Jack Wilshere was at the centre of a remarkable row over non-English-born players representing the country. The cricketer Kevin Pietersen challenged the Arsenal midfielder over his stance that "the only people who should play for England are English people".
Pietersen, who was born in South Africa but has an English mother, qualified to play for England after living in the country for four years. He took to Twitter to ask his footballing counterpart where that would leave him and a number of other leading sports stars, including Olympic hero Mo Farah, who was born in Somalia, and the Kenyan-born Briton Chris Froome, who won this year's Tour de France.
As the debate, sparked by the possibility of the Belgian-born teenager Adnan Januzaj playing for England, escalated into a wider discussion about identity and nationality, Pietersen, England's fifth highest run-scorer in Tests, fourth highest in one-day internationals and who is expected to win his 100th Test cap in the Ashes in Australia later this year, tweeted: "Interested to know how you define foreigner … - Would that include me, Strauss, Trott, Prior, Justin Rose, Froome, Mo Farah?" Wilshere responded: "With all due respect Mr Pietersen, the question was about football! Cricket, cycling, athletics is not my field."
But Pietersen replied: "Same difference … It's about representing your country! IN ANY SPORT!" Wilshere replied: "I agree, that's exactly what I was saying."
Wilshere had earlier denied that his comments were aimed at Januzaj, despite being specifically asked about the Manchester United player, but then reiterated his stance, saying "the question was should foreign players be allowed to play for England, and in my opinion I don't think they should!"
Late on Wednesday night, Wilshere attempted to clarify his views through a series of tweets: "To be clear, never said 'born in England' – I said English people should play for England," said Wilshere. "Great respect for people like KP [Kevin Pietersen], Mo Farah and Wilf Zaha – they make the country proud.
"My view on football – going to a new country when ur an adult, & because u can get a passport u play 4 that national team – I disagree. Just saying my opinion, everyone is entitled to theirs. Can't wait for Friday night …"
Wilshere received the backing of his club manager, Arsène Wenger. Wenger told the BBC: "I agree with him. I always said also an Englishman should manage the England team. If we are not clear on that the national teams will become like a club."
The former England football captain Alan Shearer also supported Wilshere's view. "I totally understand that the game has evolved and has moved on but I'm of the belief that just because you've lived in this country for five or six years it doesn't mean that you can be playing in the English national team," he told the BBC.
The spat came as the FA chairman, Greg Dyke, launched a review of its approach to naturalisation rules in light of the debate sparked by Manchester United's Januzaj. The winger, who is of Kosovo-Albanian descent, moved to Old Trafford at 16 and could theoretically represent England in February 2018 under Fifa statutes. The FA is understood to be taking a far more proactive stance than previously to monitoring which players may become available to qualify for England.
Dyke said the FA was "looking at the whole issue" and that no decisions had been taken yet about how far it would push the boundaries. "What exactly are the rules and do you push them to the very limit?" said Dyke. "My view is that we should be looking for talent and then look at what the rules actually say, then ask if we can actually do this.
"You have to look at what's happened in cricket, what's happened in other sports and in other countries and see if we can do the same thing in football," said Dyke. "We haven't taken that decision yet. That's the discussion we need to have and there are no easy answers."