Jack Wilshere sparks debate: Should Adnan Januzaj be allowed to play for England?

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The FIFA rules regarding player nation eligibility are muddy, murky, and downright confusing.

However, reports all over England are indicating Roy Hodgson will try his hardest to recruit Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj, despite the player being of Belgian and Kosovan descent.

Even if he ultimately cannot play for England, he is already eligible to represent five (!!) countries: Belgium (his birthplace), Kosovo (his parents’ birthplace), Turkey (his grandparents’ birthplace), Serbia and Albania (due to the disputed political status of Kosovo).

Isn’t that a bit ridiculous? Jack Wilshere thinks so.

“The only people who should play for England are English people” Wilshere emphatically told the Daily Mail. “If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years I’m not going to play for Spain.”

If Januzaj continues to shine for Manchester United, obviously Hodgson will push hard for his services.  But, while maybe harsh, broad, and a bit ignorant, Wilshere makes his point.

What makes someone a member of a certain nationality? Must you hold a passport to a certain country to represent them? Can you only represent the country you were born in? What about the nationality of your parents or relatives?  What of players born elsewhere, but move to their home countries while very young and are raised there?

source: APThe lines are incredibly blurry, and nobody knows the right answer – or if there even is one.  But Wilshere certainly believes, in this case, it’s wrong.

“We have to remember what we are, we are English and we tackle hard and we are tough on the pitch and we are hard to beat. We have great characters. You think of Spain and they are technical, but you think of England and you think they are brave and they tackle hard.”

While style of play may not be the biggest issue, the Arsenal star certainly makes his opinion clear.

The rules are quite confusing.  Reports dispute whether Januzaj can play for England after this year, or whether he would have to wait until 2018.  The latter is more likely, since FIFA requires a player remain in his home country for a full five years after the age of 18, or gain five years of schooling in that country before 18.

Januzaj – exactly 18 years old – has completed neither, but some in England still cling to a lingering FIFA statute that states a player is eligible for a country after living there for two years.  This statute was replaced by the five-year rule, but for some reason was not stricken from the rule book.  While an unlikely loophole, it remains to further muddy the waters.

Is your head spinning yet? If not, you’re better than most.

Whether Januzaj is eventually able to play for England or not (it seems unlikely), the rules remain both confusing and off the target.  It would seem some serious work must be done.

But what makes someone English? Or French? Or Belgian? Or American? It’s a tough job, but the line must be drawn somewhere, and it’s what FIFA must begrudgingly do.

Report: USMNT’s Arriola drawing transfer interest abroad, in MLS

AP Photo/LM Otero
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Paul Arriola’s motor was constantly running as the United States men’s national team claimed its sixth Gold Cup title, and it could drive him all the way from Club Tijuana to Europe or a prime spot on an MLS roster.

There’s a snag, though.

[ MORE: Everton wins Europa opener ]

Arriola is reportedly wanted by Real Salt Lake and clubs in both the Netherlands and Portugal, but the LA Galaxy has what Goal.com describes a “dubious homegrown player” claim on Arriola, who participated in a minimal of practices with the Galaxy when he was younger.

As you’ll see below, there isn’t much “homegrown” about it and, to its critics, it is peak MLS monopolized tomfoolery. Here’s how Goal describes it:

“He was already a U.S. youth national team player when he traveled the 120 miles from Chula Vista to take part in a handful of training sessions with the LA Galaxy academy and eventually the Galaxy first team.

“The Galaxy are believed to hold a homegrown player claim on Arriola, and would have the right of first refusal on making Arriola an offer if he comes to MLS. The Galaxy’s current salary-cap situation might not allow them to make a serious bid for Arriola.”

But… here’s how the Galaxy described his choosing to sign for TJ instead of a pro deal from LA in 2013:

“It’s a little disappointing,” Galaxy technical director Jovan Kirovski told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday. “He went through our system, we offered him a contract and he decided to move on and go somewhere else. But that’s going to happen. It’s something that has happened before, and it’s something that will happen again.”

Arriola’s response in the same article? “I thank the Galaxy for giving me a wonderful opportunity to train with their first team and be a part of their first team which really taught me a lot.” That doesn’t read as much like he “went through their system.” He played in at least one U-18 game, debuting in October 2012, did more training with TJ in December 2012, and signed for the Mexican side in May 2013.

Should that qualify him as Homegrown?

https://www.transfermarkt.com/paul-arriola/leistungsdaten/spieler/189876

Did Arriola spent significant time with LA, or is it possible the Galaxy might reap rewards from having an already established youth national teamer to practice when he was a kid? Whether you’re okay with that or not, consider that it encourages clubs to pilfer rights without actually registering or training the player.

Not to mention there is no guarantee that playing in the Netherlands or Portugal will be better for his development than MLS. Benfica or Ajax and potential action in European tournaments? Maybe. NAC Breda or Tondela? Maybe not.

Nevermind the quagmire that is American youth soccer clubs’ not earning money from transfer fees, the Arriola drama seems baseless. We don’t know the Galaxy will hold the player hostage, but they would actually be depriving MLS of a talent, as LA would theoretically get nothing should TJ sell him to a European club.

In any event, check out Arriola’s use chart from Tijuana and you’ll see why he’s valued by Bruce Arena as well as his suitors. He’s a Swiss Army Knife. Here’s hoping Tinseltown doesn’t stop him from a proper next step (assuming he’s ready to leave Liga MX).