Top players who are eligible to play for another country

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

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

The ultimate XI

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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