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Imagine Messi and Ronaldo both playing for the same national team? Thankfully for rival fans, FIFA have a few rules in place to make sure players don't switch national teams. But this hasn't always been the case! Read on to find out more...

By Sanal Mulackal & Sherwin Shaji

Ever wondered what it would be like if Messi and Ronaldo both represented the same country? Goals, goals and more goals, is what you could expect! But supporters of other nationalities can rest assured as FIFA have put a few rules in place to ensure players cannot represent more than one nationality.

Players can switch from ‘Country A’ to ‘Country B’ if, they have not played a competitive match for a ‘Country A’ and they have the appropriate residential status to represent ‘Country B’.

A recent example of a player who satisfies both of these requirements is Brazil born footballer/maverick, Diego Costa. Having represented Brazil in two friendly matches against Italy and Russia (and therefore not a competitive match), Costa switched to Spain, also owing to the fact that he was granted Spanish nationality.  

However, the rules were not always as strict, so let’s have a look at some of the greats that have switched national teams in years gone by.

Alfredo Di Stéfano 

Voted as the fourth greatest footballer of the century by France Football Magazine, the double Ballon D’or winner, Alfredo Di Stéfano, pulled on a jersey for the Argentine, Spanish and Columbian men’s national football team! Di Stéfano played and won the only Copa America (South American version of the Euro’s) he took part in, whilst representing Argentina. His Spanish conquest was similarly successful, scoring at a rate of 0.74 goals per game, albeit his solitary World Cup with Spain came to a halting end due to injury. In a turn of events, Di Stéfano also went on to represent Columbia during the Dimayor period, which is considered the Golden age of Columbian football. 

László Kubala

Amongst the swathes of refugees to flee from war-torn Hungary in 1949, was 22 year old László Kubala. Fast forward many decades and the refugee turned superstar Czechoslovakian, Hungarian and Spanish international was voted as Barcelona’s greatest player in 1999, trumping the likes of Johan Cruyff, Hristo Stoichkov and Rivaldo. Despite Kubala’s sensational club career, it never really worked out on the international scene, despite having had the opportunity to represent three countries! Having failed to play in any major tournament finals, László Kubala’s only notable international highlight was the hat trick he scored for Spain in a 3-0 win against Turkey, in November 1957. 

Ferenc Puskás

With a FIFA recognized award honoured in his name, to celebrate the ‘most beautiful goal’ scored within a calendar year, Ferenc Puskás is a true icon of the sport. Puskás played as the focal point of the mighty Hungary team of the 1950’s and he was a lethal striker, notching 84 goals in just 85 appearances. His impact can be attributed to Hungary’s remarkable run between 1950 and 1956, where they lost only one game (the World Cup final against West Germany, otherwise known as the Miracle of Bern). Shortly afterwards, with the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 in full flow, Puskás refused to return to Hungary and was consequently exiled from the national team. Spain came calling in 1961, and Puskás took up the offer to play for La Roja, featuring alongside fellow legend Alfredo Di Stéfano. 

 From left to right: Di Stéfano, Kubala and Puskás whilst playing for FC Barcelona

Honourable mention: Luis Monti

You may not know the name, but Luis Monti is the only man to have ever played in two World Cup Finals with two different countries. Known for his physical presence in the heart of midfield, Monti was also blessed with exceptional technical skills. This ability translated seamlessly onto the pitch, as Monti became a World Cup runner up with Argentina in 1930 and went a step further in 1934, by becoming a World Champion with Italy, whilst comfortably securing a spot in the team of the tournament on both occasions. 

Luis Monti

So there we have it, a quick whiz through the history books to learn about the players that have strutted their stuff for multiple nationalities. 

Which player do you fancy in your national team? Leave a comment below! 

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