It was a privilege to be at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, to see Adnan Januzaj make one of the great debuts for Manchester United, and for slightly different reasons it was almost as much of a treat to be in the press room afterwards when the suggestion took hold that this wonderkid could play for England.

Talk about false optimism, selective memory and muddled, delusional thinking. As the line from the Fawlty Towers psychiatrist has it, there was enough material for a whole conference. No one stopped for a moment to consider why, in our wildest dreams, such a pretty player could possibly be interested in an ageing, Brilliantine stick-insect like England (as Sybil nearly said) but when David Moyes confirmed that the Football Association had already made inquiries you could practically hear a whoop of joy ripple around the room.

Then reality started to set in. In the process of trying to establish how long Januzaj would have to wait before making Roy Hodgson the happiest man in the world, the sub-section of the Fifa rulebook relating to residential qualification was tracked down, and with it the unwelcome news that the five-year waiting period could only commence on a player's 18th birthday.

Up to that point it had been assumed that Januzaj had already done two of his five years as a result of leaving Belgium at age 16, and optimism began to evaporate as it became clear that an unlikely story had just turned into a wholly improbable one. No one in their right mind would put their international career on hold until 2018 just to play for this country, yet despite that consideration and even after Hodgson expressed his doubts on Match of the Day, there were still plenty of Januzaj-for-England stories in the papers as late as Monday and Tuesday.

Desperate? Possibly, though Januzaj is an unusual case. Through no fault of his own he is eligible to play for four or five countries, depending on whether you count Kosovo, and having moved from Belgium to England without playing for anyone he is quite close to being genuinely stateless in football terms. He is not a bit like Mikel Arteta, who is as Spanish as they come but whose availability was being pondered by England a few years back by virtue of his never having been selected for the Spain national team. That is the sort of arrangement Jack Wilshere seems to have had in mind when he made his "Keep England for the English" comments this week.

Januzaj is a slightly more nuanced matter, though his basic choice still appears to be between the country of his birth or one of the countries that means something to his parents. England just don't come into it, as Hodgson more or less acknowledged at the weekend, even if someone at the FA is busy keeping all the doors open.

It is true that the criteria for international acceptance are not quite as straightforward as they used to be – look at the England cricket and rugby teams, for example, or consider the fact that Mo Farah was born in Somalia and only moved to England aged eight – but unlike state borders the world does not stand still and top-level sport has to find a way to deal with increased mobility. The reason Januzaj has spent the last two years in England is because he popped up on Manchester United's radar while still starting out with Anderlecht, and was enticed away from his native country in a manner similar to Arsenal pinching Cesc Fábregas from Barcelona at a tender age. That is modern life, football is a global industry, and the academies at leading clubs are polyglot nurseries for talent sourced from all over the world.

Whether that is a good or a bad thing is debatable, if, like Greg Dyke, you believe not enough English players are being produced by the Premier League, though that in turn depends on how much you value the international game over the club product. The clubs, in both the Premier League and the Champions League, are providing the truly international entertainment at the moment. The best the world can offer is mostly based in Europe, quite a lot of it still left in this country despite the rapid advances of Germany and Spain, and if you want to see international football at its best you try to watch Bayern Munich v Barcelona or Manchester United v Real Madrid.

Only if you wish to see compartmentalised international football – 11 Germans v 11 Italians, for example – do you need to pay attention to World Cups and European Championships, but as people have been saying for at least a decade and probably longer, the standard of football is not as high as the Champions League, and nor is the glamour "wow" factor always present. This is before Fifa's World Cup charade reaches its ludicrous but somehow deserved destination of Qatar in (gulp) nine years time. There has been conjecture in recent weeks that some of the bigger national associations could usefully get together and boycott the 2022 event, perhaps even stage a rival attraction in America or Australia. That would give Sepp Blatter something to think about, but it is unlikely to happen because the big leagues in Europe simply don't care that much about the World Cup. They would prefer not to have a disruptive one in winter, as would just about everyone else, but compartmentalised international football is just not that high a priority, otherwise Blatter would have been held in check years ago. It has become old-fashioned and stodgy, a bit like saying keep England for the English.

That brings us back to Januzaj, who will shortly have to make the biggest decision of his young career. No, not whether he plays for Albania or Belgium, but whether he stays in England with United or seeks pastures new in Germany, Italy or Spain. This teenager has the world at his feet.

Everyone wants a part of him, yet people in this country are daft enough to imagine the prospect of playing for England looms large in his life. Even though he would have to wait five years. For England. That is not just nonsense, it is nonsense on stilts, though there is one thing you could say in the arrangement's favour. No one could possibly accuse Januzaj of making an alliance of convenience.