“In the eyes of Grindel and his supporters, I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose.”
-Mesut Ozil, 2018
This was quite the statement made by the German World Cup winner Mesut Ozil. Following a photo with the Turkish President things began to sour with Ozil and his country. It would get worse following Germany’s lackluster group stage exit. Ozil quit the team and he issued quite the statement explaining his reason to retire from the national team side. But what if we told you that Ozil could have avoided all of this by joining the Turkish national team to begin with? In this article we feature 10 players like Ozil that were eligible for other international teams. These current players might have been a better fit on these international sides as you’ll come to realize soon enough.
Ozil deserves more but he truly isn’t the only one. Coming off the World Cup, lots of players needed to play more while others were inexplicably snubbed from the national team rosters. German Leroy Sane is an obvious example. Germany lacked any type of creativity or pace - they could have easily got that with the Manchester City winger. We look at like minded situations in the 10 players that deserve more part of the article.
Without further ado let’s get started. Here are 10 current soccer stars that should have played for a different internationals squad and 10 that deserve more. Be sure to share the article with a friend and let us know your thoughts. Let’s begin!
20 Different Team – Paulo Dybala (Italy)
It could have been a different story for stud forward Paulo Dybala. The Juventus man had a couple of international options. He could have easily joined Poland due to his grandfather’s heritage. His grandmother was of Italian decent – this potentially made Dybala eligible to join the Italian national team side. However he would opt for Argentina feeling as though it was in his blood the most. Nonetheless he became an Italian citizen in the summer of 2012.
At the very least for Italians, the Superstar player is part of Serie A with Juventus.
However ,one has to think how different the Italian squad could have been with Dybala as the centerpiece to the attack.
19 Deserve More – Douglas Costa (Brazil)
It was partially due to injury, however, Douglas Costa needed to play more during the World Cup - particularly during Brazil’s final match of the tournament. Brazil needed to field the very best lineup against a tough Belgium side. Inexplicably both Firmino and Costa started on the bench. No disrespect to Jesus but Costa is clearly the better option. In his short time on the field he did not disappoint from the wing challenging the Belgium defenders at every chance. He was clearly Brazil’s top player in the final match.
He’ll be 31 the next time the World Cup comes around. That’s a shame. At the very least we can see the player in peek form alongside Ronaldo and Dybala heading into the new campaign with Juventus.
18 Different Team - Gonzalo Higuain (France)
He is born in Brest, France. However, more than a decade ago, the potent striker got himself an Argentinean citizenship – both national teams wanted the player, he would select Argentina.
Can you imagine if Higuain had picked his actual place of birth, France?
It would have been the perfect fit especially when assessing France’s weakest position was at striker with underwhelming performances from Olivier Giroud.
It must have been a bitter moment for Gonzalo who was forced to watch Argentina get eliminated while watching from the bench. Making matters worse it was France that ousted his team.
17 Deserve More – Leroy Sane (Germany)
The speedy Manchester City winger was one of the worst omissions from the World Cup. He seemed like a lock to make the team. Heck the 22 year old was named the PFA Young Player of the Year for the ’17-’18 campaign. Nonetheless he did not make the team as Germany decided to select experience over youthful enthusiasm. Getting bounced in the first round the decision was clearly a poor one. He has a dual-citizenship and he could have joined France. One might assume he’s regretting that a little bit these days.
Nonetheless this player deserves more and surely he’ll be a staple in the German roster for a very long time.
16 Different Team - Alphonso Davies (Ghana)
The pride and joy of Canadian football, the 17-year-old is going to play a crucial role in leading Canada during the 2026 World Cup. The prospect recently added to his resume, signing with Bayern Munich. It's a stunning transfer and a historical one. With the transfer being worth $22 million it became the most expensive transaction in MLS history. What a story.
However, the player could have easily opted to join his birth nation Ghana.
Instead just a year ago he passed his Canadian citizenship test and was finally able to suit up for the country. It’s a dream come true for the young player to represent Canada. Canadians should be grateful that he obtained the citizenship.
15 Deserve More – Mauro Icardi (Argentina)
Another player that could have joined the Italian national team – in fact, Italy’s under-19 camp invited the striker to join. He rejected the invitation choosing Argentina instead. See as though he didn’t even make the 23 man squad there might be some regret there.
Adding insult to the situation the Inter striker came off the best campaign of his entire career notching 29 league goals. He tied Ciro Immobile atop the leaderboard. Nonetheless this wasn’t enough to get a spot on the team. Argentina elected to go without a striker against France and it cost them in a big way suffering an early tournament exit. They struggled during the group stage as well.
The 25 year old is at the prime of his career and he must be included the next time Copa America rolls around.
14 Different Team - Raheem Sterling (Jamaica)
He didn’t have the greatest World Cup despite England’s overachieving run. However most would agree that Sterling on the team gives England a much better chance fine form or not. He’s one of the few offense weapons with blistering pace and a terrific attack minded mentality when in top form.
However, Sterling grew up in West London but wasn’t born there; instead he was born in Kingston, Jamaica and lived the during his younger days, before emigrating to England.
At the age of five he fled from Jamaica alongside his mother. He would grow up in London. Sterling would start his international campaign with England’s under-16 team – a national team choice most England supporters must be grateful for.
13 Deserve More - Radja Nainggolan (Belgium)
Nainggolan not making the 23-men Belgium squad is an absolute joke especially when looking at the talent fielded by the third place side. Upfront the team is stacked as De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku led the charge. However the midfield is kind of underwhelming lacking creativity. Fellaini in particular was quite underwhelming. Witsel was no gem either.
The team easily could have fielded Radja. His enthusiasm and leadership skills might have helped during the clash against France. Here’s to hoping he gets the proper respect and plays in upcoming Euro qualification matchups.
12 Different Team – Diego Costa (Brazil)
Born in Lagarto, Brazil, Costa surprisingly suited up for the Brazilian national team twice. The striker would get a Spanish citizenship in the fall of 2013 and he would join the dominant international side.
Even with the change of international teams, both he and Spain played an underwhelming part in the recent World Cup despite the fact that they were heavy favorites to win it all.
Costa and Spain were ousted by underdog host Russia. Perhaps he was daydreaming of getting some service from Neymar and Coutinho instead – however that ship has sailed.
11 Deserve More – Anthony Martial (France)
As we discussed earlier Gonzalo Higuain could have been quite the upgrade at the striker position for the championship French side. However, the team had options internally that might have been better than Giroud. One of them is 22 year old Anthony Martial, a former Golden Boy Award winner for top under 21-player in 2015. Given Antoine Griezmann’s blistering pace and Pogba’s terrific vertical passes Martial’s speed could have played a perfect part in France’s attack.
Perhaps his difficult season with United wrongly made him an afterthought. With a rumored $80 million dollar transfer we hope Martial gets included the next time.
10 Different Team – Pepe (Brazil)
Despite being born in Maceio, Brazil the defender decided to play international football with Portugal. Portuguese soccer fans are likely quite grateful for this decision given the lackluster depth at the back. What’s Brazil’s loss is definitely Portugal’s gain in this instance.
Brazil tried to recruit Pepe back in 2006 as a possible call-up for Dunga’s team. However Pepe rejected the invite and he would get his Portuguese citizenship soon after. The defender had the most memorable game of his international career during the Euro 2016 final. Not only did Portugal shutout the opposition but he also scored the game’s only goal. The veteran was voted Man of the Match.
9 Deserve More - Lorenzo Insigne (Italy)
Needing a goal against Sweden former Italian coach Ventura inexplicably left Lorenzo Insigne on the bench. The player is Italy’s most skilled, the decision raised so many eye brows. Even the most respected Italian Danielle De Rossi was furious on the bench when approached to enter the game as a sub. Needing a goal De Rossi didn’t understand how he was considered and not Insigne. He discussed the situation;
“We have this tendency to warm up three at a time, then after five minutes we change and another three go,” the 36-year-old said. “I just said we were near the end and had to win, so send the strikers to warm up. I pointed to Insigne too.”
What’s done is done. Italy failed to score and qualify while Ventura was let go. Italy’s new mind-set needs to be attack-minded. That said, Insigne must be a fixture on the team permanently moving forward.
8 Different Team - Adnan Januzaj (England)
The Belgium midfielder could have easily landed on a different national team. Albania, Turkey and Croatia were other options for the player. Even England tried to get Adnan onboard by letting him obtain a British citizenship. However FIFA deemed this move invalid due to the fact that he hadn’t spent five years as a resident at that point. He was scraped from Roy Hodgson’s England side and would debut with Belgium later.
Oh the irony as we would score the only goal against England during the World Cup group stage match. It was a sweet goal especially considering all the Premier League criticisms attached to the player. Here’s what he had to say following the game-winning goal;
“In the past in England I had a lot of criticism and now I wanted to show the people that I am here. So you know I am very happy with that.”
7 Deserve More – Dries Mertens (Belgium)
He scored a dazzling goal in the World Cup against Panama. Although in his 30s these days the player still has plenty of pace and he can put the ball in back of the net quite easily. Just ask Napoli fans.
However he should have been used more during Belgium’s World Cup run. In search of a goal he was brought on as a substitute against France but it was far too late. Mertens could have been an easy upgrade on the wing instead of Felaini. Given the creativity of both Hazard and De Bruyne the Napoli forward could have been the perfect fit to complement the front line.
6 Different Team - Gotoku Sakai (USA)
Don’t tell American football fans but the so-called Japanese World Cup player was actually born in New York City. Had he stuck to his roots there is no doubt that the full-back could have aided the American international side. Instead the Hamburger SV captain decided to join the Japanese national team. He would make his debut for the Japan U-20 national side.
His international days appear to be done. Following an emotional rollercoaster against Belgium Sakai announced his retirement from international play. Oh what could have been for the US national team squad?
5 Deserve More – Alex Sandro (Brazil)
It was puzzling to see the omission of a player with a price tag worth more than $50 million from the Brazilian national team. Had it been a forward we might be able to understand due to Brazil’s depth however Alex Sandro offers reliability at the back. Filipe Luis getting selected over the Juventus man is a puzzling decision.
His experience and winning pedigree could have come in handy during Brazil’s World Cup run. Let’s hope the national team doesn’t make the same mistake heading into the Copa America tournament.
4 Different Team - Jorginho (Brazil)
Born in Brazil, the Chelsea man holds a dual citizenship. Although he was born in Imbituba the midfielder grew up in Italy. Both his grandparents are also of Italian decent. He chose to join the Azzurri’s as of 2012 when suiting up for the U21 Italian team.
Due to the decision Italy has a strong player at the heart of the midfield for many years to come. Italy has lots of building blocks to look forward to and one of them is this passing machine in Jorginho. Dare we say he might be the most impressive Italian at the middle of the park since Pirlo? Italian supporters definitely hope so.
3 Deserve More – Paulo Dybala (Argentina)
Yes, Dybala make the list for a second time. The underrated Argentina playmaker didn’t enjoy the finest World Cup experience. Due to the fact that he plays a similar style to Messi holding up the ball he was relegated to bench duty. Those that watch Juventus know what a mistake this was. He made one World Cup appearance as a substitute in the 68th minute. That came against Croatia, a match Argentina lost embarrassingly 3-0.
The international squad needs to make changes and it starts with Dybala. The 24 year old must be a centerpiece to the attack even if Messi is on the field. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts from the World Cup snub playing alongside Ronaldo this season.
2 Different Team – Mesut Ozil (Turkey)
Ozil made quite the statement stepping down from the German national team. Given all the disrespect he had to deal with perhaps the attacking midfielder regrets not joining his other half, Turkey. Problems started to occur when Ozil was photographed with the Turkish president in May. Some German fans questioned his loyalty. However the reality is that Ozil always felt part-Turkish particularly due to the fact that his parents have a Turkish background.
It wasn’t a complete waste as he won a World Cup with the country. However given all the disrespect mixed in with the terrible World Cup 2018 first round exit, Ozil is hoping to put his German international days on the backburner.
1 Deserve More - Jordan Henderson (England)
He isn’t the flashiest player and for that reason lots of fans get on his case. However during the recent World Cup Henderson made quite the statement that he deserves more not only from the team but fans as well. In fact, when he’s in the lineup the team doesn’t lose. Talk Sport released this baffling stat;
“Jordan Henderson has not ended on the losing side in any of his last 28 England matches (W22 D6), the longest unbeaten run of any England player in history. Importance.”
The run came to an end against Croatia however it should be noted that he was off the field and subbed when the game-winner was scored. Love or hate him he deserves a lot more credit.