Top 10 naturalised international footballers - Part 2
In Part 1, I presented five players who players who were born in a particular country and then went on to change their allegiance and star for another country. In this part, I will be presenting the remaining players of the list, which includes World Cup winners and players with some great individual records. I’d like to point out that I have not considered players who acquired citizenship of their adopted country on birth – players like Zinedine Zidane or Jose Altafini. Neither have I considered players who failed to score or impress at a major level for their adopted countries – players like Ferenc Puskas.
This hard-tackling midfielder has the unique distinction of being the only player to have played in two World Cup finals for two different teams! Monti won Argentine league titles with Huracan and San Lorenzo before moving to Italian club Juventus in 1931. While in Argentina, he made his way into the national team, playing a part in the 1927 Copa America winning campaign. He then helped his team to the final of the 1930 World Cup, scoring two goals and putting in spirited ruthless displays. However, the final would end on a sad note as hosts Uruguay beat them 4-2 to win the inaugural World Cup. Monti got the chance to make amends when the fascist regime of Italy offered him the Azzurri jersey. Having made his debut for Italy in 1932, he helped his adopted team all the way to the final of the 1934 World Cup where they beat Czechoslovakia 2-1. Monti played 18 matches for Italy, scoring only one goal.
Vieira may have had quite an illustrious club career, winning titles in England and Italy, but it is his international record that really stands out. A World Cup, a European Championship and a Confederation Cup – he has won everything there is to win, wearing the blue jersey of France. However, this French legend was born in Dakar, Senegal – he only moved to France with his family when he was eight years old. He became eligible for French citizenship on account of his grandfather having served in the French Army. The call-up to Les Bleus came and Vieira didn’t look back. He went on to captain the national team between 2006 and 2008. In all, Vieira scored six goals in 107 matches for France.
Desailly’s international record and his roots are similar to those of Vieira. He was born in Accra, Ghana as Odenke Abbey. He lived there until he was four years old, when his mother married a French diplomat stationed in Ghana who adopted him. Changing his name and moving to France with the whole family, he quickly rose to become a double-Champions League winner with Marseille and Milan. In 1993, he chose to represent France instead of Ghana, and made his debut – but it was not until the late 90s that he became a first-choice player. He was part of the famous generation that won the World Cup and European Championships and after the retirement of Didier Deschamps, was handed the captain’s armband, which he held for four years. Desailly is France’s third-most capped player, having played 116 matches for them, scoring three goals.
The current Arsenal forward was born in Gilwice, Poland but emigrated with his family to Germany when he was only two years old. He developed his skills at FC Köln, who gave him his top flight debut in 2003. After impressing with Köln in his first year, he hoped to be called up to the Polish national team, but the call never came. So by 2004, he had decided to represent Germany and made his debut for Rudi Voller’s team at the tender age of 19, whilst playing in the second division. From there on, he embarked on an impressive international career, scoring in all major tournaments that he played in, except Euro 2004. At the 2006 World Cup, he was adjudged the Best Young Player and was also part of the Team of the Tournament at Euro 2008. As of now, he has scored 44 goals in 108 international matches for Germany, tied for third place with Jurgen Klinsmann on the all-time appearances list.
When ‘World Cup goalscoring’ is mentioned, Miroslav Klose is the name that comes up in many minds. He is the only player to have scored at least four goals in three World Cups. Despite shining for Germany, his story is similar to that of Lukas Podolski as he was also born in Poland. He followed his footballer father to Germany when he was eight years old and ended up starring in the Bundesliga for Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich. Although Polish national team coach Jerzy Engel tried to persuade Klose to play for Poland, he remained hopeful of a German call-up which duly came in 2001, after which the rest is history. The German national team has not lost a game in which Klose has scored. He is joint-second with countryman Gerd Muller in the World Cup goalscoring list and is also second when it comes to both the all-time German appearances and goals.
Mauro Camoranesi – Born in Argentina, became eligible for Italian citizenship on account of his grandfather. Won the World Cup with Italy in 2006. 55 matches, 5 goals.
Oliver Neuville – Born in Switzerland, moved to Germany when he was 23. Scored in the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. 69 matches, 10 goals.
Marcos Senna – Born in Brazil, moved to Spain to play for Villareal in 2002. Granted Spanish citizenship in 2006; was part of the 2006 World Cup team. Won Euro 2008. 28 matches, 1 goal.