Folarin Balogun’s switch to the United States on Tuesday prompted a lot of hand-wringing given the in-form Arsenal striker, who has scored 19 Ligue 1 goals on loan at French side Reims and seven in 13 for England’s Under 21 side, is at the start of a burgeoning career.
As such, it was perhaps a shock for many to see a highly talented 21-year-old who came up through the Three Lions set-up and has represented age-grade sides for years opt to reject Gareth Southgate’s side and instead switch to the US team.
Despite England’s strength – they lie fifth in the FIFA world rankings – there are plenty of valid reasons players change their international allegiance, be it which country they feel they most belong to, or the prospect of more chances with another nation.
Southgate may well be worried about losing several other young stars, including two talented Crystal Palace attackers, a pair of Newcastle wonderkids and a host of young stars at Chelsea – among plenty of others.
And below, Mail Sport looks at the starlets England may want to tie down before they follow Balogun in representing another country.
Folarin Balogun’s switch to the United States on Tuesday prompted a lot of hand-wringing
The Arsenal striker (above) spurned the chance to play for England, instead choosing the USA
Mail Sport looks at the other players Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate could lose in future
Eberechi Eze, Crystal Palace (Nigeria)
One of most eye-catching names on the list is Crystal Palace attacking midfielder Eberechi Eze.
The gifted 24-year-old has scored seven goals in the eight games since Roy Hodgson took over – excluding one Daniel Iversen own goal after his superb free-kick hit the bar – and is firmly back on England’s radar.
After being named on several squad long-lists in the past, Southgate may well want to see how he fares in the senior squad – given he has trained with Nigeria’s national team and former Nigeria boss Gernot Rohr admitted he contacted Eze every week.
Watch this space…
Michael Olise, Crystal Palace (France, Nigeria, Algeria)
Another Eagles star in Michael Olise also makes the list. The 21-year-old winger has excelled for the south London side this season, with only Kevin De Bruyne and Bukayo Saka besting his record of 10 Premier League assists this season.
The world is at his feet – and he is certainly spoilt for choice when picking his national team, born in England to a Nigerian father and a French-Algerian mother.
In March 2022, he accepted a call-up to France’s Under 21 team, seemingly choosing his future path – though it is far from certain.
England U21 boss Lee Carsley said: ‘Like a lot of players with dual nationality, it is their right. We can’t guarantee them anything. We let them know that we are interested and he has chosen other paths’.
Crystal Palace attackers Eberechi Eze (right) and Michael Olise (left) could opt against England
Anthony Gordon, Newcastle (Scotland, Republic of Ireland)
Another young attacker receiving overtures from other nations is Anthony Gordon of Newcastle.
The 22-year-old winger joined Newcastle in January for £45million but has failed to lock down a consistent starting place.
He has scored four goals in nine appearances for England’s U21 side, but with Scotland and the Republic of Ireland said to be interested and England’s wide forward positions well stocked, he may decide to move to a British rival.
Gordon would undoubtedly be a star for Scotland or the Republic of Ireland – while with England he has to compete with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Saka, and plenty more.
Elliot Anderson, Newcastle (Scotland)
Another Magpies wonderkid being eyed up by the Scots is Elliot Anderson.
The 20-year-old has broken through at St James’ Park this season, with 24 appearances in all competitions, and has flip-flopped over his international allegiance.
Born in England but of Scottish descent, he represented Scotland at U16, U17 and U18 level, England for the U19s, but made his Scotland U21 debut in June 2022.
Scotland boss Steve Clarke has said: ‘I’ve had a conversation with Elliot and he wants to bide his time and see what happens’. That, at least, seems to indicate his preference is to bide his time and wait for an England call-up.
While Scotland want Newcastle wonderkids Anthony Gordon (left) and Elliot Anderson (centre)
Morgan Gibbs-White, Nottingham Forest (Jamaica)
Morgan Gibbs-White, on the face of it, looks primed to step up to England senior duty.
The 22-year-old is one of the leaders of England’s U21 side, and according to Southgate is ‘progressing well’ with Nottingham Forest and for the age-grade outfit.
Gibbs-White has five goals and seven assists for promoted Forest after signing in a club-record deal last summer which could reach £43m. That form has pushed Steve Cooper’s side away from relegation
But given the serious competition in attacking midfield for England and Southgate’s preferred 4-3-3 formation with two wingers, he will struggle to make the squad, let alone the team – and Jamaica could pounce to offer him a more meaningful role.
The Caribbean island nation may also approach the likes of Everton’s Demarai Gray and Brentford full-back Rico Henry.
Nottingham Forest’s club-record signing Morgan Gibbs-White (right) is wanted by Jamaica
Ezri Konsa, Aston Villa (DR Congo, Angola, Portugal)
Like Olise, Aston Villa centre half Ezri Konsa has four countries to choose from. The 25-year-old has impressed for Unai Emery’s resurgent Villa this season and has come up through the England youth systems, winning the U20 World Cup in 2017.
But with the likes of Harry Maguire, John Stones, Eric Dier, Marc Guehi and Fikayo Tomori ahead in the pecking order, he may choose to switch allegiance to a country which might offer him regular (or any) international football.
Konsa was born in London to a father from DR Congo and an Angolan mother, but could also turn out for Portugal – and the Athletic reported last year that Portugal were closely watching his progress.
Noni Madueke, Chelsea (Nigeria)
One of several Chelsea players to make the list, winger Noni Madueke was one of several players to move to Stamford Bridge in January, signing on a £28.5m deal.
Though he initially struggled to play regularly in a bloated squad, he has impressed in recent weeks, also scoring his first goal for the England U21s in March.
Nigeria, though, may offer a more consistent opportunity to play at international level.
Among his Blues team-mates, Trevoh Chalobah is wanted by Sierra Leone, while midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka, born in Austria to Nigerian parents, has three countries to choose from.
Chelsea winger Noni Madueke (left), like Eze, may choose to represent African side Nigeria
Eddie Nketiah, Arsenal (Ghana)
Nketiah isn’t the only backup striker at Arsenal who could spurn England for another nation.
After Balogun signed up to US duty, Nketiah may also decide to play for Ghana rather than continue his progression within the England youth system.
The 23-year-old, who is England U21’s record goalscorer with 16 goals in 17 games, has rejected a call-up from the Black Stars before but a senior call up looks unlikely with the likes of Harry Kane, Ivan Toney and Ollie Watkins playing well.
Gunners team-mate Reiss Nelson could declare for Zimbabwe, while former Arsenal youth product Chuba Akpom, the top scorer in the Championship with 28 goals for Middlesbrough, could elect to play for Jose Peseiro’s Nigeria.
Djed Spence, Tottenham (Jamaica)
Swashbuckling right back Spence received his maiden call-up to the England U21 squad in March 2022 – having never represented the Three Lions before at youth level – and has won six caps in total.
He burst onto the scene on loan at Nottingham Forest, earning a move to Premier League Tottenham – though unfancied by boss Antonio Conte, barely played in the first half of the season before being farmed out on loan to French side Rennes.
England have fantastic depth at right back and so Spence may opt for Jamaica if he does not receive a call-up soon. Max Aarons of Norwich, could do the same thing after senior appearances did not follow regular U21 games.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, Chelsea (Ghana)
Rounding off our list is Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The winger has actually won three senior England caps, but may still declare for Ghana.
Mail Sport reported in November that Hudson-Odoi, 22, reportedly rejected a World Cup opportunity with the Black Stars, holding out for the chance to represent Southgate’s side in future despite being largely snubbed so far.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (left) and Eddie Nketiah (right) are both wanted by Ghana’s Black Stars