When Tim Sherwood brought Nabil Bentaleb into Tottenham’s first team, the new Spurs boss claimed there was a small chance the 19-year-old midfielder could eventually play for England. Even though he was mistaken, the speculation still highlighted the player’s uncertain international future. Having less than five years education in England before his 18th birthday, the Lille-born talent isn’t eligible to represent the Three Lions, but with France’s interest in the player having waned after his one under-19 appearance, the midfielder could still represent Algeria – the birth nation of his parents.
On Saturday, the Algerian federation confirmed Bentaleb would exercise that option, with Vahid Halilhodzic set to call in the Tottenham prospect in for the Desert Foxes’ March friendly against Slovenia. If all goes well, an academy player who hadn’t made a senior appearance before late December could go to the World Cup, with the Desert Foxes being one of five nations who will represent Africa this summer in Brazil.
“Football Federation (FAF) president Mohamed Raouraoua met with (Bentaleb), who agreed to play for the country of his parents,” read a FAF statement.
“Bentaleb will be called up for the next phase of the national team’s preparations on 1 March, ahead of the match against Slovenia on 5 March in Blida.”
Nine matches into his Premier League career, it’s a little to early to say how much Bentaleb’s commitment will help Halilhodzic. Odds are he’ll be a non-factor this summer Brazil, though only 19, he could prove a cornerstone player down the road.
If he does cement a spot in the team, Bentaleb will join the large group of Algerian players born and trained in France. When the Desert Foxes faced Burkina Faso in November during Africa’s World Cup Qualification playoffs, only eight player selected by Halilhodzic were born in the north African country. The remainder, like Bentaleb, were born in France.
2 Robbies: Manchester Derby, Liverpool win, draws for Chelsea, Arsenal
Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle look back at a defining derby match between Man City and Man United (00:30), Liverpool’s comfortable win against Fulham (25:45), the stalemate between Chelsea and Everton (31:30) and a hard fought match between Arsenal and Wolves (41:30).
The XI is set in a 3-4-3, with the New York Red Bulls, DC United, and Atlanta United leading the way with a pair of players each.
My predictions? Well, I only got six correct. Whoops. The only absence that really surprises me is Graham Zusi, and Sporting KC not having representation at all. I guess that explains why SKC manager Peter Vermes is going to be announced as the next USMNT– Wait, what’s that? Oh. I’ll stop talking.
2018 MLS Best XI
Goalkeeper: Zack Steffen (Columbus)
Defenders: Kemar Lawrence (RBNY), Aaron Long (RBNY), Chad Marshall (Seattle)
Midfielders: Miguel Almiron (Atlanta), Luciano Acosta (DC), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal), Carlos Vela (LAFC)
Serie A lags behind other top European league in TV money, which has hindered its ability to recruit top end talent relative to its competitors.
Ricci says if American sports see value in bringing their top leagues to Europe, it holds that the reverse would be true. From the BBC:
“If we look at some other more developed leagues in terms of commercial strategy; the NBA and NFL, they are exporting one or two of their matches abroad, to the UK or elsewhere in Europe. I think it is a good strategy. It is a way to export something that is not an exhibition.”
Would a regular season match bring any more eyes or attention than the International Champions Cup, at least enough to offset the sacrifice of atmosphere? It seems doubtful, but the money is the key here. Italy wants to catch up with Spain, Germany, and England.