How to solve a problem like Januzaj

Written by Ryan Hall.

Not for the first time, Manchester United have yet another exquisitely gifted ‘wonderkid’ amongst their ranks and he’s only 18.

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Januzaj scoring against Sunderland. Photo: Hase don (via Flickr)

He is already being dubbed one of England’s most exciting prospects. There’s just one little problem. He isn’t English.

Forget the bustling favelas of Rio de Janeiro, or even sunny Catalonia where young footballers have the tiki taka mantra drilled into them as soon as they can kick a ball. No, it is in fact, believe it or not, our Belgian neighbours that are currently evoking drool in the mouths of talent scouts across the footballing globe. Many are already branding this as the golden generation over in the largely flatland nation and frankly, who can argue?

What with their youth conveyor belt virtually running into overdrive as it churns out the likes of international superstars such as Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Moussa Dembélé and Jan Vertonghen. It is as if there is no stopping a country, which ironically, has been a relative no-show in qualifying for international tournaments in recent years.

Back to the man in question and next off the Belgian production line, meet Adnan Januzaj. The youngster announced himself in his Premier League debut against Sunderland with an exceptional brace.

But behind the eighteen year old with the world at his feet there’s a storm brewing. I can only describe Januzaj’s international status as a tug of war of giant proportions. Despite the fact that the United starlet is quite obviously brimming with potential, remarkably, he so far remains not to have played for any of the eligible national teams who are all chomping at the bit to make him sign on the dotted line.

Born in Brussels having learnt his trade at Anderlecht, but to Kosovan/Albanian parents, Januzaj already has a number of routes to pursue in terms of pledging his national allegiance. But that’s not all. Throw in the Turkish grandparents, feisty Serbian/Albanian politics and the fact that Kosovo do not actually have a fully recognised national team as yet according to FIFA ruling and that’s five options to choose from.

The English throughout history have been renowned for refusing to give up without a fight and naturally this is no exception. By 2018, providing he hasn’t been lured to the Real Madrid’s or Bayern Munich’s of this world, the youngster will have lived in the country for a sufficient amount of time to become available for England selection.

A long shot surely, as much as it pains me to say it, as I find Januzaj holding out for England and not pulling on the shirt at international level until the age of 23 inconceivable, given his quality.

One thing’s for sure. It won’t stop us trying to convince him.

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