It has been said that in this age of mega-clubs trampling all over the teams below them that international football is the last refuge for the purist. Restricted by national boundaries, it is seen as the great leveller, where money can’t buy you success.
This is not strictly true, of course. Looking through the list of World Cup winners, particularly in recent years, the usual superpowers of football are very well represented. Facilities and infrastructure breed success—and that needs money, after all.
Januzaj’s performance against Sunderland rightly received much attention. It isn’t often that an 18-year old has such an impact, and it should be celebrated when it happens. The spotlight probably shone much brighter on the youngster due to the mixed start that United have made to the season so far. Few could have predicted the furore that followed, though.
Manchester United took Januzaj from Anderlecht in 2011 for a reported fee of just under £300,000. Born in Brussels to Albanian and Kosovan parents, the youngster can apparently take his pick from numerous countries to represent at international level, including Turkey and Serbia through other relatives.
This fact has not been lost on the English FA, who contacted Manchester United to enquire about the player, who could be eligible to play for England through the process of naturalisation.
The issue of naturalisation is a thorny one. It has been exploited with some success notably by Spain and Germany recently and may come in to play should Januzaj reside in England for five years and not have represented another country.
With the sudden interest in the player, many individuals within the sport have had their say on the rules that should be in place to govern which national side a player can represent. So far, however, Januzaj’s father has kept a tight rein on him.
Jean Kinderman, the head of youth teams at Anderlecht commented to the BBC "When he was young, his father always forbade him from going to the national youth teams...his father focused only on education and Anderlecht."
For many years now, though, the England national team has found filling the left side of midfield a particular problem. Famously, midfield playmaker Paul Scholes was moved out to the left by Sven-Goran Eriksson in a bid to find room for Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
Januzaj has shown already that he is comfortable in that position, perhaps prompting the sudden interest.
He already had many admirers before the weekend, of course. Sir Alex Ferguson previously commented to Inside United (via ManUtd.com) that "Adnan is a beautifully balanced player…(with) good acceleration and he's a very good technical player.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has attempted to get the player to join up with their squad recently, but he received a reply from United that he was not ready to commit his future just yet according to The Guardian.
Without any commitment so far, it is little wonder that enquiries have at least been made by the FA, no matter how tenuous the links to England may be. Questions would have been asked as to why they had let a player of such quality slip through otherwise.
Whether misinterpreted or not, Jack Wilshere’s comments on the situation stirred the hornets' nest a little more. He received backing from former England captain Alan Shearer, who has said "I am of the opinion that to be English you should be born in England.”
However, such a strict rule surely cannot apply when the transient nature of modern life is blurring lines all the time?
At 18 years of age with a mixture of cultural influences, Adnan Januzaj may not be in a position to know exactly where his heart lies. At the moment, he is still to commit his future at club level, let alone international level. Something that Manchester United are working hard to rectify, as reported by Mark Ogden of The Telegraph.
The international breaks can be unwanted disruptions in the flow of a league season. Januzaj himself seems intent on ignoring the distractions and concentrating on establishing himself at club level before he thinks about committing himself to representing a national side.
The hope is that he can continue his footballing education while avoiding the circus currently surrounding him—and that he can continue to deliver on his early promise.
With possible claims being made for his services by various national associations—it is clear that Adnan Januzaj currently has the world at his feet. As long as those feet stay on the ground, we should witness the evolution of a player of real quality.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!