Top 15 Internationals Who Tried Their Luck In Strange Countries

Naturally the best players play in the best leagues in world football. The top internationals of the modern game tend to play their football in the dominant leagues in England, Spain, Germany or Italy, but what happens before they hit the big time or their careers start to decline?

Some such as the enigmatic Eric Cantona who retired with Manchester United at the age of 30 go out at the very top of the game while others like the legendary Romário seem to cling onto their playing days for too long and eventually become bit-part players travelling around the world in the hope of a game or in some cases a final pay-day.

While we can't begrudge players one final, big contract considering the nature of the relatively short football career, some will say it is sad to watch superstars of the past struggle in weaker leagues as their careers come to an end like the once prolific Brazilian Mário Jardel.

In this article we've compiled a list of top class international footballers who have tried their luck in countries which are considered not to be on the well trodden path in terms of footballing destinations.

15 Clarence Seedorf (Brazil)


The hugely decorated midfielder ended his career in Brazil with Botafogo in January 2014 after two decades at the top of world football. The Dutchman won numerous trophies with Ajax, Real Madrid and Milan before heading to South America to win the 2013 Campeonato Carioca with Botafogo.

At international level, Seedorf represented the Netherlands 87 times, scoring 11 goals. However, his international career came to a somewhat early end in 2008 after an ongoing dispute with the then manager Marco Van Basten.

14 Mohamed Kallon (Lebanon)


Mohamed Kallon is widely considered the best footballer from the Eastern African nation of Sierra Leone to have played professional football. The striker had a successful career in nine different countries, perhaps most notably in Italy with Inter Milan.

Kallon also had a highly successful period with the national team after being capped at 15 years old and going on to captain the side, scoring 14 goals in 35 matches.

13 Pep Guardiola (Qatar/Mexico)


After a long and distinguished career in the heart of the Barcelona midfield, Pep Guardiola headed to Italy first with Brescia and then Roma. His stay in Italy wasn't particularly successful and one which included a drugs ban.

12 David James (Iceland)


Former England international goalkeeper signed for Icelandic outfit Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja (or for ease ÍBV!) ahead of the 2013 season in a player/coach capacity after being released from Bournemouth.

James, who was capped 53 times by England, joined former Portsmouth team-mate Hermann Hreidarsson at the club which is based on Vestmannaeyjar - a wind-battered volcanic rock located off the south coast of the main island of Iceland.

11 Asamoah Gyan (UAE/China)


Asamoah Gyan became English Premier League club Sunderland's record transfer in what was a £13 million fee after a World Cup in South Africa. The Ghanaian played with the Black Cats for just one season before joining Al Ain of the UAE Pro League in September 2011 initially on loan.

It was somewhat of a surprising move since he'd had a good first year in the Premier League and most fans believed that money was the motivating factor to make such a move.

10 Paulinho (Lithuania/Poland)

Before Paulinho made his name back in his homeland with Corinthians and later Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League, the Brazilian midfielder sent time in Eastern Europe in both Lithuania and Poland.

Paulinho joined Lithuanian club FC Vilnius as a 17-year-old and stayed with the capital club for two seasons. However, after suffering a torrent of racial abuse, he decided to move on.

9 Alessandro Del Piero (Australia/India)


After a long and illustrious career in Serie A with Juventus, Alessandro Del Piero headed Down Under to enjoy the twilight of his footballing career. The striker ended his relationship with the Old Lady after the end of the 2011-12 season and joined Sydney FC of the A-League a few months later on a reported $2 million AUD a year.

The Italian played with Sydney for two seasons and had a pretty decent scoring rate with 24 goals in 48 appearances.

8 Gennaro Gattuso (Switzerland)


The former midfield general Gennaro Gattuso ended his playing days in the idyllic Switzerland after a sterling career that saw him pick up 73 caps for the Italian national team.

After winning numerous trophies with AC Milan, Gattuso joined FC Sion in the Swiss Super League after being released from the San Siro on a free. He managed to play 32 games before taking his first steps in management at the club when manager Víctor Muñoz was demoted after a heavy loss.

7 Gary Lineker (Japan)


In what was somewhat of a surprising move considering his goal-scoring exploits the previous season, Gary Lineker, one of England’s finest ever strikers, decided join Nagoya Grampus Eight in the inaugural J. League in 1992.

Lineker had been in fine form the previous season in England after scoring 28 goals in 35 Division One games for Tottenham Hotspur, so the move was a little bit strange.

6 George Weah (Ivory Coast/Cameroon)


By the time George Weah headed to Europe and started to make a name for himself with  Arsène Wenger's Monaco in 1988, the Liberian had played in three African countries - his homeland of Liberia, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

The three-time African Player of the Year had a very brief spell in the Ivory Coast with Africa Sports d'Abidjan before moving on to Cameroon with Tonnerre Yaoundé where he won the Cameroonian League in his one and only season at the club.

5 Roger Milla (Réunion/Indonesia)


The Cameroonian will be remembered fondly by most for his outrageous dance around the corner post after scoring at 1990 Italian World Cup. At 38-years-old, he was one of the stars of the tournament after scoring four goals to help his country reach the quarter-finals where they eventually lost to England.

At club level, the striker spent most of his career with numerous clubs in France after leaving his native Cameroon in 1977. After leaving the French mainland in 1989, Milla played for Saint-Pierroise on the the French overseas department of Réunion in the Indian Ocean.

4 David Villa (USA/Australia)

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Spanish striker signed for Manchester City's American project New York City in 2014 which was a huge coup for Major League Soccer. The World & European Cup winner had just completed a year with Atlético Madrid scoring 15 goals in all competitions, so his European career was far from over.

Due to the League's scheduling differences, Villa was allowed to go on loan to yet another City affiliated club - Melbourne City who play in the Australian A-League. Villa scored two goals in four games for the Australian club before returning to New York for his club's maiden MLS campaign.

3 Claudio Caniggia (Scotland)


Scotland isn't really a weird country apart from Deep Fried Mars Bars but you wouldn't expect an Argentinian international striker to ply his trade in the Scottish Premier League.

That is exactly what happened in 2000 when the Argentine joined close friend and manager Ivano Bonetti at Dundee after successful spells in Italy and his homeland. The legendary striker who won 50 caps for Argentina quickly became Dundee's star player and after a successful season moved onto Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers.

2 Nicky Butt (Hong Kong)


Perhaps not the best international on the list, Nicky Butt was a very capable midfielder during his playing days with Manchester United and Newcastle United in the Premier League which resulted in 39 appearances for England.

1 Rivaldo (Uzbekistan/Angola)


After a hugely successful career in Europe most notably with Barcelona, Rivaldo headed East to Tashkent in the former Soviet state of Uzbekistan to play for FC Bunyodkor.

The 1999 Ballon d'Or winner had just spent four successful seasons in Greek football with huge rivals Olympiacos and AEK Athens, so his decision to move to the unknown team in Uzbekistan sent shock-waves throughout the game even as a 36-year-old.

After three Championships in a row and two Uzbek Cups during his time in Tashkent, Rivaldo returned to Brazil with São Paulo for a season before signing for Angolan club Kabuscorp in 2012.

The oil-rich nation managed to tempt the 39-year-old to Luanda where he scored 11 goals in 21 games to help the club to a fourth place finish in the Girabola; Angola's top division.


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Top 15 Internationals Who Tried Their Luck In Strange Countries