Top 20 Soccer Players Who Didn't Play For Their Native Country

The nation in which a player represents is often the subject of debate. Players with dual-nationality obviously have tricky decisions to make, often regarding which country they feel a closer allegian

The nation in which a player represents is often the subject of debate. Players with dual-nationality obviously have tricky decisions to make, often regarding which country they feel a closer allegiance to. In some cases though, players use distant relatives or other such weaker arguments in order to play for a country which strengthens their chance of winning international honors, and it is these scenarios which are often frowned upon.

Despite being considered something of a recent issue, South-American born Raoul Diagne represented France way back in 1931. High-profile cases of players such as Ferenc Puskas, Luis Monti, Alfredo di Stefano and even Joe Gaetjens, who one might expect to see on this list are omitted. That is because despite playing for national teams other than their own, all these players did also play for their own national team. As indicated in the title, the list is reserved only for those who played for another national team and not their own, rather than both.

By native country, we simply mean the country in which the player was born. Some players on this list had very justifiable reasons for playing for countries other than their native ones, while others are a little more questionable. Here are the top 20 soccer players who didn't play for their native country:

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

20 Thomas Christiansen


Thomas Christiansen was born in Hadsund, Denmark, yet he chose to represent Spain rather than his native Denmark. Christiansen's decision was an understandable one, being born to a Danish father and a Spanish mother. He represented Spain at the under-21 level while playing for Barcelona, aged 19, and won his first full cap at the age of 20. With hindsight, Christiansen may have regretted his decision, as he won only two caps for Spain and would surely have been a star player in the Denmark squad.

19 Giuseppe Rossi


Fiorentina striker Giuseppe Rossi has won 30 caps for the Azzurri, but he was actually born in the U.S., and more specifically, New Jersey. Born to Italian immigrants, Rossi had the choice of representing either Italy or the U.S. but made his decision early. He'd already represented Italy at youth level by the age of 16, and moved up through the ranks until winning his first full cap in 2008. Following his signing from Villarreal, Rossi's game time at Fiorentina has been hampered by injury and he will be looking to make a positive return in order to be part of Italy's Euro 2016 squad.

18 Deco


There are more Brazilian-born players representing other countries than any other nation. It would have been no difficulty to construct a list of 20 high-profile players native to Brazil representing other nations, and one of the best known cases is Deco. The masterful midfield playmaker proved to be a world class midfielder during his time with Porto, Barcelona and Chelsea. Having been ignored by Brazil, Deco accepted a call-up by Portugal in 2003 and made his debut against Brazil, in which he scored the winner. Deco's inclusion was criticized by many, including Luis Figo, but he went on to win 75 caps.

17 Nani

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Another Portuguese international who was not born in Portugal is former Manchester United winger Nani. The talented but inconsistent wide man was born on the island of Cape Verde, 350 miles off the coast of Western Africa. Nani made his Portugal debut in 2006 and has since won 88 caps for the country. He is not the only former Manchester United star to represent a country other than the one of his birth, with Patrice Evra another who could have made this list. Senegal-born Evra has 67 caps for France.

16 Jong Tae-se


Jong Tae-se gained worldwide fame at the 2010 World Cup when he was seen sobbing uncontrollably during the national anthems prior to North Korea's opening group stage game against Brazil. Japanese-born Tae-se was born in the Japanese city of Nagoya. He has said that both he and his family identify themselves strongly as North Korean, and he made his debut for the DPRK in 2007, as the country's star player. He has scored 15 goals in 33 caps, making him North Korea's all-time top scorer.

15 Edgar Davids


Fiery midfielder Edgar Davids is one of the best remembered players of the 1990s due to his distinctive dreadlocks and eyewear. Davids was also a quality player, who was particularly noted for his combative style, short temper, energy and technique. Born in Suriname, Davids played internationally for Holland, winning 74 caps. Davids had no choice in the matter as the Surinamese FA do not allow those based outside of the country to represent them, and having joined Ajax at the age of 12, he was allowed to represent the Netherlands, a path a few others have taken, as you will see later in the list.

14 Eduardo


Another Brazilian-born player who doesn't represent his native country, former Arsenal striker Eduardo was born in the Brazilian capital of Rio, but plays his international football for Croatia. He moved to Croatia at the age of 16 when he joined Dinamo Zagreb in 1999. Eduardo made his debut Croatia under-21s in 2004, with his chances of international football with Brazil looking unlikely. He made his full debut a year later, and won 64 caps for Croatia, scoring 29 goals before retiring in 2014 following the World Cup.

13 Simone Perrotta


The last man born in England to win the World Cup was not in 1966, but Simone Perrotta in 2006. Perrotta was born in Ashton-under-Lynne in Greater Manchester, England, and lived in the country until the age of 4, when he and his parents moved to Italy. The box-to-box midfielder went on to have an impressive Serie A career, playing 573 games, finishing as a Serie A runner-up four times and winning the Coppa Italia twice. At international level, Perrotta won 48 caps for Italy, winning the World Cup in 2006.

12 Lilian Thuram


France's 1998 World Cup winning squad featured a number of players born outside of mainland France, and whilst Lilian Thuram is the first French international to feature on this list, he is not the last. Thuram was born in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, but made his international debut for France in 1994. He went on to become a crucial player for the team, scoring twice in the 1998 World Cup semi-final. Thuram has 142 caps for France, making him their all-time most capped player.

11 Gonzalo Higuain

Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports

Gonzalo Huguain is one of a number of high quality forwards to have played for Argentina in recent years, but unlike Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez or Sergio Aguero, Higuain was not in fact born in Argentina. The former Real Madrid and current Napoli striker was born in Brest, France, as his father - also a footballer - was playing in France at the time. Higuain holds a French passport and had to apply for Argentine nationality in 2007 in order to play for the national team. He was successful and to date has 52 caps and 25 goals for Argentina.

10 Lukas Podolski

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Former Bayern Munich and Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski was born in the Polish city of Gliwice. Despite this, Podolski's decision to represent Germany is rather understandable. Eligible to play for both nations, when Podolski first broke through at FC Koln, Polish media asked the country's manager whether he was in line for a call-up. He replied by saying that his country had "much better players in Poland". A year later, Podolski accepted a call-up to the German squad. Today he has 126 caps and 48 goals for Germany, winning the 2014 World Cup and finishing second at Euro 2008.

9 Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink


Much like Edgar Davids, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is another Holland international who was born in Suriname. Hasselbaink moved to the Netherlands at the age of 12, just like Davids, and signed his first professional contract with Telstar as a teenager. Hasselbaink later played in Portugal, England and Spain, winning 23 caps for Holland and scoring 9 goals. Hasselbaink is now one of the brightest prospects in English football management as the head coach at Burton Albion, where he is doing an excellent job.

8 Mauro Camoranesi


Mauro Camoranesi was a wonderful player who could have represented either Argentina or Italy at international level. Born in Tandil, Argentina, Camoranesi was eligible to play for Italy through a great-grandfather named Luigi who emigrated to Argentina in 1873. As such, his ties to Italy were far from immediate, yet when Italy showed an interest in him before Argentina, he chose to tie himself to the Azzurri. He went on to win 55 caps for Italy, winning the World Cup in 2006.

7 John Barnes

Peter Robinson/EMPICS

Liverpool legend John Barnes is considered the greatest Jamaican footballer of all time, yet he never played for the Reggae Boyz at international level. Kingston-born Barnes chose instead to represent his adopted nation of England, the country in which he moved to at the age of 12. Barnes won 79 caps for England, scoring 11 goals and being a part of England's fourth-placed World Cup team at Italia '90. He did go on to become part of the Jamaica set-up, managing the country in 2008 and 2009.

6 Marcel Desailly


Joining Lilian Thuram on our list of 1998 World Cup winning players who were born outside of France is Marcel Desailly. Fellow French national team defender Desailly was born in Accra, Ghana, both his parents were Ghanian and he was brought up in the African country. When Desailly chose to represent France rather than Ghana in 1993 there was much controversy, but Desailly has always maintained that he feels France was always the country closest to his heart and has no regrets. He won 116 caps for France, winning the World Cup, European Championships and Confederations Cup.

5 Clarence Seedorf


The last of three Surinamese-born players who became stars of the Holland national team, Seedorf probably trumps Davids and Hasselbaink as the greatest of the lot. One of the most gifted midfielders of his generation, Seedorf won four Champions League trophies, as well as countless other titles, trophies and accolades. He made his Holland debut in 1994 and went on to win 87 caps for the country, twice being named Dutch Footballer of the Year.

4 Pepe

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The third and final Brazil-born player to make this list, Pepe has become one of the first names on the team sheet in the Portuguese national team, yet he was born in Maceio, Brazil. Pepe moved to Portugal in 2001, aged 18. Dunga reportedly approached Pepe with regards to playing for Brazil in 2006, which Pepe declined, and he made his Portugal debut in 2007. The short-tempered Real Madrid defender has 67 caps for Portugal to date, and was sent off in their 4-0 defeat to Germany at the 2014 World Cup.

3 Patrick Vieira

Dave Winter / Icon Sport

Another recurring theme of this list and the last of a collection of 1998 World Cup winners, a titan of the French national team, Patrick Vieira was born in Dakar, Senegal. Vieira moved to France at the age of eight, and his allegiance to the country was never really in doubt. He made his France debut shortly after joining Arsenal in 1997. He went on to become a star of the French team as their midfield enforcer, winning the World Cup, European Championship's and Confederation's Cup as he picked up 107 caps.

2 Miroslav Klose

Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports

Much like Polish-born Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose was also born in neighboring Poland but chose to represent Germany rather than Poland. Klose was born in Opole, Poland, but unlike with Podolski, Poland did everything in their power to convince Klose to represent them, but he turned down the request. He made his Germany debut in 2001 and has gone on to be one of the country's greatest ever players, winning 137 caps and scoring 71 goals. He won the World Cup in 2014, becoming the competition's all-time scorer in the process.

1 Eusebio


Narrowly edging out Miroslav Klose as the greatest player to play for a nation other than their native one is Eusebio. The athletic forward is regarded as Portugal's greatest ever player, with only Cristiano Ronaldo in recent times forming his first genuine competition. Not just Portugal's but one of the world's greatest ever talents, Eusebio won 11 Portuguese titles and one European Cup with Benfica, scoring 473 goals in 440 games. Eusebio was born in Mozambique, but made his Portugal debut in 1961, going on to win 64 caps, scoring 41 goals and winning the Golden Boot at the 1966 World Cup.

Give TheSportster a Thumbs up!

Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheSportster?

Get Your Free Access Now!

More in Soccer

Top 20 Soccer Players Who Didn't Play For Their Native Country