10 footballers who switched national allegiance and played for another country

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The practice of professional footballers switching nationalities to appear for another country isn’t new.

The legendary Alfredo Di Stefano did it. He made six appearances for Argentina in 1947 before switching allegiances to Spain in the 1950s.

We’ve seen it in recent years with the likes of Diego Costa and Wilfried Zaha.

FIFA’s rules regarding switching allegiances aren’t straightforward, but Article 8 of their regulations has all the relevant information.

It states: “Only players who have: more than one nationality; acquired a new nationality; or are eligible to represent more than one association due to their nationality can change national team.”

Players can request to change their national team association only once, subject to the following conditions:

Article 8.1. explains that such individuals may "only once" request to change their national team association, subject to the following conditions:

"a) He has not played a match (either in full or in part) in an official competition at “A” international level for his current association, and at the time of his first full or partial appearance in an international match in an official competition for his current association, he already had the nationality of the representative team for which he wishes to play.

b) He is not permitted to play for his new association in any competition in which he has already played for his previous association."

Republic of Ireland v The United States - International Friendly

So, without further ado, we’ve picked 10 players who have played for one association (sometimes at senior level) before changing allegiance.

Kevin-Prince Boateng

Original association: Germany

Switched to: Ghana

Kevin-Prince Boateng, the half-brother of former Germany international Jerome Boateng, was born and raised in Germany, and started his professional career at Hertha BSC.

He appeared for Germany’s youth teams at Under 19 and Under 21 level, but he switched to Ghana in 2010 after saying he feels more Ghanaian.

Boateng went on to represent the Black Stars at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

Germany v Ghana: Group G - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Diego Costa

Original association: Brazil

Switched to: Spain

Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa played twice for Brazil in 2013 but both appearances came in friendlies.

In October of the same year, he declared his intentions to play for Spain after being granted Spanish citizenship.

Brazil’s head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was not happy with Costa, saying: “A Brazilian player who refuses to wear the shirt of the Brazilian national team and compete in a World Cup in your country is automatically withdrawn.

“He is turning his back on a dream of millions, to represent our national team, the five-time champions in a World Cup in Brazil.”

Costa didn’t care, though, and went on to make his debut for Spain in March 2014.

Iran v Spain: Group B - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Wilfried Zaha

Original association: England

Switched to: Ivory Coast

Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha plays for his country of birth but the Ivory Coast isn’t the association he started his international career with.

The winger played for England at Under 19 and Under 21 level, and made his debut for the Three Lions’ senior team in 2012.

However, he requested to switch to the Ivory Coast in November 2016.

England manager Gareth Southgate tried to put him off but by January 2017, Zaha was appearing for the Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast v Senegal - International Friendly

Jack Grealish

Original association: Republic of Ireland

Switched to: England

Jack Grealish was eligible to represent either the Republic of Ireland (via his grandparents) or England (his place of birth).

There was a battle to get him, with England continuing to pursue the playmaker even while he played for Ireland’s youth teams.

In 2015, Grealish finally committed to England. He won the 2016 Toulon Tournament, starring alongside James Ward-Prowse and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

England v France - Toulon Tournament Final

Thiago Motta

Original association: Brazil

Switched to: Italy

Born in Brazil, Thiago Motta represented the Selecao at the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup

But as his paternal grandfather was Italian, Motta had the option to play for Italy and he decided to switch.

Italy v Finland - International Friendly

Taulant Xhaka

Original association: Switzerland

Switched to: Albania

Taulant Xhaka, Granit’s brother, represented Switzerland’s Under 17 side at the 2008 UEFA European Under 17 Championship.

He continued to play for Switzerland up to their Under 21 squad but in May 2013, expressed a desire to play for Albania’s senior team.

FIFA approved his request and Xhaka made his debut for Albania the following year.

The Xhaka brothers went head-to-head at Euro 2016, with Granit’s Switzerland prevailing 1-0.

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Nacer Chadli

Original association: Morocco

Switched to: Belgium

Born in Belgium, Nacer Chadli kickstarted his international career by playing for Morocco in a 2010 friendly against Northern Ireland.

However, he opted to switch to Belgium in January 2011.

Given Belgium’s run to the third place play-off of the 2018 World Cup, which Chadli was a part of, we feel he made the right move.

Belgium v France: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Lukas Podolski

Original association: Poland

Switched to: Germany

Former Bayern Munich and Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski was born in Poland and the Polish media urged then-national team coach Pawel Janas to call him up in 2003 after a string of impressive performances as an 18-year-old for Cologne.

Janas wanted nothing to do with it, though.

“We have much better strikers in Poland than Podolski," Janas said at the time.

"I don't see a reason to call up a player just because he played one or two good matches in the Bundesliga. He is not even a regular starter at his club."

Germany pounced and Podolski went on to make 130 appearances for Die Mannschaft, winning the 2014 World Cup in the process.

He certainly made the right call.

Germany v Argentina: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final

Faouzi Ghoulam

Original association: France

Switched to: Algeria

Napoli left-back Faouzi Ghoulam was born in France, and played twice for their Under 21 side, but his intentions were always to play for Algeria.

He made his debut for Algeria in March 2013 and represented the Desert Foxes at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Germany v Algeria: Round of 16 - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

James McClean

Original association: Northern Ireland

Switched to: Republic of Ireland

James McClean played for Northern Ireland at a number of youth levels and was called up to the senior squad for a game against the Faroe Islands in August 2011.

However, he pulled out of the squad after choosing instead to represent the Republic of Ireland.

“My dream has always been to play for the Republic of Ireland," McClean said at the time.

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