Should More Big English Talents Switch Allegiances To Other National Teams?

Published on 13 September 2023 at 13:20

With the news of Newcastle United star Harvey Barnes considering switching his international allegiance away from Gareth Southgate’s England to Steve Clarke’s Scotland, how have the likes of Jamal Musiala for Germany and Wilfried Zaha for the Ivory Coast fared after making the move away from the Three Lions…


England is a footballing country once again on the precipice of international success, so it’s no wonder why so many eligible talents are rushing to confirm their allegiance to the Three Lions in a hope of being the one to finally bring football back home.


Declan Rice and Jack Grealish are perhaps the most notable examples, having previously played at an international level for the Republic of Ireland, both now find themselves as well-regarded members of Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions squad. 


But with the competition for places (and the much-maligned selection of certain players without club minutes or recent top level experience) in this current England side, it should be no surprise that more and more fringe players are switching allegiances to nations where they have a better shot of making a mark on the international stage than they would for England.


Here’s just a few once talented youngsters who made the daunting move away from the England National Team, and how well it looks to have fared for them and their newly chosen country.


Jamal Musiala


To become such a dependable player for one of the biggest clubs in world football is something. But to do it whilst only being 20-years-old is even more remarkable. 


Born in Stuttgart but spending his formative footballing years in England, Musiala would have been a truly perfect midfield option for Southgate’s England side, similar to former Bundesliga rival Jude Bellingham in his attacking and midfield versatility. 


Instead, the move to Die Mannschaft has afforded Musiala the opportunity fill the inevitable void Thomas Muller’s eventual retirement from the National Team as the key creative force in Germany’s team, something that may have not been guaranteed in the current Three Lions setup that focuses on a more conservative, defence and possession-focused midfield layout.


Read More: What's Gone Wrong With the German National Team In The Last Decade?


Wlfried Zaha


Once tipped for greatness and a future one-to-watch at Manchester United and for England, Wilfried Zaha’s career instead went down a different path, becoming a club legend at Crystal Palace and switching allegiances to the Ivory Coast in 2017, his country of birth. 


Even as one of the premier footballing nations on the continent, Zaha didn’t experience much success with the Elephants, failing to progress past the round of 16 in all 3 editions of the AFCON he has played in, nor qualifying for either the 2018 or 2022 World Cups. 


Perhaps emerging as a formidable talent at just the wrong time for England, when there was a stranglehold on National Team positions by ‘Big Six’ clubs and minimal spaces for clubs like Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and Brighton, a prime Zaha would likely have truly thrived for England in 2023 as a goal scoring winger and back up centre-forward to Harry Kane. 


Folarin Balogun 


Perhaps the most recent big name to switch his international allegiances, this past Summer saw then-Arsenal and England U-21 striker Balogun become one of the most talked about young players in Europe, after a brilliant breakout season with Reims in Ligue 1.


Securing a big money move to Monaco, Balogun also declared for the United States, where he made a big initial impression in his second cap, securing the USMNT’s victory in the CONCACAF Nations League.


Set to host the next World Cup, Balogun is in the perfect position to make his name on the biggest stage possible as the face of the tournament alongside new compatriots Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna.

Alex Iwobi


Whilst never quite amounting to the legacy of his maternal uncle Jay-Jay Okocha, Iwobi is fully capable of carrying an entire team’s creative output, particularly the lacklustre Everton he arguably carried for the last couple of seasons. 


Initially making the move to the Nigerian National Team in 2015, Iwobi cited the desire to emulate Okocha and winning the AFCON for the Super Eagles as one of his key reasons for switching from the England youth system. The re-emergence of Senegal and Algeria as major African footballing powers has so far dented these hopes so far. 


But like the aforementioned Zaha and Ivory Coast, continental greatness and glory is never truly out of the question for Iwobi and Nigeria, with next year’s AFCON once more giving Iwobi the opportunity to fulfil one of his footballing dreams that he likely wouldn’t have managed with England. 


Harvey Barnes and Elliot Anderson?


Two current Newcastle talents, two future stars for Scotland? 


Both Barnes and Anderson are eligible to play for Scotland through familial ties, and it comes at a fascinating time for both nations in term of international football: Scotland look certain to qualify for the 2024 Euros after a very impressive start to their campaign, and the major tournament would afford Barnes a grand opportunity to impress in his prime, rather than compete with more established England names like Grealish, Saka, Foden and Sterling for the winger positions under the notorious selectively-rigid Southgate.


Anderson however, widely tipped by the Geordie faithful and even Southgate himself as a commendable talent who will only get better and better, has played for Scotland at a youth level, but his recent call-up by Steve Clarke may have sent alarm bells ringing in the England camp to lock down another talent before he succeeds like Musiala is expected to for Germany.


Let us know your thoughts on players switching their allegiances from England to play for other National Teams, and be sure to keep up-to-date on all our content here at HL Division Sport. 


By Jaspar Shepherdson

(@jasparshepmedia on Instagram and Twitter)

Add comment


Andy Fitz
10 months ago

Absolutely no problem with players switching to Scotland from England as long as they're good enough