Football Features

Eight players who could have represented Netherlands: “Van Nistelrooy called me to convince me”

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 12:36, 25 June 2021

When it comes to international football there are two prevailing schools of thought: It’s either the pinnacle or an elaborate waste of time.

For many nothing can replicate the thrill of representing their nation and with the world being more connected than ever, some even have an option of playing for more than one national side.

One such nation where this is the case is the Netherlands, who have benefited from dual nationality in the past. But there are also a handful of players who could have turned out for the Oranje but opted against doing so, including some who could have potentially featured under Frank de Boer at Euro 2020. marco

Marco Asensio

International team: Spain

International caps: 26

Named after Dutch footballing legend Marco van Basten, the Palma-born footballer was eligible to represent Oranje through his mother. Asensio, whose full name is Marco Asensio Willemsen, joined Real Madrid from boyhood club Mallorca in 2014 and would soon receive an invitation from the KNVB a year later, while representing Espanyol on loan.

Asensio ultimately chose to represent his birth nation, although he admitted that his Dutch relatives had pleaded with him to change his mind, as did Ruud van Nistelrooy.

“Van Nistelrooy called me to convince me to choose to play for Holland,” Asensio said in 2017.

“I was chatting to him for a while, then he passed me onto the national team coach who told me he wanted me at all costs. But I wasn’t in any doubt. I decided to play for Spain”

He’s since gone on to win over 25 caps, however, the most recent came in late 2020 against Germany.

Sergiño Dest

International team: United States

International caps: 11

Although he was born and raised in the Netherlands it wasn’t a surprise when Sergiño Dest ultimately chose to play for the United States as a full international, given he represented their various youth teams before former Dutch national team boss Ronald Koeman (now managing him at Barcelona) contemplated a call-up.

Dest, who came through Ajax’s esteemed youth set-up, would have enjoyed minimal competition at right-back for the Netherlands but felt his long-term future was served best with the USMNT as he’d built up “a very good feeling” with them, while feeling confident big success is right around the corner.

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Robin Gosens

International team: Germany

International caps: 10

Through his Dutch father the German-born Robin Gosens was eligible to don the famous orange jersey. After representing various youth teams in Germany, he crossed the border to join Vitesse where playing time was nonexistent. But that soon changed at Heracles where Gosens made 60 league appearances prior to joining Atalanta and the rest, as they say, is history.

Before committing to Germany, Gosens spoke about his emotional connection with the Netherlands and how the decision on who to represent wasn’t as clear as it may seem. In the end, Oranje‘s loss has certainly been Die Mannschaft‘s gain (see his man-of-the-match performance against Portugal at Euro 2020).

Noussair Mazraoui

International team: Morocco

International caps: 12

Like his former Ajax teammate Dest, this wasn’t exactly a shocker as Noussair Mazraoui was a youth international for Morocco. However, following his breakthrough campaign, which saw the Leiderdorp-born right-back net twice across 17 games in European competition (as the Amsterdammers made an unlikely Champions League semi-final run), you could have imagined then-national team coach Koeman putting out feelers.

Nothing happened and Mazraoui has since turned out several times for The Atlas Lions and he will be hoping to be part of their upcoming Africa Cup of Nations squad.

Aaron Mooy

International team: Australia

International caps: 42

A string of eye-catching performances for newly-promoted Premier League outfit Huddersfield Town put the former Bolton Wanderers academy graduate Aaron Mooy — who was briefly on Manchester City’s book — on everyone’s radar. By the time his stock had grown exponentially the Sydney native was already a fully-fledged Australian international, but in another universe he could have been representing Oranje or Germany through his parents.

Oğuzhan Özyakup

International team: Turkey

International caps: 43

Having never made the grade at Arsenal, only making two League Cup appearances in 2011/12, the Netherlands-born Oğuzhan Özyakup relocated to Beşiktaş where he’s since enjoyed three Süper Lig titles. Shortly after joining Beşiktaş, Özyakup also decided who he would be representing at international level.

Despite running out for various Netherlands youth teams he opted for Turkey, the country of his parents’ birth. Incidentally, Özyakup’s first, and so far only, goal for Ay-Yıldızlılar came against Oranje.

William Troost-Ekong

International team: Nigeria

International caps: 39

William Troost-Ekong’s youth career was exclusively played in England, as Fulham and then Tottenham Hotspur ran the rule over him before he turned professional at Eredivisie outfit FC Groningen. Since then he’s been somewhat of a journeyman, having turned out for no fewer than six clubs across six different nations.

The native of Haarlem also won three youth international caps with the Netherlands before accepting Nigeria’s invitation to represent them. He would soon describe wearing the Super Eagles’ colours as his “best decision ever“.

Hakim Ziyech

International team: Morocco

International caps: 35

Arguably the one that got away. Hakim Ziyech was dubbed a phenom when breaking through at boyhood club Heerenveen and ultimately picked up three Dutch U21 caps, scoring twice in the process, so not much thought was put into the fact he wouldn’t evolve into a full international.

An unfortunate injury meant Ziyech missed a Euro 2016 qualifier, which would have tied him to Oranje if featured. And he soon made up his mind to represent Morocco, the land of his heritage. Ziyech’s excellent playmaking skills would have greatly helped the Netherlands these past few years.