request and the following year he made his debut for his new country. However, the aggressive striker was disgraced in his homeland for deflecting.
Patrice Evra, Senegal: The defender was born in Dakar but moved to France when he was just one. Just imagine the team Senegal could have had with Patrice Evra in his prime days with Manchester United and Juventus.