Despite all of modern football’s complexities, the rules for international play have always appeared to be simple: you play for your own country, and that’s it.
Players have always found a way to bend the rules and create their own paths throughout history.
Only a small percentage of the world’s millions of players have had the honor of representing their country – and even fewer have done it twice.
Footballers have been allowed to switch countries due to an evolving rule book, whether through dual nationality or familial lineage, especially if they have only represented a country at a young level.
Some, like Wilfried Zaha, who presently plays for the Ivory Coast despite two England appearances – and will face the Three Lions for the first time in a friendly at Wembley on Tuesday – go a step further before changing their minds.
Zaha was a late substitute in two friendlies in November 2012 and August 2013, after excelling in England’s junior teams.
He wasn’t called up again until 2016, when he told FIFA that he wanted to play for Ivory Coast.
Since FIFA rules for friendlies were lifted, Roy Hodgson, who gave him his Three Lions debut and later managed him at Crystal Palace, lamented not giving him a competitive start, although Gareth Southgate attempted to persuade him to stay.
Costa, the group’s most high-profile departure, made headlines on the eve of the 2014 World Cup when he decided to leave Brazil, which was hosting the tournament for the second time, in favor of world champions and back-to-back European champions Spain.
After joining Luiz Filipe Scolari’s team in March 2013, the powerful forward would make his La Roja debut less than a year later, while still representing Atletico Madrid.
Costa, who received Spanish citizenship in July 2013, was in the same boat as Zaha in that he’d only played friendly matches for the Selecao, allowing him to commit his international future to Spain.
It’s understandable that some young footballers grow up dreaming of a future with one country before transferring to another.
Take Rakitic, for example, who is one of the best midfielders of his generation. The former Barcelona star was born and raised in Switzerland, where he played for five Swiss junior teams before being called up by Croatia ahead of Euro 2008.
Declan Rice (England, Ireland)
Declan Rice is an English professional soccer player who plays midfield for West Ham United in the Premier League and for the British national team. He was born on January 14, 1999.
He had earlier made three appearances for the Irish national team, despite the fact that he was born in London and his grandparents were Irish.
Jermaine Jones (Germany, America)
Between 2001 and 2010, the former American international represented Germany at all levels. Jones represented Germany at the U20 and U21 levels, earning three caps for “Die Mannschaft” before joining the US team.
He has made 69 appearances, scored four goals, and is one of the tea’s mainstays since debuting in his new shirt in October 2010.