Football

Januzaj case shows the future of international football

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When Roy Hodgson fielded a question over Adnan Januzaj on Match of the Day on Saturday, he would have been completely clueless about the media frenzy that was about to begin over the young starlet.

This is because Januzaj, still only one start into his senior career, has reopened a debate which has lacked the context in which to be truly discussed for some time. 

The problem? England (and the other home nations) choose not to pick players eligible to play for them if they are not actually English. Januzaj is becoming the perfect example for this debate.

He is eligible to play for England in three years and by the looks of things will certainly be good enough. Currently keeping a crop of English talent out of the United first-team such as Wilfried Zaha and Ashley Young.

Yet many feel the name Januzaj appearing on an English teamsheet would be an aberration and at first glance this seems obvious. He's as English as a croissant - but do we need to consider a change in attitude?

Firstly, there is a call to be realistic about the future of English football. The current crop of players Hodgson has to choose from is the smallest its ever been and arguably the least bereft of talent.

The England Under-21s failed to get out of the group stages at the recent European Championships held in Israel while the Under-20s went out of the World Cup without a win, meaning they now haven't won a game in that competition for 16 years - not since Michael Owen played in 1997. A change is needed. 

Most people regard the biggest roadblock to the development of young English talent to be the Premier League and it's easy to understand why. The only English player to be picked up by a club in the top seven in the last transfer window was Gareth Barry, and even that was on loan because he was deemed not good enough for Manchester City.

In total, only 22.66% of players signed by Premier League clubs were English. Therefore wouldn't it make sense, rather than just accepting the dwindling resources at our disposal, to embrace the change and have the FA look into the academies of the big clubs? Should they be focusing on players who have been brought up in England and were born elsewhere - should we ask them to consider citizenship?

This may appear strange, but not if you consider that everyone else does it. France and Germany's national teams are littered with 'foreigners'. Jerome Boateng's brother actually plays for Ghana, while nobody questioned Patrick Vieira's Senegalese routes when he lifted the World Cup in 1998.

It does seem strange that such a multi-cultural country such as England can remain so picky about those players that play for it especially when many of its fans have routes in many other countries.

Nobody seems to bat an eyelid when it happens in rugby and cricket. Players like Manu Tuilagi and Kevin Pietersen are some of the most talented players we have in those areas and they have both claimed citizenship and allow England to compete successfully at the top of these sports globally.

Therefore, shouldn't a change in the times require a change in the attitude of the English football team? Nobody is saying Januzaj is going to pick England, but the world is growing ever more cosmopolitan and English football has at its disposal the most powerful weapon for breeding talent in the English Premier League.

Why not embrace it and instead of voluntarily opting out of the residency rule as England did in 1993, harness the young talent in the club's academies and work hard to convince these players to represent a country that has given them a home to play football in.

Januzaj may not play for England, but at least he has brought about a debate which, if resolved, may give English football a chance to compete in a way it hasn't since 1966.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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