Do you know there are some players who chose not to play for England? The England national team is one of the biggest and most star-studded national teams in the world. So why will anyone not choose to play for England you may ask.
Players who chose not to play for England
Almost every footballer who is eligible to play for them prays and hopes to one day get a call-up. But there have been quite a number who have had the opportunity to play for the Three Lions and have turned it down. Here are 10 footballers who chose not to play for England.
1. Jamal Musiala
Jamal Musiala is widely recognized as one of the most talented teenagers in the world of football today. At just 17, he solidified his position as a regular player for Bayern Munich’s first team, attracting interest from multiple national teams vying for his allegiance.
In the past two years, Musiala has been eligible to play for several countries, including Nigeria, Germany, England, and Poland. His mother is Polish, his father is British-Nigerian, and he was born in Germany.
Ultimately, the young talent chose to represent his country of birth in 2021, a decision that was far from easy, evident from his diverse youth career.
He initially played for England’s under-15 team while at Chelsea’s academy before moving to Germany’s under-16 squad. Following his move to Bayern, Musiala returned to England’s youth system, featuring in the under-16, under-17, and under-21 teams.
During this period, England felt confident about securing his international commitment. However, Musiala chose to represent Germany at the senior level, breaking English hopes when he announced his decision on February 24, 2021. Shortly after, he received a call-up to the German national team and made his debut just days later.
When asked why he opted for Germany over England, Musiala explained that the decision came down to a strong internal feeling:
“I just listened to the feeling that, over a long period, kept telling me that it was the right decision to play for Germany, the land I was born in.”
2. Alex Iwobi
Similar to Musiala, Iwobi had the option to play for either England or Nigeria. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, he spent his formative years growing up in London. Like Musiala, Iwobi also represented England at the youth level and notably secured the Victory Shield with the England under-16 team.
However, in 2015, he declared his intention to represent Nigeria at the senior level, breaking away from choosing England.
Explaining the reasoning behind his decision, Iwobi stated;
“My entire family hails from Nigeria. I was born there, and my uncle, Jay-Jay Okocha, is a revered legend in Nigeria… So, I made the decision to switch.”
3. Gareth Bale
Bale is undeniably Welsh at heart. From his early years in youth-level football, his determination to represent Wales was unwavering. It was always Wales or nothing for him. In fact, before his debut with the senior team, his agent suggested the idea of playing for England, to which Bale vehemently opposed. He even threatened to dismiss the agent for such a proposition.
Jonathan Barnett himself revealed that when he brought up the possibility of playing for England to Bale, the Real Madrid player responded sharply:
“Never bring that up again if you wish to continue as my agent.”
This incident showcases the depth of Bale’s attachment to Wales. When he famously stated, “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order,” it was evident he was dead serious about his priorities.
4. Scott McTominay
McTominay was born in England to Scottish parents, making him eligible to play for either country.
Upon his breakthrough into the Manchester United first team in 2017, he quickly gained recognition as a sought-after midfielder. Despite this, England appeared hesitant to call him up, given their already densely populated midfield.
At that time, his manager at Manchester United, Jose Mourinho, advised him to forego the idea of playing for England. In February 2018, Mourinho even directly approached the then-Scotland coach, Alex McLeish, urging him to consider McTominay for the Scottish national team, expressing that “it seems like England is overlooking him.”
Consequently, McTominay received a call-up from Scotland the following month. After his initial two appearances for the national team, the Manchester United midfielder expressed his sentiments:
“I always aspired to play for Scotland since I was a young boy, and it was an incredibly proud moment for me when the coach called me up. Hopefully, I can continue to perform well and contribute.”
5. Erling Haaland
Yes, even the 2020 Golden Boy had eligibility to play for England. We’re all familiar with his father, right? For those old enough to remember, Alf-Ing Haaland was a Premier League star in the ’90s and early 2000s.
In 2000, he was playing for Leeds United when Erling was born in Leeds in July of that year.
Consequently, Erling was eligible to represent both England and his parents’ country, Norway.
As we know, he opted for Norway, despite the likelihood of having more opportunities for an international trophy with England. Yet, the Man City player wasn’t concerned about that.
6. Wilfried Zaha
Zaha was born in Ivory Coast, but when he was just 4 years old, he and his family relocated to London. Consequently, he was eligible to play for both England and Ivory Coast.
His initial preference was clearly England. He featured for the under-19 and under-21 teams and notably received a call-up to the senior team by former Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson, who was the England manager back in 2012.
He played two games for the Three Lions, although neither of these appearances were in competitive matches. Therefore, when he requested that FIFA allow him to switch his allegiance to his birth country, Ivory Coast, in 2016, his wish was promptly granted.
Since then, he has gone on to represent The Elephants in three international tournaments.
7. Michail Antonio
Antonio’s international journey has been nothing short of a rollercoaster.Born in London to Jamaican parents, Antonio was eligible to represent both Jamaica and England.
Initially, in March 2016, he declined Jamaica’s call, aiming to feature for his birth country, England. His dream seemed within reach when he received an England call-up later that year for a World Cup qualifier, although he didn’t play.
The subsequent year, another call beckoned, but an injury forced his withdrawal from the squad. Fast forward to 2021, Antonio’s allegiance seemed to shift towards Jamaica. He expressed a keen interest in assisting Jamaica’s World Cup 2022 journey. In February, he publicly announced his desire to play for Jamaica and commenced processing a Jamaican passport.
However, a 19-man shortlist released by Jamaica on March 17, 2021, didn’t include the Premier League striker. Rumors circulated that his indecision, potentially waiting for an England call, might be the reason for his exclusion.
Three months later, he committed definitively and found himself included in the 60-man squad for the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Unfortunately, he missed the final 23-man shortlist due to delays in securing his Jamaican passport. At this point, it’s crucial to note that he still held the option to play for England.
Come August 2021, he had secured his Jamaican passport and landed a spot in the 35-man list for World Cup qualifiers. Yet, COVID-19 travel restrictions prevented him from joining the squad in Mexico for the initial game. Finally, at the age of 31, on September 5, 2021, he made his long-awaited competitive international debut in a World Cup qualifier against Panama.
In summary, Antonio’s journey was a tumultuous ride. Ultimately, he chose to represent Jamaica after a series of twists and turns, abandoning the opportunity to play for England.
8. Adnan Januzaj
Before 2014, Januzaj had eligibility to play for several countries, including Belgium, Kosovo, Turkey, Serbia, and Croatia. However, Kosovo was not a FIFA-recognized team at the time, thus eliminating it from consideration.
Serbia, Turkey, and Croatia were subsequently ruled out, as Adnan’s father mentioned they had no genuine connections with these countries.
Although his parents, who are Kosovar-Albanian, favored the idea of their son playing for Albania, they expressed disappointment with what Adnan’s father referred to as unprofessionalism from the Albanians.
With only Belgium remaining on the list, England entered the scene, expressing interest in the young talent who was then playing for Manchester United. As he had been residing in England since the age of 16, the possibility of him naturalizing as a UK citizen arose. If this occurred, Roy Hodgson was poised to call him up.
However, Januzaj wasn’t particularly interested in that opportunity. In 2014, he chose to represent Belgium and participated in the World Cup held in Brazil that same year.
9. Matty Cash
This one is fairly recent, so you may recall what transpired. Cash, born in England, has a Polish mother. In 2021, he secured a Polish passport and expressed his desire to represent the Poland national team rather than England.
Following this, he was promptly called up in November and made his debut in a World Cup qualifying game against Andorra.
10. Ademola Lookman
Lookman, born in London to Nigerian parents, had eligibility to play for both England and Nigeria until this year.
Initially, it appeared England was in a more favorable position to secure his commitment. The Leicester City forward had played for England’s under-19s, under-20s, and under-21s.
Nevertheless, Nigeria was eager to secure the youngster’s allegiance. Lookman even had a meeting with the president of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in 2018, but he declined the opportunity to play for the Super Eagles.
In 2020, the NFF announced Lookman’s representation for Nigeria at the senior level. However, Lookman stated,
“I’ve not changed my mind about wanting to represent England.”
After rejecting their advances on three occasions, Lookman eventually submitted a request to FIFA to switch his international allegiance to Nigeria. Upon approval, he left behind his dream of the Three Lions and made his debut for the Super Eagles in a World Cup qualifier against Ghana in March 2022.