Curious cases of dual nationality

As Declan Rice ponders whether to commit his international future to England or the Republic of Ireland, here’s a look back at other cases of dual nationality and what those players decided to do.

The Adopted Englishmen

John Barnes

English football’s most decorated adopted son was born in Jamaica and moved to England with his family aged 12. Jamaica remained in the footballing backwater in the early 80s and eager to make his mark he was eligible to play for all 4 British nations as he held a UK passport. A little known fact is Scotland were the first nation to approach Barnes about representing them but he chose England and made his senior debut in 1983.

Although he remained an enigma for England only showing his Liverpool form occasionally, Barnes still amassed 79 caps, scored a memorable goal in the Maracana and represented England at 2 World Cups.

Barnes had a less successful management career that saw him manage the country of his birth from 2008-09 and won the Caribbean Cup, he is however football’s greatest ever rapper.

John Barnes in his England heyday

Tony Dorigo

Born in Adelaide to an Italian father and Australian mother Dorigo started his football career by requesting trials at English clubs and eventually got one with Aston Villa. In 1986 two years on from his Villa debut Dorigo was called up by Australia but the call up was blocked by Villa due to the lengthy travel it would involve and Australia’s lowly footballing status. England approached Dorigo who would qualify under passport laws the following year.

Soon enough Dorigo was in the Under 21s and in 1989 the left back now of Chelsea made his senior debut. He went on to earn 15 senior caps and play in 2 major tournaments over the next 4 years initially with Chelsea and later Leeds with whom he won the League title in 1992. All the while Australia never came close to qualifying for the World Cup so Dorigo was probably justified.

Tony Dorigo at Italia ’90

Owen Hargreaves

Born in Calgary to a Welsh mother and English father Hargreaves had the unusual distinction of being eligible for 3 nations and after moving to Germany to sign with Bayern he could have been eligible for Germany by 2003 under residency laws. After breaking into the Bayern first team in their run to 2001 Champions League glory Hargreaves was on all 4 countries radar but chose England- much to the annoyance of Canadian fans.

After making his senior debut in 2001 Hargreaves went on to play 42 times for England, starring at the 2006 World Cup after which he was named England player of the year- ironic considering idiots were booing him in the warm up games. Given Wales and Canada failed to qualify for a major tournament during his career during an era in which England were demonstratively better than Germany, it’s fair to say Hargreaves made the right call.

And the one’s that got away

Wilfried Zaha

Zaha was born in Ivory Coast but moved to England aged 4 he was in the Crystal Palace academy aged 12 and the winger broke into the first team aged just 18 in 2010. He quickly entered England’s youth system and in 2013 he was handed his first senior cap and shortly afterwards secured a transfer his big transfer to Manchester United. Zaha played twice in friendlies for England and seemed to have the world at his feet.

Zaha before his switch

But Zaha struggled at Old Trafford and disappeared off the international radar and eventually headed back to Crytsal Palace. But in 2016 Zaha made the surprise move to switch his allegiance to the country of his birth- Ivory Coast. Gareth Southgate attempted to persuade Zaha back into the England fold as by now Zaha was delivering on the early potential his career had shown, but to no avail.

Since then Zaha has played 8 times for Ivory Coast and featured in the Africa Cup of Nations (ensuring he cannot come back to England), only time will tell if this works out for him- but after Ivory Coast’s failure to qualify for Russia he will watch the World Cup from home.

Dominic Matteo

Matteo was born in Dumfries but grew up on Merseyside making him eligible for England and Scotland. Having made his Liverpool debut aged 20 in 1994 and was quickly capped by the England Under 21s. Four years later he was twice called up by Glenn Hoddle’s England but crucially never capped and in 2000 Matteo of Liverpool & England was suddenly of Leeds & Scotland.

Matteo was a very good Premier League defender and borderline international- as evidenced by his excellent form in Leeds’ 2001 Champions League run but played in an era when England were flush with central defensive options with the likes of Ledley King, Jamie Carragher & Jonathan Woodgate seen as back up options. Getting 6 caps for Scotland was probably the right call.

Vinnie Jones

Vinnie ‘Wellard ‘ Jones is hardly a player England missed out on, the cult midfielder turned actor was a midfield enforcer best known for becoming acquainted with the contents of Gazza’s shorts, clattering Steve McMahon in the ’88 FA Cup Final and picking up a booking after just 6 seconds of a league game for flying in on Peter Reid.

Born in Watford to English parents he seemed destined to play out his career in domestic football until aged 29 he was called up…by Wales. If turned out Vinnie had a Welsh grandparent and that meant he qualified for the nation of JPR Williams and Tom Jones.

Welshman Vinnie Jones doing Vinnie things

Vinnie played 9 games for Wales none of which they won including the infamous 7-1 humping against Holland. Wales plummeted down the world rankings under Jones’ former Wimbledon boss Bobby Gould and by the time of Vinnie’s final game in 1997 were seen as a joke side. When his acting and football collided in ‘Mean Machine’ Vinnie played the incarcerated former England Captain- a venture into the genre of fantasy films.

And some famous cases from around the globe

Marcos Senna

Born in Brazil, Senna bounced around several clubs in South America before going Villarreal in 2002 aged 26. At Villarreal he established himself in central midfield and quickly developed a reputation as a fine passing midfielder. By 2006 he qualified to play for his adopted nation Spain. He played at the 2006 World Cup but is best remembered as the standout player in Spain’s triumphant 2008 European Championship. He looked set to the 2010 World Cup aged 33, but an erratic season at Villarreal saw him miss out on selection and end his international career. He won 28 caps and a European Champions medal.

Eduardo Da Silva

It’s fair to say most players who switch allegiances are treated with suspicion but Eduardo’s story is a heart warming one. Largely overlooked in his native Brazil Eduardo was spotted by Dynamo Zagreb and moved to Croatia aged 15.

Unlike the more monied academies of Western Europe Dynamo didn’t have a five star facility to Home the youngster so he lived at the ground with the groundsman becoming something of a surrogate father. 3 years on in 2002 Eduardo became a Croatian citizen and star player eventually earning himself a big money move to Arsenal.

Eduardo in the colurs of his adopted nation

Although his time in England was marred by the horror tackle he took from Birmingham’s Martin Taylor which ruled him out of Euro 2008, Eduardo still went on to play 62 games for his adopted nation over 10 years.

Lukas Podolski & Miroslav Klose

Klose and Podolski shared near identical footballing stories, both born in Poland they both snapped up by Bundesliga sides as juniors, meaning by the time they broke through to first team football they both qualified for Germany through residency. Both came through in the era before Germany’s coaching revolution and hence the shallow pool of German talent meant the national side were looking at other options. In both cases Poland were slow off the mark and in Podolski’s case turned down the chance of calling him up, the Germans acted swiftly and bagged both strikers.

Both had a major impact on Germany’s home World Cup and both stuck around long enough to be veterans in Germany’s 2014 World Champion squad. They played a combined 267 games and scored 120 goals for Germany with Klose breaking the World Cup scoring record. Fortunately for everyone else Poland have learned from their huge mistake and Robert Lewandowski will never wear the white of ‘Die Mannschaft.’

What Poland might have had!


They don’t mind sharing the talent around in Brazil! The Brazilian born midfield maestro was overlooked by the country of his birth in 2002. To be fair Brazil’s attacking midfield options were Rivaldo, Ronaldinho & Juninho and overlooked Deco who qualified for his adopted nation of Portugal, where he was part of Jose Mourinho’s all-conquering Porto side. Deco lit up Euro 2004 and was again brilliant at the 2006 World Cup where Portugal out-performed Brazil, he went on to win 75 caps and every major honour in club football.

Deco- Brazil’s loss was Portugal’s gain

Diego Costa

Costa doesn’t do popularity contests and it’s a good job as there’s little defence for his switch. Costa was born in Brazil and made his first team breakthrough in Portugal with SC Braga and was selected twice for Brazil after making it big with Athletico Madrid. However as he’d only played friendlies he was still eligible to switch to his adopted country of Spain.

He submitted his switch to FIFA whilst Brazil played Spain in the 2013 Confederations Cup Final adding edge to that fixture and was given a hot reception when the defending World Champions arrived in Brazil for the 2014 World Cup- Spain’s early departure was met with howls of laughter from the local population.

But Costa has struggled to make it work with Spain amassing a surprisingly low 16 caps over 4 years although his current return to form with Athletico suggests we might be seeing him again this summer.

Diego Costa in the famous yellow jersey in 2013

Half the Republic of Ireland team

Jack Charlton is rightly lorded for his management of the Republic of Ireland but it’s fair to say he got creative when it came to defining who was eligible to play for Ireland. Big Jack took aim at most anyone with an Irish connection who wasn’t capped already by England or Scotland- of the Ireland team that beat England at Euro ’88 only 4 were born in Ireland. The trend continued at Italia ’90 with half the squad born outside of Ireland and only 4 of the starting 11 in the quarter-final being born in the Republic.

Pat Bonner, Niall Quin, Steve Staunton and a lot of men born elsewhere

As FIFA has tightened the rules the player pool for Charlton’s successors has been distinctly smaller and the use of English-born players lead to something of a backlash in 2002. On the eve of the World Cup captain Roy Keane became embroiled in a bitter row with manager Mick McCarthy which ended in Keane questioning the Irishness of the Barnsley born McCarthy (Ireland’s captain for that famous game in Rome back in 1990). Now Ireland’s Assistant Manager we can only assume Keane gives every new cap an Irish test to ensure they’re fit to wear the green jersey.

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