10 famous players who switched national teams

Aditya Iyer

It came to prominence recently that latest Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj has a plethora of options to choose from with regards to the country that he will be representing on the International stage. We take a look at some of the most high profile players who made a “transfer” from one National team to another.

Let’s kick off the list.

10) Sébastien Bassong

Hull City v Norwich City - Premier League

Sebastian Bassong

The former Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspurs player, currently plying his trade with Norwich City was born in Paris, France in 1986 to Cameroonian parents. He started his youth career with the infamous Clairefontaine youth academy, but moved to FC Metz in 2002, after spending 3 years there. He had played for two years for the French Under-21s as a defensive midfielder, playing in two games- against the Netherlands and Japan. In 2009 he got the call-up from the Cameroonian Football national team for their 2010 World Cup qualifier against Morocco. He was eligible for a call-up since he had never made a competitive Under-21 appearance for France. Since 2009 he has made 15 appearances for The Indomitable Lions.

9) Jonathan de Guzmán

Swansea City v Arsenal - Premier League

Jonathan De Guzman

The Swansea City enforcer, on loan from Villareal CF, was born in Scarborough, Ontario in Canada and is of dual Jamaican and Filipino descent. On the International stage though, he plays for the Dutch national team, after having represented them from the Under-21 stage onwards. De Guzman’s road to representing the Netherlands is a controversial one. When De Guzman made himself available for selection for the Dutch national team, he had only just received his Dutch citizenship in February of 2008. De Guzman had appeared in a televised interview only a week prior to his announcement, and had asserted that he was as yet undecided on his country of choice. There was much disappointment in Canada due to De Guzman’s choice. De Guzman’s brother Julian, however, represents the Canadian national team. De Guzman has made 6 senior appearances for the Oranje, but has yet to score.

8) Cacau

Germany v Ukraine - International Friendly

Claudemir Jerônimo Barreto, better known as Cacau, is next on our list of players who’ve jumped ship on the International waters, pun intended. The stocky striker, currently playing for VfB Stuttgart, represents Germany on the international scene. The 32-year old Cacau was born in Santo André, São Paulo, Brazil and played his youth career years in Palmeiras, an amateur club. After trying and failing to secure a call up to the Brazilian national team due to the cornucopia of talents available for the position of striker, he grabbed his chance when he became eligible to play for the Die Mannschaft. His eligibility came about due to him acquiring a German passport after spending more than 8 years in Germany by then. He received his call up to the senior team in 2009, courtesy of then head coach Joachim Loew. He’s made 23 appearances for the German team, scoring 6 goals in the process.

7) Kevin-Prince Boateng

AC Milan v PSV Eindhoven - UEFA Champions League Play-offs: Second Leg

Kevin Prince Boateng

Boateng currently plays for Schalke 04 in the German Bundesliga, having formerly played for Italian giants AC Milan, Tottenham, Portsmouth and a loan spell with Borussia dortmund. The 26 year old box-to-box midfielder Wedding, Berlin, Germany to a Ghanaian father and German mother. After representing Germany in every age category from Under 15s to Under 21s, it came as a shock when Boateng revealed that he was defecting from the German team to play internationally for Ghana, his father’s country. This came after persistent clashes with the German DFB, technical staff and then Technical Director Matthias Sammer. He waited a year for clearance from FIFA, and when it came, immediately switched to playing for Ghana. His choice allegedly caused a rift between him and his brother Jerome, who chose to play for the German national team.

6) Neven Suboti?

Serbia's Neven Subotic is pictured prior

The Borussia Dortmund central defender was born in Yugoslavia, but his parents moved to first Germany, in 1994, and then America in 1999. Suboti? represented his adopted country in the Under 17s and Under 20s age groups from 2005 to 2006. Suboti? was eligible to play for USA, Serbia or Bosnia & Herzegovina. The media reported that Croatia and Germany were also possibilities, but it was later revealed that these were just media-inspired rumours. Suboti? rejected Bosnia & Herzegovina outright, turning down the national coach when an approach was made. As time went on, it became abundantly clear that Serbia was his choice, through close ties to family. He finally made his debut in 2009, after informing American authorities of his wish to play for Serbia- the standard protocol in these cases. Suboti? has become an important cog for the White Eagles, making 36 appearances in 4 years.

5) Marcos Senna

Spanish midfielder Marcos Senna jumps fo

Marcos Antônio Senna da Silva was born in Sao Paolo in Brazil, and spent the early parts of his career with Rio Branco, America-SP, Corinthians, Juventude and Sao Caetano. Senna became famous after his move to Spain with Villareal CF- the club for whom he’d go on to play for 11 years and over 350 games. The technically astute midfielder was consistently overlooked by the Brazilian national selectors and so in 2006, when he got his Spanish citizenship, he elected to play for La Furia Roja. Since being selected, Senna has played in 28 games for the Spanish national side; no mean feat, given Spain’s abundance of talent in the middle of the park.

4) Pepe

Portugal v Spain - UEFA EURO 2012 Semi Final

Képler Laveran Lima Ferreira, more commonly addressed by his nickname Pepe, is fourth on today’s list. The tough-tackling defender was born in Maceió, Brazil to traditionally Brazilian parents. He played his youth career for Corinthians-AL from 1995 to 2001, but signed his first professional contract for the B-side of Portuguese team Martimo, after moving there when he was 18 years old. He then went on to represent the full Martimo team, before moving to Porto, and ultimately Real Madrid, where he still plies his trade. Though he had never represented Brazil in any age category, it was revealed in 2006 by Pepe’s father that then Brazilian national coach Dunga had contacted Pepe about a possible call-up to the national squad. Pepe, however, rejected the offer out of hand, stating his desire to play for the Portuguese national team as soon as he got his citizenship. After obtaining naturalization in 2007, he got his first call up in August of the same year, in a UEFA Euro 2008 qualifier against Poland. Pepe has made over 50 appearances for the national side since his debut, even scoring on 3 occasions.

3) Deco

Ivory Coast v Portugal: Group G - 2010 FIFA World Cup


Yet another Brazilian who elected to represent Portugal is the now-retired star Anderson Luís de Souza, better known as Deco. The diminutive technical master, who has represented Corinthians, Porto, Barcelona and Chelsea, among others, was born in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil. He started off his illustrious career at Nacional-SP, before signing professional terms with Corinthians. Surprisingly, Deco was never selected to play for the Brazilian team, despite his prodigious talents, and never even represented the Seleção in any youth category. Deco had no relatives of Portuguese origin, which meant that he has to wait till 2006 before becoming eligible to play for Portugal under FIFA guidelines. The Portuguese public were of split opinions as to whether Deco should be allowed to play for Portugal, and he faced stiff opposition from fans of Porto’s rivals. Finally, in 2003, he was given his debut for The Navigators- against Brazil, of all teams. In a poetically just moment, Deco went on to score the winner off of a stunning free-kick to lead Portugal to their first win over Brazil since the 1966 World Cup.

2) Eusébio

Eusebio At Highbury

The legendary Eusébio is the second-most famous player of all time to have switched allegiances on the International front. The prodigiously talented Eusébio, who would go on to become one of the greatest ever in the history of the game, was born in the East-African country of Mozambique, then Portuguese East Africa. Born to Angolan and Mozambican parents, he started his career with Sporting de Lourenço Marques in Mozambique. He was scouted by a Juventus scout when he was 15, and was approached by the Turin giants, but his mother firmly rejected the proposal out of hand. He was later picked up by Benfica and the rest, as they say, is history. Eusébio, known as the Black Panther, the Black Pearl or The King(O Rei) for his enchanting playing style, went on to represent Portugal on the international stage. He led the Portuguese to a third-place finish in the 1966 FIFA Football World Cup, and led Benfica to the famous 1968 European Cup final, where they ultimately lost out to Manchester United. Eusébio played 64 times for Portugal, scoring an astonishing 41 goals in that time frame.

1) Alfredo di Stéfano

Di Stefano

Alfredo Stéfano di Stéfano Laulh is one of the best players to have ever graced the game of football. The legendary forward most famously played for Los Blancos Real Madrid for 11 years, playing 396 games and scoring a jaw-dropping 306 goals. His partnership with Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas is considered one of the best of all time. Nicknamed Saeta Rubia, the Blond Arrow, di Stefano enjoyed an amazing International career, and going on to play for three countries. He played 6 times for Argentina, twice with Columbia and then 31 times for Spain. His time with Columbia, however, is not recognised by FIFA. One of the greatest tragedies of the game is that di Stefano never played in the World Cup through sheer misfortune. In 1950 and 1954, Argentina refused to participate, and by the time he was playing for Spain, the Spanish team failed to secure qualification for the 1958 event. Di Stefano would go on to emulate his club record on the national scene, as he scored 23 times in his 31 appearances.

Edited by Staff Editor


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