10 Football Players Who Played for Two Different Countries
In football, it is very rare for players to play for two different countries at senior level. Some players achieved this due to the relaxed rules in their generation, while others did it because of dual citizenship, family heritage, and lack of playing time.
In 2004, reacting to agrowing trend towards naturalisation of foreign players in some countries, FIFA implemented a significant new ruling that requires a player to show a “clear connection” to any country they wish to represent.
Later, FIFA rules allowed a player to represent any national team as long as the player held citizenship of that country.
In order for a player to switch nationalities, he must not have played in a competitive fixture (that is, can only have played in friendlies for the first country), and FIFA’s approval is necessary.
Furthermore, in 2021 FIFA made new rules. While previously, players were able to switch only if they had appeared in a friendly fixture(s) for the first nation, but with the growing trend of competitive fixtures (such as the Nations League) replacing many friendly fixtures, a change was necessary.
Under the new regulations, players can switch national teams — even if they have played in an official competition for the first nation (unless the match was in the tournament phases of the World Cup or a continental competition) — *provided they played in 3 or fewer competitive matches and the appearance(s) occurred before the player turned 21 years old.*
Furthermore, three years must have passed since the date of the previous competitive fixture in order for the player to be eligible to switch. There is no time requirement for friendly matches.
These changes were intended to prevent the ”stockpiling” of players by a country in order to make them ineligible for another.
If a player is 21 or over, the previous rule remains in place: to be eligible for a switch, any appearance(s) must have been in non-competitive fixtures.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you 10 top football players that played for two different countries.
1. Ferenc Puskás (Hungary & Spain)
Ferenc Puskas is one of the greatest soccer players of all time and one of the best strikers ever seen. He was part of Real Madrid’s all-conquering side of the 1950s.
Puskas was a prominent member and captain of the Golden Generation of the Hungarian national team that won gold at the 1952 Olympics and reached the final of the 1954 FIFA World Cup.
In 1962, he became a naturalized Spanish citizen and subsequently played four times for Spain. Three of these games were at the 1962 World Cup.
The Puskas Award — which is one of the top 10 football awards — was named after Ferenc Puskas.
2. Thiago Motta (Brazil & Italy)
Thiago Motta was a midfielder who played for the likes of Barcelona, Athletico Madrid, Inter Milan, and PSG.
At international level, he played for both Brazil and Italy.
He was born in Brazil but became an Italian citizen.
After making two appearances for Brazil in 2003, Motta switched his international alliance to Italy 8 years later in 2011.
He was capped 30 times by Italy and scored once.
Furthermore, Motta appeared at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and at two European Championships — finishing as a runner-up at Euro 2012.
3. Wilfried Zaha (England & Ivory Coast)
Wilfried Zaha broke through as a promising youngster at Crystal Palace.
Having been in England since the age of four, he seemed destined to play for the Three Lions after impressing in their youth teams.
He played two friendly matches for England, totaling a combined 25 minutes.
But following a difficult spell after a big-money transfer to Manchester United, Zaha wasn’t called up again for four years.
Consequently, in 2016, he informed FIFA of his decision to represent his country of birth: Ivory Coast.
Ahead of the 2017 AFCON, Wilfried Zaha switched his allegiance to Ivory Coast. He has since made 30 appearances for the Elephants, scoring five goals.
4. Diego Costa (Brazil & Spain)
Born in Brazil, Diego Costa became eligible to play for Spain through citizenship.
He had already played twice for Brazil in March 2013 but later declared his desire to represent Spain — having been granted Spanish citizenship in July of that same year.
This irritated many Brazilians as the country was set to host the FIFA World Cup in 2014.
Brazil manager Felipe Scolari furiously said that “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.”
Costa made his debut for Spain in March 2014 and represented them at the 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups.
He won 24 caps and scored ten goals.
5. Geoffrey Kondogbia (France & CAR)
Athletico Madrid midfielder, Geoffrey Kondogbia, earned 57 caps for France across its youth levels before making his debut for the senior team in 2013.
He played five times for the French senior team.
As all five matches he played for France at senior level were not in competitive games, Kondogbia was never cap-tied and was still eligible to represent the Central African Republic (CAR) — qualifying through his parents.
He made his international debut for the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2018.
6. Munir El Haddadi (Spain & Morocco)
Munir El Haddadi began his career in the youth ranks of Atlético Madrid before transferring to Barcelona’s La Masia Academy in 2011 — where he won the 2013/14 UEFA Youth League.
He scored on his debut match for the Barcelona senior team in August 2014.
Born in Spain to Moroccan parents, Munir earned one cap for the Spanish national team against Macedonia in 2014.
In 2017, Munir tried to change his international ties to Morocco but was ineligible.
In 2018, he approached the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to review FIFA’s eligibility rule, but his appeal to represent Morocco was denied.
But it sparked a debate concerning FIFA’s rules on switching allegiances, and in 2021, FIFA eventually passed new rules that allowed a player to change their national team. Provided they had made three or fewer (non-competitive) appearances before the age of 21.
Subsequently, Munir El Haddadi finally switched his allegiance to Morocco in 2021 — 7 years after playing for Spain.
He represented Morocco at the 2021 AFCON.
Furthermore, Morocco are one of the 5 African countries that will play at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
7. Iñaki Williams (Spain & Ghana)
Iñaki Williams rose through Athletic Bilbao’s academy and has made over 350 first-team appearances for the club.
He sensationally set a La Liga record of playing over 230 consecutive games.
Furthermore, he scored the winning goal of the 2020/21 Supercopa de Espana against Barcelona.
Born in Spain, Williams made his international debut for the Spanish national team in 2016 and was never called up again thereafter!
In July 2022 — ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup — he announced his desire to represent Ghana.
In September, Iñaki Williams received his first Ghanaian call-up for friendlies with Brazil and Nicaragua. He made his debut against the former.
His younger brother Nico Williams will be playing fot Spain, as they join the list of brothers who play football for different countries.
8. Michel Platini (France & Kuwait)
Former UEFA President, Michel Platini, is regarded as one of the greatest players ever. He won the Ballon d’Or three times in a row (in 1983, 1984, and 1985) and came 7th in the FIFA Player of the Century vote.
He was a key player for France as they won the 1984 European Championship — in which he was the top scorer and Best Player of the tournament.
France also reached the semi-finals of the 1982 and 1986 FIFA World Cups.
Platini retired in 1987. But a year later, he came out of retirement to play in an international friendly match representing Kuwait against the Soviet Union — at the request of the Kuwaiti Emir.
He played just 21 minutes, but by doing so, Platini achieved the rare feat of playing for two different countries at full international level.
9. Declan Rice (Republic of Ireland & England)
Born in England, Declan Rice has Irish paternal grandparents. Thus, he was eligible to play for both countries.
He had represented the Republic of Ireland internationally at both youth and senior levels but famously switched his allegiance to England in 2019.
Rice played in all of England’s seven matches at Euro 2020, where they lost to Italy in the final.
Moreso, he has been included in the England squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
10. Nacer Chadli (Morocco & Belgium)
Nacer Chadli has played for the likes of FC Twente, Tottenham, West Brom, Monaco, and Anderlecht.
Born in Belgium, Chadli initially pledged his international allegiance to Morocco as his father is of Moroccan descent.
He made his debut for Morocco in 2010 in a friendly match, and he was named the Man of the Match.
But Nacer Chadli switched his allegiance to Belgium just a year later in 2011.
He has since made over 60 appearances for Belgium and represented the country at the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and 2018, as well as at UEFA Euro 2020.
- Alfredo Di Stefano (Argentina/ Columbia & Spain).
Di Stéfano played with three different national football teams, namely Argentina, Colombia and Spain.
- Florent Malouda (France & French Guiana)
- Omar Sivori (Argentina & Italy)
- Rogelio Funes Mori (Argentina & Mexico)
- Denzel Dumfries (Aruba & Netherlands).