Another international break is upon us, bringing a host of crucial World Cup qualifiers, and it got us thinking about the honour of representing our country. Pulling on that famous jersey, singing your national anthem and having adoring fans from across the country signing your name is, we imagine, a feeling that cannot be beaten.
What is maybe more difficult to imagine though is playing for a country that wasn’t where we were actually born- but for footballers there’s a wealth of different reasons as to why they elected to play for other nations. In honour of the latest international break, we decided to take a look into the best players to go down these route.
Some of these players you probably knew about, whilst the others may surprise you!
Giuseppe Rossi may have thirty Italian caps to his name but his was actually born in New Jersey, making him eligible for the United States. Born to Italian immigrants, Rossi made his international decision early on and represented Italy through various youth ranks before earning his first senior appearance in 2008.
The forward is well travelled in European football, listing the likes of Manchester United, Fiorentina and Villarreal amongst his previous employers.
A Portuguese footballing legend, Deco is one of many Brazilian-born players representing other nations. Playing in the era of Ronaldinho and Kaka, Deco was overlooked by Brazil and was called-up by Portugal in 2003, which was criticised by the likes of Luis Figo, but scored the winner on his debut.
The opponent was, you guessed it, Brazil.
An icon of Dutch football, Edgar Davids was one of many Holland internationals that were born in the small South American nation of Suriname. Davids, who earned 74 caps for the Dutch national side, didn’t really have a choice in the matter as Suriname’s FA prohibits players playing outside of the nation from being called-up to the national team.
Born in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe, Lilian Thuram first represented France in 1994. He won the World Cup with the nation in 1998, one of many players in the squad born out of mainland France, and enjoyed a successful club career with the likes of Monaco, Juventus and Barcelona.
With 142 appearances, Thuram is the most-capped player in France’s illustrious football history and is almost 20 appearances ahead of the second-ranked player in the list, Thierry Henry.
A defeated finalist in the 2014 World Cup and last two Copa America tournaments with Argentina, Gonzalo Higuain was born in France as his father, also a footballer, was playing in France at the time. Higuain’s loyalties lie with Argentina though, despite his French passport, and he add to apply for Argentine nationality in 2007 to be eligible for the South American nation.
To date, the world’s most-expensive South American football has 30 goals in 63 appearances for his nation.
One of the more well-known players on this list, Germany’s 2014 World Cup winner Lukas Podolski was actually born over the border in Poland. Eligible for both nations, Poland snubbed calling-up the young striker in 2003 and he made his debut for Germany a year later; the first of 129 caps Podolski would win for his side.
Podolski retired this year as the third-most capped player in German history and the third-highest scorer for the nation, with 48 goals.
Born in Jamaica, John Barnes moved to England at the age of 12 and chose his adopted nation for his international career. It proved to be the correct decision for the talented forward, who is rated amongst England’s all-time best players, winning 79 caps for the Three Lions- and he’s also a pretty good rapper.
Another Surinamese-born player who featured for Holland, Clarence Seedorf is arguably the most successful of the lot. Named Dutch Footballer of the Year twice, Seedorf won 87 caps for his nation and enjoyed great success in his club career; including a haul of four Champions League trophies.
Until Cristiano Ronaldo exploded onto the scene, and won the European Championships this summer, Eusebio didn’t really have much competition for his crown as the greatest-ever Portuguese player. The 1966 World Cup Golden Boot winner was actually born in Mozambique but earned a total of 64 caps for A Seleção, scoring 41 goals.
He’s also one of the most successful Portuguese players domestically, winning 11 league titles and a European Cup with Benfica- scoring an astonishing 473 goals in 440 games.
He comes from Senegal, he played for Arsenal- but also for France. He moved to Europe at the age of eight and his national career was never really under any scrutiny, as he elected to represent France at a young age and made his debut in 1997- going on to win the World Cup on home soil the following year.
He also won the European Championships in 2000, later winning the Confederations Cup to complete his haul of international trophies, and retired with 107 caps to his name.
The leading goalscorer in World Cup history, Miroslav Klose is another German international that was born in Poland. Unlike with Lukas Podolski, Poland pulled-out all the stops trying to get the striker to represent their country but he turned down the request and made his Germany debut in 2001.
He went on to earn 137 caps for Germany, scoring 71 goals, and the highlight of his career was undoubtably winning the World Cup in 2014- the tournament where he also surpassed Brazil’s Ronaldo as the all-time scorer in the competition’s history.