Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

United starlet Januzaj on England's radar but Hodgson will have to bide time

England expects: Aznan Januzaj in the white of Manchester United but it remains to be seen whether he wears an England shirt

ROY Hodgson says the Football Association will have the ultimate say on whether the England manager will be permitted to select Manchester United's Adnan Januzaj, should he elect to play for the country – the latest indication that the governing body would be prepared to accept him.

Januzaj, 19, will be eligible under Fifa regulations to play for England, should he choose to do so, in time for the 2018 World Cup finals.

The naturalisation of players born outside the United Kingdom is a sensitive subject, even though other football nations, especially world champions Spain, have taken advantage of the new rules.

Januzaj would have to remain a resident in the UK for the next four years – in total, five years after his 18th birthday – in order to qualify to play for England.

He also has eligibility for Belgium, his place of birth, Kosovo, Albania, Turkey and Serbia, through parents and grandparents.

The FA has so far avoided involving itself in the Januzaj debate. However, indications are that he and his father Abedin would prefer him to play for England, the country he came to in March 2011 when United signed him as a 16-year-old from the Anderlecht Academy in Brussels.

The question of naturalising elite-level footballers who come to England in order to play at Premier League clubs is a huge issue for the international game.

There are fears that it threatens the very essence of international football. Jack Wilshere's views last year that players should not be naturalised stirred controversy, although the FA will not want to be left behind by more pragmatic nations.

As for Januzaj himself, he has emerged as one of the brightest young talents in the Premier League and is likely to be one of the leading contenders for the Professional Footballers' Association young player of the year award.

Hodgson (pictured) said that Januzaj's international future "is a matter for the FA Board".

"There's no question of that, because it does raise a lot of issues within football," he said.

"It's quite simple, my answer, at the moment and until such time as the FA Board have made it clear in their mind what their policy is going to be, whether it's going to be quite simply following what Fifa dictates, or something slightly different in some way, all I've got to do is wait and see.

"The one thing you've got to understand with Januzaj, whichever way England decide to go, with the way the rules are at the moment there's no way he can play for England for the next few years."

There is also the complication of the Home Nations rule, an agreement between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales that dictates a player must have completed five years' education under the age of 18 in order to qualify.

It was revised in 2009 and the FA would need the agreement of the others that it should be scrapped before being able to select Januzaj. The ideal situation for the FA is that players come through their ranks at junior level, having been developed within the English system.

Naturally, there is no case against any player who comes to the country with his family as economic migrants or asylum seekers.

What is troubling for the FA is the notion of young players, brought into Premier League academies because of their ability, being included in the England teams through residency.

Spain have pursued players who have come to the country and qualified through residency.

Brazilian Marcos Senna was a key part of their Euro 2008-winning team, while coach Vicente del Bosque is expected to select Diego Costa for the World Cup.

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