Why Adnan Januzaj Should Not Be in the Belgium Squad for World Cup Brazil 2014

Jack Lusby@jacklusby_Featured ColumnistApril 27, 2014

Earlier this week, Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj ended a long-running fight for the pledge of his footballing nationality, one which was hotly contested among several international juggernauts, by committing to the Belgian national side, as per BBC Sport.

Born to Kosovar-Albanian parents and with ties to several other countries through various means, the prodigious talent attracted the attentions of England, Turkey, Serbia, Albania and Kosovo following several outstanding performances for the Red Devils this season. However, the eventual winners in this tug of war were another set of Red Devils.

Naturally, with the 2014 World Cup looming and Belgium preparing to travel to Brazil, the world's media turned their attentions immediately to whether Januzaj would be included in Marc Wilmots' squad for the tournament.

Rob Shepherd of Guardian Liberty Voice wrote that Januzaj's pledge coming so soon to the tournament suggests that an inclusion in the squad is impending: "...the timing of the news suggests he has been guaranteed some involvement in the near future – otherwise agreeing to represent the country now makes no sense."

However, with any measure of rational judgment, this should be considered a tournament too soon for the 19-year-old.

Firstly, the precocious youngster would be joining a squad who, under Wilmots, is settled and blooming.

The European side came through their World Cup qualification group unbeaten in 10 games. In a group that included Croatia, Serbia and an ever-courageous Scotland, this was no mean feat.

Particularly impressive in that stretch was 22-year-old attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who scored four goals to help fire the Red Devils to victory. De Bruyne represents one blossoming figure in the Belgium squad whose progress may be hampered by the inclusion of Januzaj.

Elsewhere, midfield options such as Dries Mertens and Nacer Chadli could find their chances stymied by the emergence of the less-established Januzaj.

Wilmots' group is consistent and settled, with their top players performing on a domestic scale with regularity, and disrupting this balance to bring in Januzaj may prove costly.

Furthermore, in terms of this World Cup, this squad consists of many players reaching their very peak at the right time.

For an outfield player, performance levels often reach their peak around a player's late 20s, and players such as Axel Witsel and Toby Alderweireld (both 25), Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas (both 26), Jan Vertonghen (27) and Vincent Kompany (28) form the core of the squad.

The timing of this World Cup seems to have come at a crucial stage in this side's development. And with this established side complemented by youngsters such as De Bruyne (22) and Eden Hazard (23), Belgium are already well set up to challenge in this competition.

This setup would likely be disrupted by the inclusion of a player such as Januzaj, particularly given the player has not performed consistently enough to warrant an international call-up thus far. Whilst impressive, the 19-year-old's season has been shrouded in hyperbole.

A brace at home to relegation candidates Sunderland saw Januzaj announce himself in style, and a new five-year contract soon followed.

This was followed by the midfielder—rather bizarrely—being shortlisted for the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award in December. His being considered for this prestigious award so early into his United career is representative of the insurmountable hype around a teenager who has yet to consistently perform in the Premier League.

As per WhoScored.com, Januzaj has made 13 starts for Manchester United so far in the league this season, with a further 11 appearances as a substitute. With four goals and three assists from those appearances, more should be expected before an international call-up is considered.

These are views mirrored by those of one of Januzaj's prospective teammates: Everton midfielder Mirallas. As per The Guardian, Mirallas believes that this World Cup is too soon for the youngster:

Now, like a lot of people have said, he may not deserve to come to Brazil with us because he does not know the group and he has not played much for Manchester United in recent months. In his position there are some very good players and it will be very difficult. He has yet to show he is a No1 for his club. For him, Euro 2016 is within reach.

As Mirallas is seemingly against the idea, it wouldn't be remiss to suggest that the midfielder's inclusion may impact on team spirit around the squad, as others may also question the merit of the 19-year-old's addition.

Setting the next European Championships as a target is a more realistic option for Januzaj, as history tells us that making a debut at such a young age in a major tournament rarely ends in true glory.

Famously, a 17-year-old Pele shone at his first World Cup in 1958—including a brace in a 5-2 final win over Sweden—but this seems an anomaly in the history of the cup.

Take two of England's young tournament debutants, for example: Theo Walcott travelled as a 17-year-old to the 2006 World Cup but wasn't considered for inclusion in any of the starting line-ups, whereas 18-year-old Michael Owen shone in the 1998 World Cup in France following a genuinely successful Premier League season with Liverpool.

Ignoring the case of Pele, Januzaj would likely find himself somewhere between the England pair in terms of tournament impact.

The 19-year-old has yet to show genuine, consistent impact in the Premier League for Manchester United, and his inclusion in any Belgium call-up would surely come too soon as a result. Furthermore, as the midfielder has zero international experience, Wilmots' preference for him would likely put several Belgian noses out of joint.

In short, Januzaj is one for Euro 2016. Learn from history's mistakes and let the boy make his name through hard work first.

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