We’ve all seen Victor Moses play before, but when his previous club Crystal Palace side traveled to lowly Reading in December 2009, he owned the pitch he played on and his stock rose considerably. Then 18, Moses scored a long-range curled effort, and his second came as he powered through two challenges and fired across Adam Federici in the Reading goal. His manager Neil Warnock was already talking about the possibility of the youngster leaving the cash-strapped Eagles for the Premier League very soon.
Two weeks later, the attacker than scored a blistering overhead kick at Barnsley. He followed that up with goals against Ipswich Town and Plymouth Argyle which ensured he was the hottest young property in that January’s transfer window. Glamorous names such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea were being branded around in a possibly short-sighted fashion, but Moses chose a surprising destination to further his career.
It was Roberto Martinez’s Wigan Athletic who snapped up Moses for £2.5m. Injuries and Martinez preferring to blood in his new starlet have seen the 20-year-old make only 27 appearances since joining, but he earned his first England-under-21 call-up last summer. With a European Championships three months away for Stuart Pearce’s side, you’d think this would be a prime opportunity for Moses to shine.
However, in a drastic u-turn which could prove costly for England in the future, Moses, who has represented England since under-16’s level, was earlier this year selected for Nigeria, the country of his birth. Moses is uncapped for the Super Eagles, and has reportedly turned down numerous approaches from Samson Siasia. The question is how long will Moses wait before succumbing to the advances of the African nation?
Another interesting turn of events came when FIFA recently scrapped the age limit of switching nationalities in international football. Before, a player aged 21 or under could switch countries if he had represented them at youth level. Once you have appeared for a country at full international level, you are unable to switch back.
Despite his immense potential, it is hard to see a call coming for Moses within the next season. If Martinez continues to use Moses as a substitute, Fabio Capello may look to other younger players who lead the line for their side. In 11 appearances for the DW Stadium side this season, seven have been from the bench.
So the FA and Capello could take note that Moses could switch to the Nigerians at any time. England have slipped up in the past in taking on young talent at their disposal. For example, Arsenal’s hailed goalkeeper Bob Wilson made over 300 appearances for the Gunners, yet earned two Scotland caps through family connections after being ignored by England.
There are many other examples, like Moses.
Like Moses, another player with brimming promise in the Premier League is Manchester United’s Danny Wellbeck, currently on loan at Sunderland. He has fired in six goals for the Black Cats, and Ghana’s football association, as well as team-mate and Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan have both spoken explicitly about their desire to see Wellbeck in the Black Stars’ shirt.
Especially in this case with younger players, we live in dangerous times. It is sad to see a player brought through the age levels with a certain country, then be the subject of interest from another country. When Ghana approached James Harper about appearing for the Africans, he admirably rejected them as he said he didn’t even know where Ghana was on the map, despite the fact that he’d love to play international football at some time. His Reading team-mate Dave Kitson gave the Republic of Ireland a similar reaction.
So it’s good to see there is a display of loyalty in some cases. Yet, international football does become somewhat fractured at times. Ciaran Clark is a hot prospect and represented England up until under-21 level, but then appeared for Republic of Ireland. Jermaine Pennant has also issued a bemusing come-and-get-me plea to the Irish after being repeatedly overlooked for England, after amassing an astonishing 24 caps for England under-21s.
Like the case of Clark and possibly Moses and Wellbeck ending up in the same boat, it is a shame to see talent from England’s youth levels seduced by other countries. Particularly at major tournaments for the under-21s, many of the side would have already been capped by the full side, or at least are on the cusp. In that case, surely these unsavory tugs of wars between players are unethical. The players of course get the final say but the rules are complex at times.
But is Moses good enough for England in the first place? Would you like to see him lining up for the Three Lions and at this summer’s under-21s European Championships in Denmark? How do you feel about the rule that players can switch nationality after they have represented a country’s under-21s? We’d love to hear your opinions as you readers are what drives the website. Please feel free to comment below.