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5 Footballers Who 'Switched Nations'

Aaron BowerFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2013

5 Footballers Who 'Switched Nations'

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    With all the talk of Adnan Januzaj debating over which country he is set to represent at international level—despite being born in Belgium and already having turned down numerous call-ups to turn out for the Belgians—he isn't actually the first to have "switched nations" and played for a different country than the one he was born in.

    The highly rated 18-year-old has the choice of the likes of Belgium's Diables Rouges, England, Albania and even Kosovo to pick from when the time comes for him to make a decision on international football.

    With the likes of England international Jack Wilshere weighing on the debate insisting England should only be "for the English" (via BBC), the Arsenal man might be surprised that there are even a few Englishmen from years gone by who have turned their back on their nation of birth to play for the Three Lions.

    Here, Bleacher Report takes a look at five other players who have "done a Januzaj" and represented another country. Got any better ones, or simply disagree with the selection? Leave your comments below.

John Barnes: Jamaica to England

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    Yes, Jack, even some of England's finest players haven't traditionally been English, so to speak. Perhaps when Wilshere went on his rant about England players being born in England, he forgot the man who is almost as famous for his rapping as he is for his football.

    John Charles Bryan Barnes was actually born in Kingston, Jamaica, and spent the bulk of his childhood there before moving to England at the age of 12. He took the game by storm during his career in England, most notably making 317 league appearances for Liverpool, scoring 84 goals from midfield.

    It is at international level, though, where he is no doubt most fondly remembered.

    Barnes sits 17th on the all-time England cap list, playing 79 games for his adopted national side, scoring 11 times. That includes perhaps the finest goal ever scored by an Englishman: his unbelievable solo strike against Brazil in 1984.

Patrick Vieira: Senegal to France

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    Much like Barnes, another midfielder who had a huge impact on the English game falls into this distinct category of being an international enigma. Like Barnes, he played the bulk of his English career in a red shirt, but Patrick Vieira was very much an Arsenal man.

    Vieira was actually born in Dakar, the capital and largest city of the African nation Senegal. Having moved to France when he was eight years old, Vieira opened up the possibility of representing Les Bleus, coupled with the fact his grandfather served in the French army.

    After making his debut for the national side in 1997, he went on to represent France 107 times, winning the World Cup on home soil in 1998 and the European Championships two years later.

    Not bad for a man who could have lined up with the likes of El-Hadji Diouf instead.

Miroslav Klose: Poland to Germany

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    He's the second most-capped player for the German national side, but it could have been so different for Miroslav Klose had he made a different choice as a youngster.

    The former Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich man was actually born in the Polish city of Opole to Polish parents. His father, Josef, played for the local side Odra Opole and went on to play for Auxerre. At the age of eight, young Miroslav decided to join his father in Germany, where he held German nationality.

    By the time he had established himself as a regular in the Kaiserslautern side in 2001, Klose had attracted the attention of both the German and the Polish national sides. The coach of the Polish national side, Jerzy Engel, tried his best to try and convince Klose to play for the country of his birth, but he declined, insisting he wanted to play for the Germans. He has since earned 130 caps.

Marcel Desailly: Ghana to France

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    It appears the French have somewhat of a history of luring non-French born players to play for them. Believe it or not, another member of their 1998 World Cup-winning squad was born in Africa: former Chelsea man Marcel Desailly.

    The man who would go on to play 116 times for the French national side was born in Accra, Ghana. His mother married the head of the French consulate in the city of his birth, and he headed to France at the age of just four.

    He was still eligible to play for Ghana when his footballing career took off, but controversially made the decision to play for the French instead. In a 2009 interview with FourFourTwo magazine, Desailly reiterated he only ever wished to play for the French:

    No, I never imagined playing for Ghana. I played for France from the age of 13. But I did dream of playing against Ghana for my international retirement in 2004. A game had been organised but it ended up being cancelled, which was a shame for me. That would have been something special.

Alfredo Di Stefano: Argentina to Colombia to Spain

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    Despite the fact Adnan Januzaj has the choice of a number of clubs to represent at international level, he would do well to replicate the feats of Alfredo Di Stefano.

    The man who is regarded as one of the finest goalscorers of all time has actually turned out for three international sides in a glittering career. It all began in traditional circumstances for the man born in Buenos Aires; he appeared six times for the Argentinian national side, scoring six times. It was from there though, where things began to take a twist.

    A footballing strike in Argentina in 1949 meant Di Stefano had to head elsewhere to continue his career, and he opted for Colombia. He continued his rich goalscoring form for Millonarios, meaning a call-up for the Colombian side was inevitable. He failed to score in four appearances, although his big move to Europe was imminent.

    He is just one of four men to score over 200 goals for Real Madrid, and when he gained Spanish citizenship in 1956, the Spanish quickly drafted him into the national side.

    Di Stefano was tasked with helping them qualify for the 1958 World Cup, although his goals couldn't get the Spanish there. He did help them qualify for the next tournament in 1962, although he suffered an injury in the build-up to the finals, meaning he cruelly retired having never played in a World Cup. His stats for the Spanish national side hold up though, scoring 23 times in 31 games.

    So Adnan, no matter what country you choose to play for, you're in pretty good company with these nation-swappers.

    All stats according to FIFA and Soccerbase.

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