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10 Footballers Who Changed their Nationality and Played International Football

10 Footballers Who Changed their Nationality and Played International Football

1. Diego Costa (Brazil to Spain)

Source- Skysports

Chelsea’s Diego Costa is a Brazilian by birth, but the forward was called up only once for the senior team. Since Brazil were the World Cup hosts in 2014, they didn’t have to play any qualifying matches, which meant that when other countries were participating in qualifying matches, they were playing friendlies. Therefore, when Costa represented Brazil twice, both were in friendlies.

This meant that Costa was eligible to represent Spain once he acquired a Spanish passport as he had not played in official FIFA games for Brazil. Costa acquired Spanish Citizenship in 2013 after living in Spain for over six years while plying his trade there.

Following this, the Spanish Football Federation made a request to FIFA to allow Costa to represent Spain.In February 2014, Costa represented Spain’s national team for the first time.

2. Lukas Padolski (Poland to Germany)

Source -Skysports 

Lukas Podolski was born to Waldemar Podolski and Krystyna Podolski in the industrial town of Gliwice, Poland. In 1987, when Podolski was two years old, his parents emigrated from Poland to West Germany and were given the right of return status because his paternal grandparents held German citizenship prior to World War II.

In 2003, after several impressive performances in the Bundesliga, the Polish media suggested to the then Polish national team coach, Pawel Janas, that he pick Podolski for the team as he had only represented Germany at the youth levels then. Janas ignored the request and stated that there were much better strikers in Poland then 

Within a year, Podolski’s true potential came out and the German media were keen on getting the player to represent the country and on 6 June 2004, at the age of 19, he played for Germany.Choosing Germany over Poland is not a decision Podolski would be regretting much, as he is now a World Cup winner with the Germans.

3. Pepe (Brazil to Portugal)

Source - Eurosport 

At the age of 18, Pepe moved to Portugal to sign with CS Maritimo.Even before Pepe opted to play for Portugal, he was never called up to represent Brazil in any youth category. However, according to his father, Pepe was contacted by coach Dunga in 2006 about a future call-up, which the player declined as he had already made up his mind about joining Portugal’s senior side once he became eligible.

He became a naturalised citizen in August 2007 and on the 30th of the same month he was named in the Portuguese squad for the first time. An injury in training delayed his debut by four more months and his debut eventually came against Finland on 21 November.Pepe eventually won an international trophy as Portugal lifted the Euro 2016 title where he was the man of the match in the final as Portugal beat France 1-0 in extra time.

4. Miroslav Klose (Poland to Germany)

Source -The Guardian 

Miroslav Klose was born in the Silesian city of Opole, Poland. His father, Josef Klose, was basically a German who remained in Silesia after it was awarded to Poland following World War II. In 1986, an eight-year-old Miroslav Klose moved to Germany with his family and started his incredible football journey with village club SG Blaubach-Diedelkopf, who at the time were in the German seventh division.

In 2001, Klose’s performance in the Bundesliga earned him attention and he was approached by the Polish national team coach, Jerzy Engel, but Klose declined the offer and stated that he wished to play for Germany. Later that same year, Klose made his debut for Germany and would go on to represent the country in all major competitions from the 2002 FIFA World Cup to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, becoming the leading goalscorer in World Cup history in the process.

5. Gonzalo Higuaín ( France - Argentina) 

Source - Skysports 

Higuaín was born on 10 December 1987 in Brest, France, the son of the Argentine footballer Jorge Higuaín, who was then playing for Stade Brestois 29. He left France at the age of ten months and does not speak French, but retains French citizenship in addition to his Argentine nationality, which he successfully applied for in January 2007

Higuaín is one of only three foreign-born players to have played for Argentina in a FIFA World Cup, .He initially rejected calls from both the Argentina and France national teams, stating at the time he had not yet decided which country he would play for, before ultimately choosing Argentina.Higuaín was called up by the Argentina Olympic squad for a friendly match against Guatemala in February 2008, and scored two goals on his debut as Argentina won 5–0, though the match was not officially recognized by FIFA as an "A" international match.

6. Ivan Rakitic (Switzerland to Croatia)

Source - Sporting News 

Ivan Rakitic was born and raised in Switzerland with Croatian parents. He emerged in Swiss football before moving to Germany and then settling in La Liga where he became a legend. Internationally he played for Switzerland through several youth groups before switching.

After accepting Slaven Bilic’s call, Rakitic became an indispensable member of the first-team squad. The trans-Clásico partnership he formed with Luka Modric powered Croatia to much of their success, including their historic run all the way to the 2018 World Cup final. A run that saw Rakitic become the first player in World Cup history to score two shootout-winning penalties in the same tournament in addition to consistent excellence and stability in the middle. A well-made switch

7. Raheem Sterling (Jamaica to England)

Source - Skysports 

Another talented Premier League teenager with an international choice to make was Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, before emigrating to London with his mother when he was five.

After being educated at the Queens Park Rangers academy, he was snapped up by Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez when he was 15 and has never really looked back. He made his England senior debut in 2012 having risen through the youth ranks, and in the summer he was the only member of Roy Hodgson's World Cup squad who was born outside of England.

8. Kevin-Prince Boateng (Germany to Ghana)

Source - Skysports 

Kevin-Prince Boateng is the half-brother of German international Jerome Boateng. He was born and brought up in Germany and started his professional career with German club Hertha BSC. Prince-Boateng played for Germany’s youth football teams at the U-19 and U-21 levels, but he was indefinitely dropped from the U-21 squad in 2007 for breaking the team curfew. Later in 2009, he was selected again for the U-21 Football Championships, but he told the German authorities he was no longer interested in representing Germany.

Boateng received a Ghanaian passport in 2010 after FIFA changed their rules regarding players switching their allegiances, and represented the country at the 2010 World Cup. Funnily, though, almost a year later, he announced his retirement from international football at the age of 24 citing fatigue from traveling as one of the reasons. He later reversed his decision and returned to the national team for the 2014 World Cup, only to be suspended from the team during the tournament and was sent back home due to disciplinary reasons. 

9. Jack Grealish (Republic of Ireland to England)

Source - News18  

Grealish was born and raised in Birmingham, but qualified for Ireland through his grandparents. He played for Ireland up through U-21 level before declining a senior call-up as he wanted to represent England.

After the switch, he helped England U-21s win the 2016 Toulon tournament before starting a now-legendary four-year wait for a senior call-up. That wait ended in 2020 and, after his impressive performances, Captain Jack is finally an established member of the England squad. He played the role of ‘super sub' to perfection during England’s run to the Euro 2020 final, turning a number of games from the bench.

10. Thiago Motta (Brazil to Italy)

Source - UEFA 

Thiago Motta is yet another Brazilian who changed nationality to play international football after having played for Brazil in the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Although he played for the U-23 side, it was a full international competition and hence the international cap gained was recognised by FIFA. But, he was never actually called up to play for the Brazil senior side.

Later there were claims that Motta wanted to represent Italy at the senior level and he was eligible to do so through his paternal grandfather who was Italian. FIFA granted players one chance to change nationality, but it was not for those players who had already played for the senior side in FIFA recognised matches.

On 6 February 2011, Motta was called up to the Italy squad for the first time and two days later he was granted clearance and then made his debut for Italy in a friendly against Germany.


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