This weekend, as I jumped around the room while celebrating Dimitri Payet’s yet another miraculous goal for the Hammers, I couldn’t help but wonder – what the hell is Deschamps doing at the moment? The player that could be called the signing of the season in the Premier League, is still waiting for his national team coach to dial his number, but, as it seems, a miracle needs to happen for Didier to enlist the incredible playmaker for the European Championship in their homeland. And it’s sad, actually, since les Tricolores lack quality in that position, with no disrespect to Pogba, Cabaye or Matuidi. I firmly believe that Dimitri could easily become the driving force of the France national team, but not before the end of the championship next summer, as it now seems.
And this got me thinking about a number of players who never got the chance to prove their worth in front of their fellow countrymen. While still talking about the Frenchmen, I will remain in the Premier League for a while, since several current and former stars were unfairly disregarded.
N’Golo Kante has been the driving force of Leicester’s midfield this season, certainly the best performer after Vardy and Mahrez. Thanks to his industrious play in midfield, the Foxes became a hard team to beat, as the 24-year-old proved to be a real attack stopper. Dechamps admitted he had been watching the player who also qualifies for Mali, and could give him the opportunity to show what he can do in the warm up fixtures against Holland and Russia. This will not be received well by Francis Coquelin, who is still waiting for his first cap at the senior level, as he may be the first choice for Arsene Wenger, but has to wait for his chance after Cabaye, Kondogbia, Matuidi, Gonalons and even Lassana Diarra. However, poor Francis still hopes for that phone call announcing he has finally deserved a shirt with the national emblem.
Another potential France (or Belgium) international is the former member of France Under-21 selection, Giannelli Imbula, who arrived to Stoke this winter for a record bid of 18 million pounds, and immediately impressed. He has the same problem as Coquelin and Kante, since Deschamps is relying on his more experienced players, but, the fact of the matter is, all of them are still rather young and will have the opportunity to earn their place in the Tricolori squad, which we cannot say for the veteran Sylvain Distin. The rock-solid defender who spent almost his entire career in England recently stated he is retiring from the French national team with zero caps on his tally. However, the centre-back has no regrets for not been given the chance to represent his country, as he believes he would not be where he is now if it had been otherwise.
It really sucks to be a top football player with a Spanish passport these days, taking under consideration the vast number of outstanding players looking for a chance to enter the national team for the last ten years or so. The biggest witness to this statement is most certainly Mikel Arteta. Arsenal’s veteran had the misfortune to be a top-flight midfielder with a remarkable career in England, while having to compete with Fabregas, Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergi Busquets and many more for a place in the Spanish midfield. As he past his prime long time ago, it seems highly unlikely he will ever earn a cap.
While talking about the Gunners, I have to mention Hector Bellerin. The youngster who has driven Mathieu Debuchy out of Arsenal still waits for his chance with la Furia Roja, since Azpilicueta, Carvajal and Mario Gaspar are in front of him in the pecking order, but Del Bosque will most certainly reconsider his options before the summer challenge, since the 20-year-old full-back is one of the best in business currently in the Premier League. The same thing could be said for United’s starlet, Ander Herrera, who is often compared with the former Manchester United star, Paul Scholes. The Basque is well aware the Spanish national team boasts the best midfield players in the world at the moment, but some of those top-class players are currently injured, others have been suffering from a dip in form, which just might create an opportunity for Herrera to claim a place in del Bosque’s team and, hopefully, not end up uncapped as Arteta.
Moving further with the Spanish internationals, we need to wonder is Adrian Martinez finally fit to play for the Red Fury. The former Betis goalkeeper has been performing wonders alongside the rest of West Ham’s team this season. The biggest problem for this outstanding player are the two incredible goalies, Casillas and De Gea, who are still the main duo in the Spanish national team. Even though Casillas is far from his prime now, he will most certainly book a place in the European finals, while Adrian could only hope for the seat number three in such a competition.
While still at West Ham, I have to ask whether Manuel Lanzini will ever be given the chance to represent Argentina, as he is back to top-flight football, after his spell in Al-Jazira. Gerard Martino recently stated that Lanzini is on the watch due to his performance in the Premier League, but left him out of the Argentina squad for the matches against Chile and Bolivia in March. Even though the young midfielder has recently been shadowed by Payet’s miraculous displays, Lanzini is one of the most important parts of Bilic’s machinery this term, with his phenomenal dribbling, unbelievable acceleration and the ability to ghost past defenders. Apart from the fact that Argentina’s midfield is occupied with names such as Di Maria, Lamela, Banega and Pastore, former River Plate footballer should be given the chance to prove his worth in the near future.
It’s only fair to end this story with several players from England who should have been a part of the Three Lions’ team long ago, but somehow went unnoticed by the managers. The first on this list should be the commander of Crystal Palace defence, Scott Dann. Despite being one of the most accomplished central defenders in the league, the former England Under-21 player continues to be overlooked by Roy Hodgson, as Smalling, Jones, Cahill and Stones currently have the advantage. Despite numerous visits of Hodgson’s management team, the Eagles are still waiting for one of their best players to become a part of the national team. Given his age, Dann does not have much time at disposal, which is why the shirt with a national emblem could remain just a dream.
Danny Drinkwater, the jack of all trades from Leicester, should be referred to as a serious candidate for pulling on an England shirt for the first time at senior level, especially bearing in mind the fact that players like Jonjo Shelvey and Mason were called up in previous occasions. Even though he deserved an invitation a long time ago, the current injury problems of his first-choice players may force Hodgson to bring Danny in, which would present the biggest reward for his tremendous contribution to Leicester’s amazing first place in the Premier League.
Another beneficiary of the current state in England’s midfield could be West Ham’s Mark Noble. The former England U-21 captain never earned a cap for the senior team, mostly because of his misfortune to play in the time of Lampard, Gerard and Carrick. Even now, when he is one of the most important players for the Hammers in the last couple of seasons, he still remains below Hodgson’s radar, as it was the case with Fabio Capello. He was always considered as a player of big potential, but never seemed to blossom into a top-flight player he was expected to become. Nonetheless, he certainly possess the quality to be a part of the national team, but, sadly, he will probably remain sidelined.
We will finish this story with Danny Rose, another big potential of English football, who is currently the irreplaceable part of Tottenham’s defensive line. In the past, the Three Lions had two incredible left backs in their lines, namely Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines, so Rose could not hope for a place in the national selection. Now, given the deficit on the left side, with Cole out of the picture and Baines approaching his thirty-second birthday, the former member of Great Britain Olympic football squad will finally have his chance to earn a ticket for France this summer in the warm-up matches against Germany and Holland, since, supposedly, Hodgson will finally call him to the team.
These several examples only testify that, even though you play for a top-flight team in probably the best league in the world, it does not guarantee you a place in the national team. In the conclusion we need to remember that such great players as Steve Bruce, Paolo Di Canio, Kevin Campbell, Carlo Cuddicini and even Jose Enrique never earned a proper place in their respective countries, despite their amazing performances during their prime time.