5 Great footballers who played for multiple national teams

Portugal v Spain: Group B - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Portugal v Spain: Group B - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Sai Teja
Modified 24 Apr 2021
Top 5 / Top 10

Representing a national team is a matter of great honour and pride for any footballer in the world. Millions of young players from all over the globe aspire to don their national side's shirts and represent them at the highest level possible, such as at the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro, Copa America, and other such major tournaments.

However, many players have had the privilege of representing multiple countries on the international stage. This could be due to dual-citizenship or other eligibility rules put in place by FIFA to prevent players from switching international allegiances with ease, much like it was prior to the 1960s.

Recent examples of players switching countries include the likes of Premier League stars Declan Rice and Jack Grealish, who switched from the Republic of Ireland to England. Both players were eligible to represent both countries as their grandparents were from Ireland, but they were both in England.

West Ham United v Aston Villa - Premier League
West Ham United v Aston Villa - Premier League

On the other hand, Wilfred Zaha switched from England to Ivory Coast in 2016. He was born in Abidjan, due to which he was eligible to represent them, but he was capped by England as it was where he grew up as he moved to London at the age of four.

Here, we take a look at some more high-profile examples of players who represented two international teams at a senior level.

#5 Diego Costa | Spain and Brazil

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

Born in the Lagarto municipality in Brazil, Diego Costa was naturally eligible to represent his homeland on the international stage and did so on two occasions. Then-Selecao coach Luis Felipe Scolari called up the striker, who was 24 at the time, for two friendlies against Italy and Russia. Costa only played for 33 minutes across both games.

Due to a lack of opportunities in Brazil, Costa requested FIFA for permission to appear for Spain as his only appearances for Brazil were in friendly matches. FIFA then approved his request, much to Scolari's dismay, who delivered a damning assessment of Costa's choice. He said;

"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 went on to make 24 appearances and scored ten goals for La Roja, including three goals in six FIFA World Cup games.

#4 Thiago Motta | Italy and Brazil

Italy v Spain - International Friendly
Italy v Spain - International Friendly

Thiago Motta is considered one of the most underrated midfield stars of the last decade or so, playing for some of the biggest clubs in Europe and winning over 25 major titles. The midfield maestro appeared 30 times for the Azzurri, including nine times at the Euros and three World Cup games. However, Motta debuted on the international stage with his country of birth, Brazil, before switching to Italy.

Motta is a native of Sao Bernardo do Campo in Brazil, and his first appearance in international football came for Ricardo Gomes' Selecao at the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The former Barcelona, Internazionale, and Paris Saint-Germain star made two appearances for them against Honduras and Mexico. Nearly eight years later, he went on to make his debut for Cesar Prandelli's Italy at the age of 28.

Also read: 5 Transfers that dramatically changed the fortunes of a club

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Published 24 Apr 2021
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