Whilst Premier League fans will be well used to African stars taking the league by storm since its inception in 1992, some supporters might not realise the players they watch week-in, week-out at club level might be eligible to represent some surprising countries at international level.
N’Golo Kanté – Mali
N’Golo Kanté is arguably the most likeable footballer in the league – and even despite representing the country of his birth, France, he is still loved in his parents’ country of Mali.
Unlike others on the list, Kanté was close to representing Mali – The Eagles were the first country to call-up the tireless midfielder, but were turned down as Kanté wanted to establish himself in Ligue 1 after winning promotion with SM Caen.
By the time he was next called up, France were beginning to show interest – and now the rest is history, as Kanté went on to lift the World Cup with France in 2018.
Interestingly, fellow international team-mate and Premier League star Moussa Sissoko could have also represented The Eagles – Sissoko was named as a standby for the 2018 World Cup for France but didn’t make the final 23-man squad.
Ross Barkley – Nigeria
Whilst Ross Barkley is now obviously tied to England internationally, after making his competitive debut against Moldova in 2013, he could have been playing for one of Africa’s best teams.
Eligible to play for The Super Eagles through his grandfather, Barkley was never likely to play for anyone other than the country of his birth after playing at every age level for The Three Lions.
Divock Origi – Kenya
Victor Wanyama made history when he joined Southampton in 2013, becoming the first Kenyan to play in the English top flight.
If Divock Origi followed in the footsteps of his father, Mike Origi, who made over 120 appearances for the Harambee Stars, then we could have seen two of England’s biggest clubs boasting Kenyan footballers.
After playing for Belgium at every youth level, the Football Kenya Federation attempted to persuade their record appearance holder’s son to make the switch in 2014- but Belgium named him in their squad for that year’s World Cup.
The Origi family has had many famous faces – Mike was the most famous of four brothers to play for the national side, whilst Divock’s cousin, Arnold, has 33 caps for Kenya.
Loïc Damour – Réunion
Loïc Damour is a slightly obscure choice for this list – despite being an integral part of Cardiff’s push to the Premier League last season, the French-born midfielder has only made two appearances in the top flight as his side look to beat the drop.
With a few u20 appearances for France under his belt Damour has international experience, and despite being 27 years-old, has had made no comments in regards to playing for the French overseas department.
His older brother Joe has represented the island – but with the tiny nation not enjoying full member status with CAF or FIFA, it can be hard to attract players.
Andrew Surman – South Africa
Part of Bournemouth’s fairytale rise up the leagues, Johannesburg born Surman is another player to have been called up to a national side – only to reject the offer in order to fulfil club ambitions.
Born to British parents in South Africa, Surman’s family returned to the UK, leading to the midfielder coming through the ranks at Southampton.
During his time with the Saints he received a call up to the England u21 side, but since then, he has turned down multiple calls to play for the nation of his birth.
He told local paper the Southern Daily Echo that: “I have never ruled out playing for South Africa but my priority has always been my club football. The past two or three years have been hugely important for me. If I had gone to play international football things might not have worked out the same way.
” I was really honoured to be called up and it certainly was not something I turned up my nose at. I really, seriously, considered it. But I have a young family and international football is a big commitment.”
At 32 years of age it remains to be seen if Surman will ever pull on a South African jersey.
Hélder Costa – Angola
Angolan born Hélder Costa is one of Wolverhampton’s Portuguese cohort that helped fire the Wanderers back up to the Premier League.
With over a 100 appearances for the West Midlands outfit, Costa caught the attention of the Portuguese National Selection during his debut Premier League season, making his first appearance against Scotland in a friendly.
Costa scored the first in a comfortable 3-1 victory, but FIFA rules state that a friendly match does not bind a player to a country – much like fellow tricky Prem winger Wilfred Zaha, who switched alligence to Côte d’Ivoire after playing for England.
This means there is an outside chance Costa could represent the country of his birth, but with his stock rising, it is unlikely that he won’t be given a competitive cap for Portugal.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka – D.R Congo
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has burst onto the scene since making his Premier League debut in February 2018.
Only thrust into the first team after an injury crisis, Wan-Bissaka has made sure he is one of the first names on Roy Hodgson’s teamsheet – winning the club’s player of the month award four times in the 2018-19 season.
London born, Wan-Bissaka represented DR Congo’s u20 side once – whilst he was 17, but has since made the switch into England’s u20 and u21 set up.
Joe Gomez – Gambia
Born to a Gambian father and English mother, Joe Gomez could have been representing The Scorpions at international level.
However, Gomez has appeared at every age level for The Three Lions, and would have been on the plane to Russia last summer if injury hadn’t ruled him out of Gareth Southgate’s final 23-man squad.
Already with a Champions League runners-up to his growing name, many tip Gomez to be a mainstay in England’s latest golden generation.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – Ghana
Another talented youngster that England have already claimed – but Callum Hudson-Odoi could have been playing for The Black Stars in a different timeline.
Despite the fact many Chelsea fans are clamouring for the young winger to have a run in the first team, Hudson-Odoi is still battling to win over manager Maurizio Sarri – but it’s a different story at an international level.
Gareth Southgate handed the youngster his international debut against the Czech Republic, sealing the talented prospect for England, and making Hudson-Odoi the youngest ever player for England.
Callum’s older brother Bradley was born in Ghana, and represented the country’s u20s.
However, much like the aforementioned Gomez and Barkley, Hudson-Odoi has been called up at every single age level for England, meaning it was unlikely he’d swap to play for the country of his parents.