Roy Hodgson says the English FA board will have the ultimate say on whether the England manager will be permitted to select Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj, should he elect to play for the country, the latest indication that the governing body would be prepared to accept him as an international.
Januzaj (19) will be eligible under Fifa regulations to play for England, should he choose to do so, in time for the 2018 World Cup finals. The naturalisation of players born outside the United Kingdom is a sensitive subject, even though other football nations, especially world champions Spain, have taken advantage of new rules.
Januzaj would have to remain a resident in the UK for the next four years – five years after his 18th birthday – in order to qualify. He also has eligibility to play for Belgium, his place of birth, Kosovo, Albania, Turkey and Serbia, through parents and grandparents.
The FA have so far avoided involving themselves in the Januzaj debate because his potential eligibility would not be earned until 2018. But the indications are now that he and his father Abedin would prefer him to play for England, the country he came to in March 2011 when United signed him as a 16-year-old from the Anderlecht academy in Brussels.
The question of naturalising elite-level footballers who come to England in order to play at Premier League clubs is a huge issue. There are fears that it threatens the very essence of international football. Jack Wilshere's views last year that players should not be naturalised stirred controversy, although the FA will not want to be left behind by more pragmatic nations.
As for Januzaj himself, he has emerged as one of the brightest young talents in the Premier League and is likely to be one of the leading contenders for the Professional Footballers' Association young player of the year award.
Hodgson said that Januzaj's international future "is a matter for the FA board". He said: There's no question of that, because it does raise a lot of issues within football.
"It's quite simple, my answer, at the moment and until such time as the FA board have made it clear in their mind what their policy is going to be, whether it's going to be quite simply following what Fifa dictates, or something slightly different in some way, all I've got to do is wait and see."
Spain have pursued players who have come to the country and qualified through residency. The Brazilian midfielder Marcos Senna was a key part of their Euro 2008-winning team. The national team manager, Vicente del Bosque, is expected to select Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, another naturalised Brazilian, in his World Cup squad, possibly at the expense of another high-profile striker.
(© Independent News Service)