10 international players who could have represented different countries

Sane & Haaland
(Image credit: Future)

Aston Villa's Matty Cash is set to represent Poland at the World Cup. The 24-year-old is, unfortunately for him, an English right-back, meaning that he's in competition with roughly one in four Englishmen eligible for the position. Given that there are enough good full-backs to fill Wembley from this country, it makes sense to trace your ancestry. 

And Cash has Polish origins on his mother's side. He's applied for a passport, too - meaning not only will he be playing international football while the likes of Aaron Wan Bissaka sit by the phone, he'll get through airports quicker when he goes on holiday, as well. 

But Cash isn't the first to take advantage of multinational roots…

1. Miroslav Klose

Miroslav Klose

Miroslav Klose, Germany's greatest-ever goalscorer… isn't German (Image credit: PA)

Germany's greatest World Cup scorer ever is not from Germany at all. In fact, their front two at Euro 2004 were both from neighbouring Poland.

Klose's dad, Josef, was a professional footballer himself who played Auxerre, while his mother was an international handball player for Poland. The striker moved to Deutschland at the age of eight with very little knowledge of the language and ended up winning the country's first World Cup as a unified nation.

It's testament to Germany's multicultural heritage that players like Ozil, Khedira, Gundogan and Podolski – Miro's fellow Polish strike partner in 2004 – all thrived for Die Mannschaft with claims to other nations. And to think, he could've had an international career as underwhelming as Robert Lewandowski – a Klose call indeed...

2. Pepe

Pepe

Pepe was rejected by Brazil – bet they're regretting that, now… (Image credit: PA)

Hardman centre-back Pepe is in fact Brazilian – and was shunned by the Selecao at every youth level. 

Pepe was first asked to play for his country in 2006 by Brazil boss Dunga but by then, it was too late. The Porto defender had decided he wanted to play for Portugal and by 2007, he'd made his first appearance for his adopted nation. Well, they both speak the same language, at least. 

He's since made over 120 and been integral to Portugal's first-ever trophy at Euro 2016. Perhaps Brazil are wishing they'd have secured him sooner. 

3. Leroy Sané

Leroy Sane

Leroy Sané has a tattoo of the nation he could have represented (Image credit: Getty)

Leroy Sané was raised in Essen, Germany. He's returned back to the country to play for Bayern Munich, like all good Germans do and he has the tactical intelligence of someone brought up in the system after graduating from Schalke's academy.

In another universe, though, he could be turning out for international duty on the opposite wing to Sadio Mané, thanks to his father, Souleymane Sané, who netted 29 goals for Senegal. Equally, the former City speedster could have turned out for France, the country that his father grew up in.

"There was never any question of wearing [the shirt] of France or Senegal. My country is Germany," Sane said of his allegiances. "I've got a tattoo of the map of Senegal, it's true, as well as Germany's… not that of France, sorry."

4. Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe of France celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA Nations League League A Group 1 match between France and Austria at Stade de France on September 22, 2022 in Paris, France.

Kylian Mbappe is already a French legend but could have played for Cameroon instead (Image credit: Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)

"1998 was a great year for French football," a Nike poster once stated. "Kylian was born".

The youngest player to score in a World Cup final since Pele was always going to play for France: he was brought up in Saint-Denis, just outside Paris and now plays for the club he supported as a boy (for now).

His father, Wilfried, is from Cameroon, though. Imagine the Africa Cup of Nations with Kylian Mbappe…

5. Alphonso Davies

Alphonso Davies

Alphonso Davies was born in a refugee camp in Africa (Image credit: Getty)

Alphonso Davies had a tough start to life. The flying full-back was born to Liberian parents in Buduburam, a refugee camp in Ghana, after they fled during the Second Liberian Civil War, which displaced more than 450,000 Liberians.

Davies is therefore eligible to play for Liberia, the country of the only ever African Ballon d'Or winner, George Weah. He also has a claim to play for Ghana, too, since he was born there.

Instead, he hopes to become the first Canadian to win the Ballon d'Or. He won't have to worry about qualifying for the World Cup in 2026 when his nation hosts it with USA and Mexico, either. 

6. Christian Pulisic

Christian Pulisic #10 of the United States sprints during a game between Saudi Arabia and USMNT at Estadio Nueva Condomina on September 27, 2022 in Murcia, Spain.

Christian Pulisic is America's biggest star – but could have swerved the USMNT call (Image credit: Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Christian Pulisic is about as American as you get. He's from Pennsylvania, hasn't lost his accent in the slightest and his dad played indoor soccer for the Harrisburg Heat in the 1990s. Yee-haw.

Pulisic lived in England for a year at the age of seven, playing for the youth team of Brackley Town – and though that's not enough to qualify him for the Three Lions, his distinctly Eastern European surname most certainly would've given him a clue that he could have played for a nation on the continent. 

The Chelsea winger has a Croatian passport – but declined playing for the 2018 World Cup runners-up to represent the United States men's national team instead. 

7. Adnan Januzaj

Adnan Januzaj

Adnan Januzaj could have played for any number of nations (Image credit: PA)

Famously, England looked into Adnan Januzaj naturalising to become an English player. The Home Nations Agreement, however, denied him the chance… not that he wasn't left with plenty of other options.

Januzaj was eligible to play for Belgium since he was born there and had a Belgian passport – which he chose to do in the end – though Albania (through his Albanian descent) and Kosovo (which was not a FIFA member at that time and only a partially recognised independent state), were also choices.

The now-Sevilla star also had claim to play for Serbia, Turkey and Croatia. Bet it was Roy Hodgson he really wanted to play for though…

8. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Chelsea striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang somersaults in celebration after scoring his team's second goal in the UEFA Champions League match between Chelsea and AC Milan on 5 October, 2022 at Stamford Bridge, London, United Kingdom

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang unusually turned down the opportunity to represent the country he was born in (Image credit: Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Auba is one of two Gabon internationals to have played in the Premier League, the other being another man who knows west London well, Mario Lemina. 

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang captains the African nation, just like his father Willy did but he was born and brought up in France. In another life, France could have used him and Mbappe up top. 

But the Chelsea forward was another player spoilt for choice. He was offered a call-up to the Italian under-19 side while he played for AC Milan – and his mother is Spanish. That makes it three European sides that he could have played for. 

9. Ivan Rakitic

Ivan Rakitic

Ivan Rakitic and Granit Xhaka in the same midfield? (Image credit: PA Images)

Ivan Rakitic came through the Basel academy, which no doubt gives a clue to where he was born and brought up. Switzerland is home to plenty of refugees and immigrants who have used the nation's neutral status in war to seek a safer place to live – and like Granit Xhaka's family, Ivan Rakitic's parents came from Eastern Europe.

Rakitic's mum and dad were both Croatian but unlike a lot of players on this list, the midfielder actually represented his other nationality, too. Rakitic turned out for the Swiss at youth level with the Switzerland under-17, under-19 and under-21 national teams before accepting Slaven Bilic's call to represent Croatia internationally. 

What's the biggest benefit of being Swiss, you ask? The flag is a big plus. 

10. Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland could have been an Englishman… sort of (Image credit: Getty)

Yes, England could have had to choose between Harry Kane and Erling Haaland up front.

Well… maybe. Haaland was born in Leeds, when his father – Alf-Inge – played for Leeds United. Erling is still a Leeds fan to this day. But given that he was already a part of the Norwegian youth set-ups before England even wanted to consider him, it always made playing for the Three Lions a long shot. 

"We recruit early, but we wouldn't have been into him when he was still in Yorkshire, that's for sure," Gareth Southgate said of the Manchester City phenomenon. It would have been unlikely but still feasible…

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