goalkeeper Manuel Almunia has said he is seriously considering getting a
British passport next January, which would make eligible to play for England on
grounds of residence.
It doesn't say
much about the standard of English goalkeepers that a nation with such a rich
history in that position might enlist somebody who cannot get within a mile of
However, hired guns such as Almunia are now common in
international football, with countries signing up foreign mercenaries with increasing
Brazilians are most countries'
target of choice. There are loads of them and they are really good at football,
meaning plenty of quality uncapped players.
Although, oddly, Jo and Afonso Alves are not among them.
Compare Brazil's riches with England, where any scruffy oik with
a pair of boots, a WAG and a dream can get 20 minutes of action at the end of some friendly.
If Nicky Shorey, David Nugent and Anthony Gardner can get a
game, there is hope for every Sunday league player in the land.
Even at 48, Steve Bruce is probably still England's
best uncapped player.
Here is a selection of international football mercenaries:
Owen Hargreaves (England)
England's best import of recent years. Hargreaves was born
in Canada and could also have played for Wales or Germany.
The odd Bavarian twang in his voice gives him away as somebody schooled in
German ways - as does his superb penalty-taking ability. Sadly, a knee injury
means we may not see him in an England
Andy Townsend (Republic
This man of Kent
captained Jack Charlton's Irish
side, which boasted a few other ringers such as Ray Houghton (Scottish), Terry
Phelan and Phil Babb (both English). The famous 'grandfather
clause' allowed Townsend to win 70
caps and play at two World Cups. Better than Vinnie Jones for Wales, at any
Marcos Senna (Spain)
The Brazilian-born Villarreal man has become a sort of
latter-day Claude Makelele - nobody is quite sure what he does but they are
convinced he is really good anyway. Made his debut aged 29, and was a key member of
the Euro 2008-winning squad. Also serves as evidence that Luis Aragones is not
He might be useless now, but at his peak Deco was one of the
best in the world - Brazil's persistent snubbing of him seems completely baffling.
His inclusion in the Portugal
squad angered senior players including Luis Figo, who stormed: "If you're Chinese, you have to play for China." Yes, but what about
Eduardo da Silva (Croatia)
Born in Rio, Eduardo moved to Croatia aged 18 and made his debut
immediately after gaining citizenship in 2004. Has scored 13 times in 23
appearances for his adopted country, including a cracker against England. His
team-mate Josip Simunic might sound Croatian, but he was born in bred in Australia where
he is known as Joey.
Umit Davala (Turkey)
Davala was one of the stars of the 2002 World Cup, but might
have been playing in Germany,
where he was born and raised by Turkish parents. Yildiray Basturk was another
German-born Turk, although Der Nationalmannschaft got its act together by
snaffling Polish-born strikers Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski.
Chris Birchall (Trinidad and Tobago)
Easily the most recognisable member of the T&T squad at
the 2002 World Cup as he was the Caribbean
nation's only white player. And, for
that matter, the only one from Staffordshire. Birchall qualifies as his mother
was born in Port of Spain,
and consequently he has been nicknamed 'Me
Fredi Kanoute (Mali)
France are more used to nicking players from African
countries - such as the peerless Patrick Vieira of Dakar - but got a taste of
their own medicine when former French Under-21 international Kanoute took
advantage of new rules to play for Mali. Although his enthusiasm cooled after
he was chased by angry fans.
Colin Kazim-Richards (Turkey)
Now known as Kazim Kazim because the Turks rightly decided
that Colin was a silly name, the winger was one of the surprise packages of
Euro 2008. Particularly surprising for anyone who had followed his unremarkable
career in England.
Kazim, whose mother is Turkish, has flourished since joining Fenerbahce.
Antonio Naelson (Mexico)
Another Brazilian-born player, Naelson is worth remembering
because he might just get Sven-Goran Eriksson the sack. Svennis has discarded the
Toluca playmaker from the Mexico squad,
provoking outrage. Sven cannot win - he had earlier been criticised for picking too many
foreign-born players, such as Villarreal's
Omar Sivori (Italy)
Back in the day, players swapped countries all the time
(Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Ladislao Kubala to name three), but nobody
profited more than Italy who trotted out a host of Argentine-born players. Sivori
was perhaps the best, although he played just nine games for the Azzurri in
1961 and 1962, scoring eight times.
Got any more? Leave your favourite football mercenaries on
the message board below.
- - -
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What were you doing punching the corner flag? You're a crazy man, a crazy man." Fabio Capello
lays down the law to Wayne Rooney.
FOREIGN VIEW: On the theme of international impostors, Luca
Toni has come out against the idea of Juventus'
Brazilian-born striker Amauri playing for Italy:
"Amauri to Italy?
I wouldn't agree with it. We have
great champions in Italy.
Marco Di Vaio and Giampaolo Pazzini, for example. Those two strikers do not
have any identity or passport problems."