African players wearing the national shirts of European nations seem to have become an accepted norm in football. This worrying trend that began during the middle of the 20th century looks to have gained much strength and while players in the Americas, Asia, and Europe have, for the most part, stayed patriotic to the nations of their descendants, this doesn’t seem to be the case on the continent where humanity itself began.
Here is African Football HQ’s selection of some top African talents that decided Europe to be a better fit.
Paul Pogba (France – Guinean)
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba is arguably the most well-known player of Africa’s latest lost generation. Although his parents were born in Guinea, one of the world’s most expensive players traded the continent for Les Blues (a common theme in this article). He won the Golden Ball award at U20 level to lead France to a youth world title in 2013. He would go on to do one better in 2018 with a FIFA World Cup title in Russia. Suffice to say, one would hugely doubt whether the same success would have followed him, had he chosen Guinea.
Ansu Fati (Spain – Guinea-Bissau)
After being the youngest player at age 17 to make his Spanish debut in 84 years, Ansu Fati is a talent that had multiple options which included Portugal and Guinea-Bissau which was clearly bottom of the selection list. His father tried to persuade him to play for A Seleção but chose La Rojita instead.
Eduardo Camavinga (France – Angola)
Angolan-born midfielder Eduardo Camavinga has become the latest African talent to fall prey to the lure of the Gallic Rooster. Moving to France at the age of 10 after their home in Miconje burned down the teenager has pledged his international future to his clearly adopted home. Starting the new Ligue 1 season strongly after scoring a lovely solo goal for Rennes against Montpellier HSC, it’s sad that Camavinga will not grace an African Cup of Nations tournament.
N’golo Kante (France – Mali)
The beaming smile of the ever-present N’golo Kante could have easily shone in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. Former Leicester City assistant manager Steve Walsh told the Sunday Times that Kante made his desire to play for Mali clear after the Chelsea player said, “I want to play for Mali, my parents are from Mali.” However, Walsh convinced the 31-year-old that France would be a better option which he subsequently chose.
Adama Traore (Spain – Mali)
Flying Wolverhampton Wanderers winger Adama Traore simply chose Spain over Mali. The FC Barcelona La Masia graduate was well aware of his Malian roots. The West African nation even approached him, telling Goal.com that he was given a Les Aigles shirt, but went against it and chose the country of his birth instead.
Houssem Aouar (France – Algeria)
Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar has gone the same route as many Algerians choosing the blue of France over the Desert Foxes and current AFCON holders. Staking his claim as one of OL’s most influential players, the Lyon-born talent chose Europe and a very competitive midfield instead of virtually walking into the North African nation’s side. With the likes of Hillal Soudani and Adlène Guedioura having reached the twilights of their careers respectively, Aouar would have been a perfect long-term fixture alongside Ismaël Bennacer.
Blaise Matuidi (France – Angola/Congo)
World Cup winner and defensive midfielder Blaise Matuidi is also another lost son of the African soil. Born in Toulouse France, he had an option of three national teams, Angola, DRC, and Les Blues, of which he chose the latter. Although he now finds himself in the Major League Soccer with the newly formed Inter Miami, Matuidi became one of the key pillars during his time at Juventus and Paris-Saint Germain.
Abdoulaye Doucouré (France – Mali)
Although Abdoulaye Doucoure hasn’t won a cap for France yet, with his move to Everton he could certainly receive a call-up should Didier Dechamps rotate the squad during the UEFA Nations League campaign. The 27-year-old publically rejected Mali according to getfootballfrance in 2019 and is still hopeful of a Les Blues call-up.
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium – DRC)
Belgian born and bred Romelu Lukaku like many of the players on this list, received his football education in Europe. Storming onto the scene at R.S.C. Anderlecht as a teenager and taking the Jupiler Pro League by storm, the Red Devils insured that ‘The Rom’ would represent the small nation. Since then, he’s gone on to become the nation’s top goal scorer. I guess the path was set for him as a youngster.
Samuel Umtiti (France – Cameroon)
FC Barcelona central defender and French international Samuel Umtiti left Cameroon, the country of his birth at two as his parents relocated to Lyon in 1995. Since then, the defender has never considered playing for any other nation according to Spanish publication, Marca.
Where has it all gone wrong? Why are talented Africans turning their backs on the continent in their droves? Where do you think the problems lie and does it still have anything to do with colonialism or is it just the freedom of choice in the modern-day?