Stan Collymore outlines nightmare scenario after Declan Rice England decision
'Given the lax rules FIFA have in place and the ambiguity surrounding them there will be ways and means to get the best players playing for the world’s richest nations'
On Wednesday, Declan Rice announced his decision to represent England in future internationals, should he be fortunate enough to win a call-up.
The news came as a bitter blow for Ireland, with whom he had made three senior international appearances after impressing for years in various underage sides.
The current Fifa rules state that a player is not tied into a representing a country he is eligible to play for until he has lined out in a competitive fixture. So, as his three Ireland appearances were in friendlies, Rice was free to make a switch. He opted to try and make a mark for the country of his birth, England.
Ireland boss Mick McCarthy wished him luck and so did many thousands of Irish football fans. Some are resentful of Rice jumping ship after being so vociferous and ostentatious with his proclamations about playing for Ireland in recent years but one thing is clear - it is time for everyone to move on.
Before we enter a new week, however, former Liverpool and England striker Stan Collymore weighed in on the debate. In his column for The Mirror, Collymore sympathises with Ireland and claims England should have steered clear once Rice had won senior caps with the boys in green. He writes:
'There has been no bigger supporter of Gareth Southgate as England manager than me. But in this instance I’m surprised he didn’t say, "I’m not going to touch the player because, as managers in the world of international football, where the reserves are diminishing compared with the club game, we need a system that is fair".'
Indeed, the transfer of Rice's papers from the FAI to the English FA has given Collymore the willies.
If a player can represent two countries in his playing career, what is to stop Fifa relaxing their laws - like rugby has - to allow players to represent countries where they earn their wages and play club football.
Collymore looks at the rise of Qatar, which will host the 2022 World Cup and who are reigning Asian Cup champions, and paints a nightmare scenario where the richest countries get the best players. He states:
'I always try to look ahead when situations like these arise and I foresee a time in the next decade or two when the Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo of the day plays five to 10 games for his country of birth before defecting to a Qatar, a UAE or Bahrain.
'International football is all grace of God in terms of where players are born. But Qatar have come from nowhere to win the Asian Cup and do you think they’re going to be happy to just keep doing that for the next 50 years or do you think that, with their financial clout, they will want to try to win the World Cup?'
The way to nip this situation in the bud, Collymore argues, is for players ticking a box with their international preference/decision when signing their first pro contracts at the age of 17.