Adnan Januzaj: will he ever be able to play for England?
The teenager has been courted by the FA, but he could chose one of five other nations
AFTER announcing himself to the footballing world with two goals on his full debut against Sunderland on Saturday, everyone is talking about Manchester United teenager Adnan Januzaj... and his future.
His contract with United runs out at the end of the season but David Moyes is said to be desperate to get him to sign a long-term deal at Old Trafford, while some of the Europe's biggest clubs are hoping to tempt him away.
What makes his decision even more intriguing is that Januzaj, who was born in Belgium to Kosovan-Albanian parents, has yet to declare which country he would like to play for in international football. The youngster could choose to play for the country of his birth, Belgium, as well as Albania, Turkey, Serbia or even Kosovo, although it is not fully recognised by Fifa.
So far the teenager has turned down Belgium's advances, and his refusal to commit himself has led to speculation that he could one day play for England.
How could that happen?
The Independent explains that Fifa's rules basically stipulate that "a player must either be a passport-carrying citizen of a country, be born in a country, or have his parents or grandparents... born there. Plus he cannot have played competitively for anyone else."
What does that mean for England?
That puts Belgium, Albania, Turkey, Serbia and Kosovo in the frame, but not England... yet. Were Januzaj decide to stick with United, turn down the chance to play for another country and stay in England things could change.
How would that happen?
The fine print of Fifa's rules makes things confusing. The Independent believes that not only will Januzaj have to take a British passport and write to Fifa's players status committee, he will have to wait until 2018. The BBC explains that the relevant rule governing residency states a player is eligible only if "he has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association".
Is that the only obstacle?
No. In 1993 the home nations voluntarily agreed to opt out of the residency rule, explains the BBC. Scottish TV company STV (unexpectedly) takes up the story. "As an alternative, the four nations can make a claim to naturalise a player if he received a minimum of five years education on the association's 'territory' before his 18th birthday... Januzaj hasn't received the required length of education in England, having spent just two years in the country, and the rule does not apply to him."
Is there a way round it?
The home nations would have to change their stance, which could happen. After all most other sports have relaxed the rules. "As players born abroad have taken up pivotal positions for the home teams at Lord's, at Twickenham, at the Olympic Stadium and beyond, the debates about where the line should be drawn have raged," says Owen Gibson of The Guardian. "The toxic debate around 'plastic Brits', with its xenophobic undertones, that flared on the eve of the London Olympics was an example of what happens when the debate turns nasty."
So what are the chances?
In reality, slim. "It really is ridiculous even to speculate about Januzaj in an England shirt," moans Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail. "Morally, it would not be right and, in principle, it would contravene an agreement with the other home nations." The Daily Mirror calls the attempt to woo the teenager "desperate and embarrassing". But, as Gibson notes: "His case has also generated a wider debate about whether England could benefit from the influx of overseas youngsters into the academy system." ·