Rice, Costa, Zaha, Puskas: Which footballers have played for more than one country?

Rice on England duties.

Inaki Williams is set to join a fascinating list of male footballers who have picked up caps for more than one national team.

The Athletic Bilbao forward joined Stephen Ambrosius, Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer, Patric Pfeiffer and Brighton & Hove Albion’s Tariq Lamptey in declaring his allegiance to the Ghanaian national team ahead of the 2022 World Cup this week.

Williams had previously aligned himself with Spain having been born in Bilbao and played his entire professional career in the Basque Country, eventually picking up a cap for La Roja in March 2016.

Williams switches to Ghana

According to the BBC, Williams said in a video posted to social media: “Today a new challenge begins. From now on, I will defend Ghana’s T-shirt with all my will whilst I give my best. I’m one of the Black Stars.”

The nation that anyone, never mind a footballer, most closely identifies with can be a deeply personal and poignant matter that can depend a lot on somebody’s upbringing, family history and much, much more.

Williams representing Spain.
ROME, ITALY – MARCH 27: Inaki Williams of Spain U21 during the international friendly match between Italy U21 and Spain U21 at Olimpico Stadium on March 27, 2017 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images)

As such, it should come as no surprise that Williams won’t be the first male professional footballer to have played for the senior teams of two different countries when he inevitably represents the Black Stars for the first time.

In fact, some of the greatest players in football history have seen their international caps spread across two nations, while there are also some more modern examples that will make Williams feel at home in his convictions.

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Footballers who played for two countries

So, in celebration of the 28-year-old taking a decision that’s so important to him in his own career and life, we’ve take it upon ourselves to comb through the record books and find other cases of male players who picked up caps for two, or more, countries.

We’re strictly talking about the senior teams of the nations in question because there are countless more examples of players appearing in the youth ranks for a different country to the one they eventually represented at the highest level.

And we’d be here all day long if we listed every single national team switch in the history of the men’s game, so we’re just focusing on 19 of the most interesting and notable examples, which you can check out down below:

1. Wilfried Zaha

The Crystal Palace winger racked up two friendly appearances for England in 2011 and 2013 respectively, before switching allegiances to the Ivory Coast for whom he’s amassed 28 caps and five goals.

Zaha's final England cap.
Football – England v Scotland – International Friendly – Wembley Stadium – 14/8/13 Wilfried Zaha – England Mandatory Credit: Action Images / John Sibley EDITORIAL USE ONLY

2. Denis Odoi

Odoi, formerly of Fulham with 34 Premier League appearances to his name, played once for Belgium ten years ago, but has since restarted his international career with Ghana in 2022.

3. Steven Caulker

A one-cap wonder for England who scored in the famous ‘Zlatan Ibrahimovic bicycle kick match’, Caulker recently played at the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations for Sierra Leone.

4. Thiago Motta

It’s hard not to just stand there in shock when you read Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Inter Milan, Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil and Italy all on Motta’s footballing resumé. What an epic career.

5. Hélder Costa

The Leeds baller scored in his one and only appearance for Portugal during a 2018 friendly in Scotland, before switching to his country of birth, Angola, for whom he’s scored one goal in six outings so far.

6. Ferenc Puskas

One of the greatest footballers in history, Puskas eventually played four times for Spain – including three appearances at the 1962 World Cup – having gained citizenship during his iconic spell at Real Madrid.

However, Puskas’ international career is best-known for his early days at Hungary, which featured an outrageous 84 goals from just 85 caps and a gutting defeat in the 1954 World Cup final.

7. Mário Fernandes

When Fernandes scored a critical equalising goal for Russia in the 2018 World Cup quarter-finals, the piece of trivia on everyone’s lips was that he had won a cap for Brazil four years previously.

Fernandes' only cap for Brazil.
Football – Japan v Brazil – International Friendly – National Stadium, Singapore Sports Hub, Singapore – 14/10/14 Mario Fernandes – Brazil Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jeremy Lee EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

8. Nacer Chadli

You can probably picture the ex-Tottenham Hotspur winger playing for Belgium already – he has represented them 66 times, after all – but did you know that he pulled on a Morocco jersey for a friendly in 2010?

9. Munir El Haddadi

Munir had barely broken into the Barcelona first-team by the time he garnered his one and only cap for Spain in 2014. Now, the Sevilla forward, like Chadli, plies his trade for Morocco.

10. Alex Bruce

The son of Manchester United legend Steve Bruce, Alex holds the unique distinction of having played for both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, picking uo two caps for them both.

Bruce playing for Ireland.
Football – Stock – 19/11/08 Alex Bruce – Republic of Ireland Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Paul Childs

11. Alfredo Di Stéfano

What is it with era-defining Real Madrid strikers of the 1950s and 1960s playing for multiple countries? We don’t know either, but Di Stéfano actually went one step further than Puskas and represented three nations: Argentina, Colombia and Spain.

12. Geoffrey Kondogbia

Kondogbia now plays his international football for the Central African Republic with his five caps for France having all fallen outside of competitive fixtures.

13. Declan Rice

A particularly sensitive switch, this, with many Ireland fans having been furious with Rice’s decision to turn his back on the Emerald Isle after three outings, duly linking up with England.

Rice during his Ireland days.
Soccer Football – International Friendly – France vs Republic of Ireland – Stade de France, Paris, France – May 28, 2018 France’s Nabil Fekir in action with Republic of Ireland’s Declan Rice REUTERS/Charles Platiau

14. Vurnon Anita

Remember this lad pulling on a Newcastle United and Leeds United shirt? Well, Anita now flies the flag for Curaçao having previously totted up three caps for the Netherlands in 2010.

15. Denzel Dumfries

Dumfries, however, moved in the opposite direction in terms of a Caribbean-island-to-Netherlands switch by pledging his allegiance to the Oranje despite his two caps for Aruba.

16. Josef Bican

In the eyes of the Czech FA, Bican is still six goals clear of Cristiano Ronaldo as the most prolific goalscorer in the history of the men’s game. The great man played for both Austria and Czechoslovakia.

17. Diego Costa

One of the most famous cases in the modern era, the former Chelsea striker went on to play 24 times and score 10 goals for Spain despite having turned out twice for his country of birth, Brazil.

Costa in a Brazil friendly.
Football – Brazil v Russia – International Friendly – Stamford Bridge, London, England – 25/3/13 Diego Costa – Brazil Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Alex Morton

18. Jermaine Jones

With Jones having played 69 times and scored a stunning goal at the 2014 World Cup for the United States of America, it’s easy to forget that he started out his international career with three caps for Germany.

19. Michel Platini

Arguably the most random example on the list, France legend Platini briefly came out of retirement for a 21-minute cameo representing Kuwait in a 1988 friendly against the Soviet Union at the request of the nation’s monarch. We’ll let you decide if that counts…

Best of luck, Inaki

So, there you have it, Williams is in good company as he makes the move from Spain to Ghana with everyone from forgotten Hull City and Newcastle players to three-time Ballon d’Or winners and record-breaking goalscorers having forged the same path.

And while national boundaries and all the complications that come with them might well remain a divisive and sensitive topic, what matters most is that the individual players are doing what feels right for them.

All the best to Inaki and the other players flying the flag for Ghana ahead of the World Cup, which will hopefully serve as a memorable celebration for the global game.

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