Declan Rice & 7 Other Players Who Switched Their International Allegiances

7 min


I’m pretty sure you can hear Mick McCarthy bellowing some not-so-sweet Yorkshire slang right about now after a long and protracted saga has finally reached it’s conclusion.

That’s right, Declan Rice has opted to switch his international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland to England; this despite playing in three friendly matches for the country of his grandparent’s birth since Under-16 level.

In light of the news, (and yes you can still hear McCarthy swearing) we take a look at other footballers who, for whatever reason, opted to go full Ben Kingsley and change nationality with ease, without most people even noticing.

Here are seven such examples where players did a Declan Rice.

7. Thiago Motta – Brazil and Italy

Due to his heritage, Thiago Motta was always able to choose which country he wanted to represent internationally. Having been born in Brazil he initially featured for the Seleção, making his debut in the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup before a further two appearances in the same tournament.

He didn’t play for Brazil again, as rumours surfaced that he wished to play for his grandparent’s country of Italy, and subsequently got his first call up to Gli Azzurri in early 2011. Motta finished runner up in the 2012 European Championships the a year after his debut and went on to make a total of 30 caps in six years with the national side.

6. Wilfried Zaha – England and Ivory Coast

Despite a last ditch attempt by Gareth Southgate to change Wilfried Zaha’s mind, the Crystal Palace forward swapped Wembley for west Africa, pledging his international allegiance to the country of his birth, Ivory Coast, in 2017.

He had featured at youth level for the Three Lions, before making a couple of mere cameo appearances against Sweden and Scotland. Both matches were, however, not competitive fixtures, allowing to the Abidjan-born to take part in the 2017 African Cup of Nations, where they disappointingly they failed to get out of their group. He has scored a total of two goals in eight games for the Elephants since his move.

5. Jermaine Jones – Germany and USA

With hardly the most German sounding name, Frankfurt-born Jermaine Jones grew up in the city to a German mother and African-American father. He went on to feature for his mother’s country on three occasions at Under-21 level, before deciding as soon as 2009 that he wanted to represent the United States.

Jones has gone on to feature 69 times for the Stars and Stripes. He is famously remembered for scoring a wonder goal against Portugal at the 2014 World Cup.

4. Mario Fernandes – Brazil and Russia

One of Russia’s stars as they reached the quarter finals of the 2018 World Cup, it’s fair to say right back Mario Fernandes stuck out like a sore thumb on a team sheet that included names such as Sergei Ignashevich and Fyodor Kudryashov. 

Brazilian-born Fernandes made his international debut for the Seleção in a 4-0 win over Japan in 2014 after ‘personal reasons’ prevented him from featuring sooner. He moved to Russia to play for CSKA Moscow in 2014 and, via a presidential decree from Vladimir Putin, received Russian citizenship in 2016.

He has since gone on to play 13 times for his adopted nation, famously scoring the equalising goal for Russia in their quarter final defeat to Croatia last year.

3. Nacer Chadli – Morocco and Belgium

Nacer Chadli is another player who starred at the World Cup last year, with the Belgian-born winger having turned out 54 times for his country of birth since making his debut for the Red Devils in 2011.

Following a stellar season in the Eredivisie with FC Twente, he received his first call up to the Morocco squad on 2010, who he qualified for thanks to his dual citizenship, yet played only one friendly for the African side before making his Belgium debut just 84 days later.

He has become a prominent feature for Roberto Martinez’s side ever since and scored the dramatic last-gasp winner in a 3-2 win over Japan in the last 16 of the World Cup in Russia last summer. 

2. Diego Costa – Brazil and Spain

Diego Costa became the most hated man in Brazil after he asked the country of his birth if he could play for Spain in July 2013, where had obtained citizenship. He sent a letter to the Brazilian Football Confederation asking for permission, and was duly granted it having never played a competitive match for Brazil.

As a result, then manager Luis Felipe Scolari said: “A Brazilian player who refuses to wear the shirt of the Brazilian national team and compete in a World Cup in your country is automatically withdrawn. He is turning his back on a dream of millions, to represent our national team, the five-time champions in a World Cup in Brazil.”

Since the move, Costa has scored ten goals in 24 appearances for La Furia Roja, including three in last summer’s World Cup.

1. Alfredo Di Stefano – Argentina, Colombia and Spain

One of football’s greatest and a Real Madrid legend, Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano showed how times have evolved since the 50’s and 60’s, having turned out for three countries internationally during his career.

His time at River Plate, Millonarios and Madrid bizarrely permitted him to feature for the native country of each which he didn’t turn down and, in a one of a kind situation, played for Argentina, Colombia and Spain. 

His best goal scoring return came with Spain, with whom he netted 23 goals in 31 caps. He failed to find the net with Colombia in four matches, yet bagged six in six for Argentina. It’s fair to say FIFA has certainly changed it’s rules somewhat since.

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