Jack Wilshere has called into question the Football Association's desire to gain Adnan Januzaj's international allegiance and insisted becoming naturalised after living in England for a period of time "does not make you English".
The Manchester United manager David Moyes revealed in the wake of Januzaj's eye-catching two goals in victory at Sunderland that the FA had previously been in contact with the club to establish whether the 18-year-old could play for England. The teenager was born in Brussels to Kosovan-Albanian parents and is therefore eligible to represent Belgium, Albania, Turkey, Serbia and Kosovo, who have yet to be recognised by Fifa.
Belgium sought to secure his allegiance earlier this week only for Januzaj to reject the chance of a senior call-up for the World Cup qualifiers against Croatia and Wales this month, claiming the offer had come too early in his career. The national coach Marc Wilmots will make further attempts to persuade the teenager to link up with his squad, though the England manager Roy Hodgson, preparing for his own qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland, had indicated on Saturday that he has noted the forward's recent progress.
According to Fifa statutes a player is eligible to play for a country if he has "lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 in the territory of the relevant association", meaning Januzaj would have to wait until 2018, when he is 23, to be able to represent England. "No, for me, if you are English, you are English, and you play for England," said Wilshere, who is hoping to gain an 11th cap against Montenegro on Friday. "The only people who should play for England are English people.
"If you've lived in England for five years, for me, it doesn't make you English. You shouldn't play. It doesn't mean you can play for that country. If I went to Spain and lived there for five years, I'm not going to play for Spain. For me an English player should play for England really." Asked whether the same criteria should apply to managers of the national side, the midfielder added: "I think it's better if there is an Englishman [in charge], but don't get me wrong, Fabio Capello did a lot for my England career. He brought me here, gave me my debut and stuck with me form a young age, so he was a good manager as well."
Januzaj's sudden rise to prominence has highlighted the issue of naturalisation at a time when the lack of young English players making a mark in Premier League first-teams has already provoked the new FA chairman, Greg Dyke, to call for radical action to keep the England team competitive.
The recently appointed Under-21s manager, Gareth Southgate, pointed to two-thirds of his current squad having played for a senior side, whether in the Premier League or Football League, last weekend as reason for encouragement and was more philosophical on the Januzaj issue.
"It's a difficult one," he said. "He's not played for anyone else, so it's slightly different to some of our [England] cricketers. We seem to have embraced the England cricket team that have won the Ashes, and as far as I'm aware the majority of them have come in because they are good players, all for slightly different reasons perhaps. Historically we would have viewed it in a certain way, but the world is evolving. We have lots of boys in our squad who weren't born here but whose families have fled here, and they're all incredibly proud to play for England.
"The world is changing, families are moving more and more, and working abroad. It's important to know why somebody would want to play for you, and had he played for somebody else that would be more of an issue for me. But if you've not played for anybody then it's a greyer area in my view."
Hodgson watched his entire 23-man squad train at St George's Park on Tuesday – the Arsenal left-back Kieran Gibbs has replaced Ashley Cole in the party following the latter's rib injury – as they prepare for their last two qualifiers, with victories in each guaranteed to secure a place at the World Cup in Brazil. Wilshere is expected to feature, with the Arsenal midfielder, a scorer at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday, having admitted he made "a mistake" after being photographed smoking last week.
"I know when I've done wrong," he added. "I spoke to the boss and he supported me through it. He gave me a little telling off, dealt with it and it's over. I said before, I'm not a smoker on 10-a-day or whatever, and I do genuinely believe it is wrong. I'm not just a footballer, I'm a top athlete and we have to be at the top of our game. You can't be slacking behind your team-mates when you are competing in training. So, yes, it was wrong."The youngster has had to endure ribbing from team-mates and coaching staff since. "When I am getting angry in training all the boys just say: ‚"Calm down, have a fag.' I'm going to have to live with that."