An ultimate XI of internationals who could have turned out for another country


International football is littered with players who were eligible to represent other nations. 

Did you know, for example, that when Germany played Ghana at the 2014 World Cup, brothers Kevin Prince-Boateng and Jerome Boateng were both on the pitch, playing for different countries? 

Identity is complex; there are countless footballers who have even switched national teams having changed their mind after youth level. 

There's Declan Rice, formerly of the Republic of Ireland, now seen in an England jersey. "He must have learned that sharp," quipped Kevin Kilbane on commentary when he spied the midfielder singing God Save the Queen on his debut.  

And the Three Lions also benefited from Owen Hargreaves opting to don their jersey, when he could have represented Wales, Germany, or Canada. 

Karim Benzema recently reignited the debate when he threatened to switch allegiance to Algeria after being overlooked by France. 

That's very unlikely to happen due to FIFA rules - but at the very least, the striker has inspired us to compile an XI of current internationals who could have played for another country. 

Bernd Leno | Plays for: Germany | Eligible for: Russia

Now, the Arsenal stopper is far from a regular for Germany, sitting behind Manuel Neuer and Marc-André ter Stegen in the pecking order. However, he could also have played for World Cup 2018 hosts Russia through his father's heritage. 


Trent Alexander-Arnold | Plays for: England | Eligible for: USA 

The Liverpool full-back has quickly booted Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker and Aaron Wan-Bissaka out the way to become England's first choice. He's a Ballon d'or nominee and a Champions League winner, after all - and he could also have identified as an American thanks to his maternal grandmother who moved to New York decades previously. 

England v Montenegro - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

Vincent Kompany | Plays for: Belgium | Eligible for: Congo 

The former Manchester City captain's father moved to Brussels after being imprisoned under the military dictatorship in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The defender has since gone on to win 87 caps for the Red Devils. 


Antonio Rudiger | Plays for: Germany | Eligible for: Sierra Leone 

Were it not for injuries, the Chelsea defender would no doubt have won more than 30 caps in the last five years for Germany. Yet he could also have won them for Sierra Leone due to his mother's nationality. 

Germany v Sweden: Group F - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Danny Rose | Plays for: England | Eligible for: Jamaica

The Spurs left-back admits he considered playing for Jamaica but he was swayed when he received a call-up to England's Euro 2016 squad. The emergence of Ben Chilwell means Rose's days in the national side could be numbered. 

England v Bulgaria - UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier

N'Golo Kante | Plays for: France | Eligible for: Mali 

Kante's parents are from Mali and they made a number of approaches before he pledged himself to France. He was first spotted ahead of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations. Since then, Les Bleus must be mighty glad they called him up as he's become one of the best midfielders in the world. 


Ilkay Gündoğan | Plays for: Germany | Eligible for: Turkey

Like Mesut Ozil, the midfielder faced a backlash when he was photographed with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last year. Whereas the Arsenal playmaker quit Die Mannschaft, Gündoğan still features. 

Netherlands v Germany - UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier

Wilfried Zaha | Plays for: Côte d'Ivoire | Eligible for: England 

Zaha's case is one of the better known examples. The Crystal Palace attacker not only played for England at youth level, he actually featured for the senior team against Sweden. The trouble was, it was only a friendly and so he was free to switch allegiances. 


Antoine Griezmann | Plays for: France | Eligible for: Portugal 

Griezmann, of course, was out to thwart Portugal, the country his grandparents left in 1957, in the final of Euro 2016 but was unsuccessful. At least he's won a World Cup since then. 


Raheem Sterling | Plays for England: Eligible for: Jamaica 

The Manchester City forward moved to the UK at a young age, going on to settle in London before moving north to Liverpool. The 24-year-old has been a revelation in Euro 2020 qualifying, scoring eight goals in seven appearances. 


Gonzalo Higuain | Plays for: Argentina | Eligible for: France 

Higuain holds dual nationality because he was actually born in France, gaining Argentine citizenship in 2007. While he has been somewhat hit and miss for the Albiceleste, costing them some big chances in finals, he has scored 31 international goals. 

Argentina v Venezuela: Quarterfinal - Copa America Centenario

What might have been. Honourable mentions go to Brazil's Rafinha (eligible for Spain), France's Moussa Sissoko (eligible for Mali), Belgium's Nacer Chadli (eligible for Morocco) and Diego Costa, who of course has dual nationality with Brazil and Spain but is tied to the latter. 

And no, Lionel Messi was never really going to play for Spain. 

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