Why Matteo Guendouzi should choose to represent Morocco
The career tangent of every footballer is sandwiched between the choices they make. Whether players make the decisions solely themselves or are influenced by others, they're forced to either enjoy or endure the outcome.
For players with dual/multiple nationalities – either via place of birth, naturalization or birth parent(s) - they must face the big dilemma of choosing a country to represent at senior level. For some, the choice is easy. That's not the case for all, though.
Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi enters the discussion. The midfielder falls into the category of footballers roped by the dual eligibility debate.
Per FIFA rules, Guendouzi can play for Morocco, given his father is a citizen of the North African nation. Born in Poissy, the teenager is also eligible to opt for France.
Neither national team will want to miss out on Guendouzi. Particularly the Atlas Lions.
Having featured for France at every age-grade level, the world champions hold the ace. It changes nothing for Morocco, however. Les Blues are yet to cap Guendouzi at senior level. It leaves the door open for his fatherland to pounce.
The Moroccans are making the most-forward advances to entice the budding star. Their manager, Herve Renard, who coincidentally is French, tried futilely to call-up Guendouzi in 2017. The coach isn't tossing in the towel just yet. Media reports claim he will jet to London in an attempt to sweet-talk the youngster some more. Meanwhile, France have been more subtle. Didier Deschamps seemingly has bigger fish to fry.
Regardless of where their parents or grandparents are born, not many players turn backs on own birth country. Some even go against sibling's choice, like Granit and Taulant Xhaka, who play for Switzerland and Albania respectively. Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng also don different nations' colours.
For those with multiple nationalities, only they can decide sense of duty. As Romelu Lukaku explained, nobody should fault a player for thinking he must represent a certain country due to being born there, speaking the language and feeling more at home.
Yet, every choice has a telling effect. Oblivion awaits players who choose wrongly. Among many others, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Carlton Cole ruined international careers that way.
The cards have been placed before Guendouzi. On the one hand, he has France – the world’s best national team at present. On the other, he has Morocco - the country of his roots.
For the first time in 20 years, Morocco appeared at the World Cup this past summer. They crashed out at the group stage. The last occasion the Atlas Lions won an international honour, Guendouzi wasn't even born.
The fuss isn't hard to fathom. As a deep-lying midfielder, Guendouzi is a shining gem. Blessed with physical prowess and good decision making, he's cemented his place as an Arsenal first-team regular. At only 19, expect him to continue improving. He has a long career ahead.
Nevertheless, Guendouzi needs to understand what awaits should he choose the glamour of playing for France's senior side. He'd face intense competition. It could end up stifling his international career. Les Bleus are blessed with some elite defensive protectors. N'Golo Kante. Steven Nzonzi. Names that roll off the tongue.
If Guendouzi decides on Morocco, he'll enjoy immense love. Moroccans are already flaunting him. The teenager could easily earn over 100 caps before turning 30. First-team selection wouldn't be an issue. It's in his best interest to choose the North Africans.