Lists

8 players who switched international allegiances – and a Premier League star who still could

Diego Costa
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5. Granit Xhaka (Switzerland) and 6. Taulant Xhaka (Albania)

When they went head-to-head at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis, the brothers' mum was in the crowd with a shirt displaying the flags of both nations

The Xhaka brothers, who were born in Basel, became the first siblings to play against each other at a European Championship in France last year.

Older brother Taulant had played for the Swiss at youth level, but on the advice of Switzerland's Granit chose to switch to Albania. When they went head-to-head at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis, the brothers' mum was in the crowd with a t-shirt displaying the flags of both nations.

The story became more complicated when Granit was later invited to represent Kosovo, his parents’ homeland, and said he would be proud to do so. This led to criticism from the Swiss media, who accused him of lacking commitment to his adopted nation.

Granit Xhaka, Taulant Xhaka

The Xhaka brothers embrace after Switzerland's 1-0 victory

7. Alfredo Di Stefano (Colombia, Spain)

The most disappointing part of this peripatetic international career was the fact that Di Stefano never played at a World Cup

The late Real Madrid legend won five consecutive European Cups with the same club between 1956 and 1960, but international wanderlust and politics saw him play for three nations.

He turned out six times for his homeland, Argentina, before a players’ strike over money saw most of their stars decamp to Colombia, for whom he picked up another four caps which weren't officially recognised.

In 1954, FIFA ruled that Di Stefano couldn't represent Spain, but that decision was reversed after he gained citizenship three years later. The ‘Blond Arrow’ went on to win 31 caps for the European nation, racking up an impressive 23 goals.

The most disappointing part of this peripatetic international career was the fact that Di Stefano never played at a World Cup; the Argentine strike, subsequent switch to Colombia, injury and Spain's shock defeat by Scotland in a qualifier all conspired against the boy from Buenos Aires. His modesty went before him, though: “I was a footballer who played for the team. I did what I could, but I was no superhero.”

Alfredo Di Stefano

Di Stefano shakes hands with the Duke of Gloucester ahead of England's 1960 friendly against Spain at Wembley

8. James McClean (Republic of Ireland)

He chose the Republic of Ireland under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, just in time to make the cut for Euro 2012

The feisty West Brom winger was born in Northern Ireland and represented the nation seven times at under-21 level. Then, like Darron Gibson before him, he chose the Republic of Ireland under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement – just in time to make the cut for Euro 2012.

Regretting his original decision to play for the North, McClean explained: “I didn’t feel part of the squad. And I think any Catholic player, if they said they did, I’d probably call them a liar.”

During West Brom’s 2015 summer tour of the USA, the Derry-born player turned his back on the British national anthem. Perhaps it’s time to get McClean on Question Time - he’d probably be more interesting than Jermaine Jenas and Joey Barton.

9. Xherdan Shaqiri (Kosovo?)

All was calm as Switzerland prepared to face Romania at Euro 2016 – at least until Shaqiri made an announcement that left the nation’s football fans choking on their Toblerone.

“What if the coach of Kosovo wants me as the captain? Of course, I am thinking about it then,” the Stoke forward, who was born in Kosovo before his family emigrated to Switzerland, exclaimed.

With the Balkan country recognised by FIFA and UEFA in May 2016, the possibility remains that the ‘Alpine Messi’ will move Swiss mountains to play for them.

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