Far from being bitter, Roy Hodgson believes Adnan Januzaj has made the right decision to snub England in favour of representing Belgium.
Although he was overlooked by his fellow professionals for the PFA Young Player of the Year nominations, the 19-year-old has been one of the brightest talents to emerge this season. The creative midfielder has played 31 times for Manchester United in all competitions, scoring four goals and assisting in six more during this time.
Januzaj, formerly of Anderlecht, was born in Brussels, but as well as the option of representing his country of birth, he is also eligible to play for Albania, Kosovo and Serbia through his parents, and Turkey due to his grandparents. And having moved to Manchester in 2011, he would have been able to consider England in 2018.
He has yet to appear for any national side at any level, but last month it was revealed that he had opted for Belgium. Whilst this has denied Hodgson the chance to take advantage of the youngster’s situation and add a potentially world-class talent to his plans for the future, the England coach believes the player has made the right choice.
“I’m sorry but sometimes I don’t see what the fuss is about,” he said. “He’s not English anyway, let’s be fair. We can argue that, under the current FIFA rules, by 2018, he might be eligible to play for England. But if a player isn’t eligible to play for England until 2018, then what’s the problem if he goes and plays for someone else.
“How can you be upset in 2014 if he goes and plays for one of the other countries that he’s actually eligible for? He was born and brought up in Belgium. We can’t be disappointed by that. It would be very different if he was available to play for us and we passed up the opportunity and he went to play for Belgium. But it’s not relevant.”
Belgium already have a vast array of world class options for their World Cup squad this summer, and coach Marc Wilmots has now revealed that Januzaj is likely to be in his preliminary pool of players ahead of the tournament. And the injury to Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke appears to have nudged the United kid up the pecking order.
“Januzaj can play on the wings, he can play as a striker,” Wilmots told Het Laatste Nieuws. “That’s interesting as Christian Benteke will be unavailable due to injury. The fact I pick him in my initial 27-man squad for Brazil is normal, given his performances but I first want to see how he behaves on the training pitch. I will select a squad of 26-27 players and I shall tell them: ‘there’s only one truth: the pitch. Come on, show me what you got’.”