For many people, representing one’s country and playing international football should be the pinnacle of a player’s career, believing there ought to be great pride and honor in representing your country. However, there are a number of examples in which this does not appear to be the case. A player representing two or more countries over their career certainly seems at odds with such ideals, as it seems difficult to believe a player could have such passion and attachment to more than one nation.
Swapping national teams prior to the 1960s, when FIFA took the decision to implement far tighter restrictions, was not a particularly rare occurrence. Some of the greatest players of their day swapped national teams, sometimes more than once, as you will see. Even since the new rules have come in a player can still swap national teams providing they haven’t played in a competitive fixture for their first national team.
This list includes 15 interesting cases of players who played for more than one country. The list spans almost a century, with players from the pre-World Cup era right up until the modern day. They are not necessarily ordered in terms of ability, but sometimes the situation surrounding the swap, the impact of the decision and other such matters. Here are the top 15 soccer players to play for more than one country:
15. Diego Costa
A modern day example of a player who has played for two national team, Diego Costa represented his native Brazil twice before making the controversial decision to switch his allegiances and play for Spain instead. Costa, a La Liga and Premier League winner who seems to have controversy follow him wherever he goes played for Brazil against Italy and Russia, but as the games were friendlies, FIFA granted him permission to switch national teams. There was some anticipation as Costa headed to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil with Spain, but as it happened, both countries’ tournaments ended in humiliation.
14. Enrique Guaita
Some 80 years before Costa, Enrique Guaita made the decision to switch from playing for a South American nation to a European one. Guaita, a talented striker who played for Estudiantes, Roma and Racing Club, first played for Argentina, but having joined Roma in 1933 he made the decision to begin playing for Italy, ahead of the 1934 World Cup.
Guaita won the World Cup with Italy, and was also the top scorer in Serie A in 1934-35. Even more unusually, having returned to Argentina in 1936, Guaita resumed playing for the Argentine national team once more.
13. Nacer Chadli
Unlike many on this list, having been born in Belgium but being of Moroccan descent, it is more understandable that Nacer Chadli had a tricky decision to make with regards to which country he represented at the international level. Chadli was first called up to the Morocco squad in 2010, aged 21, and accepted the call-up, winning one cap against Northern Ireland. A year later Chadli switched his allegiances though, and the Tottenham winger has since won 30 caps for Belgium, scoring three goals.
12. Jermaine Jones
Born in Frankfurt, the son of a U.S. Army soldier stationed in West Germany, Jermaine Jones was eligible to play for both Germany and the United States. He had split ties, not only was he born in Germany to an American father but his childhood was split between the two nations, having lived in Chicago until his parents divorced, at which time he returned to Germany. Having played for Germany’s U-21s, Jones won his first full cap in 2008, going on to win three caps for Germany before switching national teams. The New England Revolution defensive midfielder now has 54 caps for the USMNT.
11. Joe Kennaway
One of the earliest examples of a player representing more than one national team, Joe Kennaway was a goalkeeper born in Montreal. He began playing for Montreal CPR in the American Soccer League as a teenager, and later played for Providence FC, Fall River FC and New Bedford Whalers and Celtic. Kennaway won his first and only cap for Canada in 1926 at the age of 21, before making his first and only cap for Scotland in 1933, as well as representing the Scottish League XI four times. Kennaway is also rumored to have played for the United States although there is no evidence of this.
10. Raimundo Orsi
The second of three Argentines who played for Italy in the 1930s to make this list, like the others, Raimundo Orsi won the World Cup with Italy in 1934, as well as winning two Central European International Cups, in many ways the predecessor to the European Championships. Orsi, a quick left winger, won three league titles in Argentina, in which time he won 13 caps, and won the Copa America in 1927 before moving to Italy. In Italy he won five Serie A titles with Juventus, 35 caps, scored 13 goals and won the aforementioned three major tournaments, being named in the 1934 World Cup Team of the Tournament.
9. Josef Bican
One of the most prolific goal scorers the game has ever known, Josef Bican scored 607 goals in 406 league games, and over 800 goals in all competitions. The IFFHS awarded Bican the “Golden Ball” as the greatest goal scorer of the 20th century. Best known for being a part of the German Wunderteam of the 1930s, with whom he scored 19 goals in 30 games.
While playing for Slavia Prague, Bican applied for Czech citizenship, going on to score 12 goals in 14 games for Czechoslovakia. Renowned for his lightning pace, Bican once ran the 100 meters in 10.8 seconds, and later played for a third nation, winning a cap for Bohemia and Moravia in 1939, in which he scored a hat-trick.
8. Thiago Motta
Former Barcelona midfielder Thiago Motta has played for a number of top European clubs over the last decade, namely; Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Genoa, Inter Milan, and since 2012, PSG. A powerful midfielder with good vision and passing abilities, Motta has won 18 trophies at club level, including league titles in Spain, Italy and France, as well as winning the Champions League twice.
Motta first played internationally for his native Brazil, winning two caps in 2003, but having not been recalled for eight years, in 2011 he accepted a call-up from Italy, and has – to date – won 23 caps for the Azzurri.
7. Darko Pancev
A European Golden Boot winner and Ballon d’Or runner-up in 1991, Darko Pancev was at one time one of the most feared strikers in Europe. In a rather unusual career, Pancev was irresistible in Yugoslavia, scoring 168 goals in 243 games, including strikes against the likes of Bayern Munich, Dynamo Dresden, Rangers and Grasshopper as Red Star Belgrade won the 1991 European Cup. After this, Pancev was just about the hottest property in Europe, and he joined Inter Milan for a world record transfer fee in 1992, where his career would flop and never recover.
Pancev scored 17 goals in 27 caps for Yugoslavia and one goal in six games for Macedonia. He was named Macedonia’s Best Player of the last 50 years at the UEFA Jubilee Awards.
6. Laszlo Kubala
In 1999, when Barcelona held their centenary celebrations, Laszlo Kubala picked up the most prestigious award going, being named the club’s greatest ever player. Kubala emerged like so many of the brightest talents of his day in Hungary, born in Budapest and living there until the age of 22 when he began playing in the Serie A. Two years later he joined Barcelona, where he went on to spend a decade, scoring 131 goals in 186 league games, winning 14 trophies including four La Liga titles.
It could be said Kubala represented five different national teams, although only three were FIFA affiliated. He won caps for Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Spain, Catalonia and Europe XI. He played the most games for Spain, with whom he won 19 caps, scoring 11 goals.
5. Juan Alberto Schiaffino
One of the greatest playmakers of all-time, Juan Alberto Schiaffino was widely regarded as the most talented member of the 1950 Uruguay World Cup winning squad. Born in Uruguay, Schiaffino did not leave the country until he joined AC Milan in 1954, aged 29. By that stage he had amassed 21 caps for his country, scoring eight goals, including one in the World Cup final. An exceptional passer of the ball, Schiaffino spent eight years in Italy with Milan and Roma, in which time he won four caps for Italy, having been granted permission to play for the Azzurri due to his paternal grandfather who was from Genoa.
4. Michel Platini
The currently suspended president of UEFA, Michel Platini is something of an unusual case on this list. A Ligue 1, Serie A, European Cup and European Championship winner who won three Ballon d’Ors and took France to two World Cup semi-finals; most would probably consider Michel Platini, along with Zinedine Zidane, to be France’s greatest player of all time. He won 72 caps for France, scoring 41 goals from midfield and having great success, most notable at Euro ’84.
Aged 33, a year after retiring from football with Juventus, Platini played for another national team though, making an appearance for Kuwait in a friendly against the Soviet Union.
3. Ferenc Puskas
A legend of the game and one of the most gifted players to have ever lived, Ferenc Puskas is an icon in Hungary, and a hero at Real Madrid. Born in Budapest, Puskas lived in Hungary until the age of 31, when he joined Los Blancos. Naturally then, Puskas played for Hungary, being the star player of the great Magical Magyars team which won the Balkans Cup, Olympic Gold, Central European Championships and should have added a World Cup, but for the Miracle of Bern in 1954. Puskas won 85 caps for Hungary, scoring 84 goals, but later spent a year playing for Spain, winning 4 caps.
2. Alfredo Di Stefano
Regarded by many to be the most complete footballer to have ever lived, Alfredo Di Stefano was a teammate of Puskas’ at Real Madrid, and he too made the transition to playing for the Spanish national team whilst playing in Madrid. Di Stefano actually played for three national teams; firstly his native Argentina, then Colombia and finally Spain. He scored six goals in six caps for Argentina, six goals in seven caps for Colombia and 23 goals in 31 caps for Spain, but tragically never played in a World Cup.
The five-time European Cup winner, two-time Ballon d’Or winner and member of the World Team of the Twentieth Century was even named as Spain’s greatest player of the last 50 years in 2003.
1. Luis Monti
Luis Monti makes top spot on this list due to holding the remarkable achievement of being the only player to have played in a World Cup final with two different national teams. Monti was much the same as Guaita and Orsi in that he made his name in Argentina before moving to Serie A and subsequently playing for Italy. Monti, who was an exceptional all-round midfielder, was ruthless and tough with great vision and became a star in Argentina with San Lorenzo, before joining Juventus at the age of 29.
He made his Italy debut two years later. In total, he won 16 caps for Argentina and 18 for Italy, reaching the World Cup final with Argentina in 1930 and winning the tournament with Italy in 1934. He was named in the World Cup Team of the Tournament on both occasions. Monti also won an impressive eight league titles; four in Argentina with Huracan and San Lorenzo, and four in Italy with Juventus.
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