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.

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15 Clarence Seedorf (Brazil)

via flunews.com.br

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.

After retiring in 2014, Seedorf wasn't out of work for long as his old club AC Milan appointed him as head coach. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be with Seedorf being dismissed after just 11 wins in 22 games with the Rossoneri.

14 Mohamed Kallon (Lebanon)

via footmercato.net

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.

After leaving his homeland early in his career, Kallon chose to take the not so well-trodden path of playing football in Lebanon with Tadamon Sour in the southern city of Tyre. After just one successful season in the Middle East, Kallon was again on the move to Italy via a loan spell in Switzerland where he became a household name for football fans across the world.

13 Pep Guardiola (Qatar/Mexico)

via goal.com

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.

In 2003, after rejecting the likes of Manchester United, Guardiola joined Al-Ahli in Qatar in a league that boasted Gabriel Batistuta and the de Boer brothers at the time.  After ending his career with the club, the Catalonian was persuaded by the then manager and friend to join Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico where he played for six months.

12 David James (Iceland)

via dailymail.co.uk

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.

Rather than its football, Vestmannaeyjar is more famous for nature with an estimated eight million puffins calling it home. To put that into perspective, just 1,055 spectators braved the elements to watch James' league debut in a 1-0 victory and a clean sheet against ÍA.

11 Asamoah Gyan (UAE/China)

via ghanavisions.com

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.

Regardless, Gyan was an instant hit on the Arabian Peninsula and scored a remarkable 110 goals in 102 appearances before joining Chinese club Shanghai SIPG in July 2015. It is estimated that he now earns £227,000  per week to lead the line in China.

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.

LKS Lodz of Poland was his next port of call, but sadly, the abuse didn't stop, so after just one season in Poland, Paulinho returned to Brazil and ended up at Corinthians where he developed into a full international for Brazil.

9 Alessandro Del Piero (Australia/India)

via provenquality.com

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.

Del Piero then had a brief stint in the inaugural Indian Super League with Delhi Dynamos FC before finally hanging up his boots in 2015.

8 Gennaro Gattuso (Switzerland)

via fc-sion.ch

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.

Unfortunately, Gattuso didn't last long and was sacked in May of 2013. Today, the World Cup winner manages Pisa who are currently second in the Lega Pro (Third Division in Italy).

7 Gary Lineker (Japan)

via flickr.com

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.

Lineker's Japanese career was blighted by injury which eventually made the striker retire from the game in 1994 after two years in central Japan. Lineker only managed four goals in just 18 games during his time in the far East.

6 George Weah (Ivory Coast/Cameroon)

via fifa.com

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.

Weah was discovered by Cameroon national team coach Claude Le Roy who recommended him to Wenger and the rest is history. Weah went on to be one of the world's top strikers, even picking up the Ballon d'Or in 1995.

5 Roger Milla (Réunion/Indonesia)

via jpnn.com

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.

Milla then returned to Cameroon before finally moving to Indonesia to spend two seasons playing with Pelita Jaya and Putra Samarinda in the Indonesian Premier Division at the grand old age of 42!

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.

Villa scored 18 goals in 30 games to lead his team's scoring charts and getting into the MLS All-Star team.

3 Claudio Caniggia (Scotland)

via thesun.co.uk

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.

Caniggia stayed with Rangers for a few seasons and won the domestic treble with the club in the 2002/03 season under Alex McLeish.

2 Nicky Butt (Hong Kong)

via twominutessport.blogspot.com

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.

On leaving the Magpies in 2010, Butt. alongside former Chelsea striker Mateja Kežman. signed for South China who played in the Hong Kong Premier League. The English midfielder stayed with the club until the end of the season winning both the Hong Kongese League and FA Cups.

1 Rivaldo (Uzbekistan/Angola)

via calcioweb.eu

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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