Belgium face an anxious wait over Adnan Januzaj’s international future, but Football Association director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking has suggested the England national team could learn from Belgium’s success in recruiting players.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots told a news conference on Monday that Manchester United midfielder Januzaj had declined the chance to join up with the side for the time being. The 18-year-old currently qualifies for several countries, and England have expressed an interest in his services.
“We called him, but he has told Manchester United that he isn't ready to decide about the national team,” Wilmots said. “I have given him a clear signal but you can't force people. He's playing well and I would welcome him. I gave him the choice.”
There was some good news for Belgium on Monday, though, as 17-year-old Zakari Bakkali announced his final decision to play for the Red Devils. The highly rated PSV Eindhoven player also qualifies for Morocco.
Bakkali said that, while he did talk to his family, the decision was his own.
“There was no pressure from the Moroccan FA,” he explained. “Nor did I ask for any special conditions with Belgium. I played for Belgium at every youth level and the first team is an excellent group. I hope to win and score a lot with Belgium."
The Belgian FA had earlier secured the services of Zaire-born Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke and Morocco-qualified Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini, and the pair have been regulars in the side that is now on the brink of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup finals.
Brooking has told ESPN FC that England would benefit from securing talented players who are eligible for other countries.
“Belgium are very good at identifying talent and ensuring that they get players to commit to their national team set-up early in their career,” Brooking said. “They have a few players who had the option to play for two or three different nations and they have done well to get them into their squad and maybe that is something we could learn from.
“England has become a very multi-cultural society in recent years and that opens up the possibility of players coming into our national team set-ups at varying age levels who may not necessarily have been born here or come through our system.
“Some nations have a chance to try and get players on board for their national team set-up a little earlier than us and it would be good to have a chance to work with young players whenever they come into our country and try to integrate them into the Club England set-up.”
Manchester United’s Wilfried Zaha and Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling are examples of two players who have recently played for the senior England team, even though they were not born in the country.
Ivory Coast-born Zaha and Jamaican-born Sterling made their debuts for Roy Hodgson’s senior England team against Sweden last November.