Adnan Januzaj may be one of the only positive aspects emerging from a torrid Manchester United campaign, but he disappointed many an England fan on Wednesday night when he opted to represent Belgium at international level.
Januzaj had the choice of no fewer than five countries to pursue his international career with. His final choice Belgium, where he was born, and Albania were thought to be the two nations causing a headache for the youngster, with the latter being a big part of Januzaj’s heritage.
Turkey through his grandparents, Serbia, Kosovo and of course England were other options for the United winger, who has now made his selection and could feature for Belgium as early as this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
Januzaj is certainly not the first player to slip through the grasp of the England football team, and here are a few others who could have sported the Three Lions over the years.
Despite popular belief, Giggs was never eligible to play for England. That was until 2009 when FIFA changed to rules of representing a nation in Britan, but Giggs had already ended his international career with Wales in 2007. Giggs went on record after the rule change claiming he would have chosen Wales regardless: "I'd rather go through my career without qualifying for a major championship than play for a country where I wasn't born or which my parents didn't have anything to do with.”
Almunia has never played in an international football match. He declared several times his availability to play for England, provided he did not receive a call up from his native Spain. He is still eligible for England, so should Roy Hodgson be faced with injuries to Joe Hart, Ben Foster, Fraser Forster and John Ruddy all at the same time, Almunia may yet realise his unlikely dream.
Perotta was born in England but moved to Italy at a young age. The central midfielder went on to represent Italy over 50 times at international level, and even won the World Cup back in 2006 when his country defeated France on penalties. He would have certainly provided the otherwise immovable centre midfield pairing of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard some competition.
Born in Belgium but holding a French passport is former Tottenham and Sunderland man Steed Malbranque. The midfielder was called up to the French squad in 2004, but never made an appearance. On the grounds of more than five-years of residency, Malbranque could have featured for England.
It is often said that Wales have had the answer to England’s left midfield for the last two decades. Once England missed out on Ryan Giggs, they did not learn from their mistakes, letting Gareth Bale slip through their grasp. Bale would have qualified for England through his grandmother, but has gone on to represent Wales over 50 times at all levels of football.
Former Leeds United and Liverpool midfielder Harry Kewell went on to make 56 appearances for Australia, despite qualifying for England through his father. Kewell is one of the more likely candidates who opted against England, who would have been in contention for a place at several major tournaments. His pace and creativity on either wing may have aided England's cause.
The FA have claimed on many occasions that former Chelsea and Tottenham goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini could have represented England. However, rules state that if a player represents a country at youth level (as Cudicini did with Italy) then they must hold a passport for that country when doing so. The Italian would have also had to have had five-years of education in England, making his ineligible.
The former Arsenal man could have qualified on residency grounds to play for England, but with just eight Premier League goals to his name in his stop-start career, would never have challenged the likes of Wayne Rooney for a place up front.
Similarly to Cudicini, Mikel Arteta was another player that most seemed convinced could play for England. But the midfielder represented Spain from the ages of 16-21, meaning he would have had to have a British passport and five years education in England at the point of competing. He did not, and is subsequently still searching for that first international cap.
Lastly it’s Sylvain Distin, who has never been called up by his native France. Despite being the most capped outfield foreigner in the Premier League era, Distin could technically qualify for England on grounds of residency. But at 36 years of age, Distin can probably count on retiring without an international cap.