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Six of the best players to switch international allegiances

Millions of people around the globe have more than one nationality for one reason or another, and footballers are of course no different.

There have been many an occasion when a player has played his youth football for one country before opting for another when making the step up to the senior side, even some brothers play for different international sides, but occasionally, some manage to play senior international football before switching allegiances.

Here are six of the best players to switch international allegiances:

Alfredo Di Stefano

Argentina, Colombia and Spain

One of the all-time greats, the iconic Real Madrid forward enjoyed a remarkable career, made even more remarkable by the fact that he represented three separate countries at international level.

Born in Buenos Aires, Di Stefano enjoyed his first taste of international football with his birth country, scoring six times in six appearances for Argentina in the 1940s.

Bizarrely, whilst playing for Colombian club side Millonarios, the forward was allowed to represent Colombia, though their national team was not recognised by FIFA as the country’s league had broken transfer rules.

Having moved to Real Madrid, where he won five consecutive European Cups, Di Stefano acquired Spanish citizenship and represented his third international side. He scored 23 times in 31 appearances during a five-year career with the Spain national team, though sadly never featured in a World Cup for any of his three nations.

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Thiago Motta

Brazil and Italy

The midfield enforcer picked up an extensive collection of silverware during his spells at some of Europe’s leading clubs, including winning titles at Barcelona, Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain.

Born in Brazil, Motta represented his birth country at the 2003 CONCACAF Games, making two appearances in the famed yellow shirt of the Selecao.

Having been subsequently ignored by Brazil following those initial appearances, Motta – playing in Serie A at the time – made himself open to a call-up to the Italian national squad.

Motta was eligible thanks to his Italian paternal grandfather and was subsequently called up for the first time in 2011. The midfielder enjoyed a five-year career with the Azzurri, making 30 appearances and featuring in three major tournaments.

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Diego Costa

Brazil and Spain

Another Brazilian-born player to switch his allegiance to a European rival, former Chelsea striker Costa was twice-capped for his home nation in friendlies against Italy and Russia.

However, just six months after representing Brazil for the first time, Costa submitted a request to represent Spain, where had just received citizenship. The request was approved – much to the dismay of Brazil boss Luis Felipe Scolari – and Costa made his debut for his adopted nation against Italy in February 2014.

Since changing allegiances the fiery forward featured regularly within the Spanish set-up, featuring in two World Cups and scoring 10 goals in 24 appearances.

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Nacer Chadli

Morocco and Belgium

Part of Belgium’s talented and multi-cultural squad, former Tottenham and West Brom star Nacer Chadli originally opted to play for Morocco, with the midfielder owning dual citizenship for both birth-country Belgium and the African nation.

He made his debut for Morocco in a 1-1 friendly draw with Northern Ireland in 2010, being named Man of the Match following an impressive performance.


That proved to be the one and only appearance he would make for the country of his heritage, opting to represent Belgium the following year.

A regular member of one of Europe’s finest international teams in the years since, Chadli has now represented the Red Devils 61 times, scoring eight goals and featuring in the side which made the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

Wilfried Zaha

England and Ivory Coast

Born in the Ivory Coast before moving to England aged four, Crystal Palace star Zaha was a regular in the Three Lions’ youth teams as he emerged as a promising talent at Selhurst Park.

Called up to the senior England side for the first time in 2012, Zaha made his debut in a friendly with Sweden, a game more memorable for Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s four-goal destruction of Roy Hodgson’s side.

Replacing fellow debutant Raheem Sterling, the two winger’s international careers would soon go in differing directions, with Sterling going on to become a regular in the international side.

Zaha would make one more appearance against Scotland before being constantly overlooked in the years following his debut –  a period coinciding with his failed move to Manchester United.

Zaha eventually chose to represent the country of his parents and of his birth, being called up to the Ivory Coast squad for the first time in 2017. He has since gone on to represent his birth country in two African Cup of Nations tournaments, with Palace boss and ex-England coach Hodgson admitting it was a mistake not to cap the player in a competitive fixture for England.

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Declan Rice

Republic of Ireland and England

With grandparents hailing from Cork, the London-born midfielder was a regular within the Irish youth set-up, representing The Boys in Green from U16 all the way to the senior side.

Capped three times in friendly fixtures in 2018, Rice later decided to consider his international future following an approach from England.

After several months of consideration over his future, Rice eventually informed Ireland of his desire to represent England, with FIFA confirming the move in March 2019.

He would quickly make his debut for Gareth Southgate’s emerging side against Czech Republic at Wembley and has since gone on to establish himself in the side, earning 15 senior caps.

Read: Sectarianism, betrayal and a pig’s head: The most controversial transfers in football history

See Also: Late drama, The Troubles and Big Jack almost chinning Cascarino – Ireland’s greatest 1-1 draws

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