Only English people should play football for England, says midfielder Jack Wilshere.
Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj could play for England if he passes Fifa’s five-year residency requirement, as he is yet to commit to another country.
Midfielder Januzaj, 18, is eligible for selection by Belgium, Serbia, Albania and Turkey.
Asked about the issue, Wilshere said: “If you live in England for five years it doesn’t make you English.”
Later on Wednesday, the 21-year-old Arsenal player took to Twitter to say his comments were not in reference to Januzaj.
“I wasn’t referring to Janujaz,” he said. “The question was should foreign players be allowed to play for England, and in my opinion I don’t think they should. He is a great player. I wish he was English.”
England boss Roy Hodgson has confirmed he has been monitoring Januzaj.
Wilshere, who earlier this week insisted he is not a smoker despite being pictured with a cigarette outside a nightclub, added in the earlier interview: “We have to remember what we are.
“We are English. We tackle hard, are tough on the pitch and are hard to beat.
“We have great characters. You think of Spain and you think technical but you think of England and you think they are brave and they tackle hard. We have to remember that.
“The only people who should play for England are English people.
“If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I’m not going to play for Spain.”
Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling, born in Jamaica, and Wilfried Zaha of Manchester United, born in Ivory Coast, are part of the England Under-21 set-up along with West Brom’s Saido Berahino, who left war-torn Burundi as a 10-year-old.
“It’s a difficult one,” said England Under-21 coach Gareth Southgate. “He [Januzaj] has not played for anyone else.
“We have lots of boys in our squad who were not born here, whose families have fled here.
“There are some wonderful stories and they are all incredibly proud to play for England.
Who is Adnan Januzaj?
- Januzaj was born on 5 February 1995 in Brussels, Belgium.
- He spent six years as a youth player atAnderlecht before joining United as a 16-year-old in 2011.
- Januzaj was an unused substitute in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game as United manager, away to West Brom in May.
- He made his competitive debut for United in the Community Shield against Wigan.
- His first Premier League appearance was as a substitute against Crystal Palace on 14 September.
“I’m torn with it. The world is changing. People move and work abroad. It is important to know why someone wants to play for you.”
Former Football Association chairman David Bernstein said England must “play within the rules and get the best team we can”.
He told BBC Radio 5 live: “There is much more fluidity in terms of population movement.
“I would say we must play within the rules but if players are eligible, I would be inclined to pick the best players we can get. Other countries do that.”
FA chairman Greg Dyke said: “It is an issue we need to look at. We [the FA] will discuss our policy again.”
Former England midfielder Chris Waddle told BBC Sport: “I’ve always believed if you’re born in a country you should play for your country.
“But maybe somebody comes here when they’re young and by the time they are 20 they are eligible to play. To him it’s probably home – why not?”
Cricketers Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior and Jonathan Trott play for England despite being born in South Africa.
Southgate added: “We seem to have embraced the cricket team that has won the Ashes, but it is a really interesting, philosophical debate.”
Januzaj, who joined United in 2011 from Belgian club Anderlecht for a reported fee of nearly £300,000, was born in Brussels.
He has turned down the advances of Belgium, and has not won a cap at any level for any country.
Januzaj qualifies for Albania through his Kosovan-Albanian parents, Turkey through his grandparents and Serbia as Kosovo’s independence has not been recognised by the United Nations.
Kosovo’s national team are not members of Uefa or Fifa.
Fifa, the sport’s governing body, states a player is eligible if “he has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant association”.
That would mean Januzaj would have to wait until 2018 to represent England, assuming he remains in the country until he turns 23.