Fabio Capello has personally sounded out Everton's Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta on whether he would consider taking British citizenship and becoming an England international, it emerged yesterday, but no long-term decision has been made on the player's future.
The England manager has already had a personal meeting with Arteta, 28, thought to be at Goodison Park after last Saturday's game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and is understood to have been told by Arteta that he would keep an open mind on the proposal. However, the player would first have to apply for citizenship which, even if it were to be fast-tracked, would take six to nine months.
While the issue of Arteta playing for England has been floated before, this is the first time that Capello has taken such a key role in the process and it is bound to attract controversy. Before now, Capello has expressed no interest in selecting Arteta beyond saying that it is only a hypothetical question until the player gains a British passport.
Naturalising Arteta would be a potentially divisive move among England supporters who would be opposed to what they see as a bending of the rules of international eligibility. Capello is already under pressure for his team's poor performance at the World Cup finals, and bringing Arteta into the England squad would increase that feeling.
Thus far Capello has not discussed the subject of Arteta with his employers, the Football Association, because it does not become a live issue until Arteta obtains British citizenship. Having twice appointed a foreign coach to manage the England team, the FA are in a difficult position to rule on Arteta but they would have the final say on whether he would be allowed to play.
Ideally, Capello would like the FA to make a clear ruling on whether he could select the player or not. He is aware that he will invite a lot of criticism from some quarters if he goes ahead with the plan and would like to know he has the backing of the FA before he embarks on the process of bringing Arteta into the England fold.
Having played in Britain for five years, Arteta, who has never turned out for Spain at senior level, would be entitled to apply for citizenship. That would mean he became a dual passport holder and therefore eligible to play for England. It would be impossible to rule him out on the grounds of Fifa rules on international eligibility but the FA could request that Capello did not select the player.
Last night the FA said that it had not been consulted on the question. An FA spokesman said: "We have not discussed the matter as a policy, as we have not been in a position where the manager wants to select a 'dual passport player'."
The selection of Arteta is not an issue for Capello's squad announcement tomorrow for the first two Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria on Friday and Switzerland four days later. It does however have the potential to become one by the time of the home qualifier against Switzerland in June when theoretically Arteta could be eligible to play for his adopted country.
Arteta, who has played for Spain at Under-21 level, would be made no guarantees by Capello that, having gone through naturalisation, he would be guaranteed a place in the England team. He has played at Everton for five years and having gained British nationality, would, under Fifa statutes, be permitted to play for England. This would all change if he answered a potential call-up from Spain in the next six months.
After the Wolves game Arteta said he would be open to the idea of playing for England. "If one day the opportunity came, obviously I would have to consider it very seriously," he said. The England vice-captain Steven Gerrard has also publicly encouraged Capello to naturalise Arteta.
The naturalising of foreign players is not uncommon in international football. Portugal naturalised the Brazilians Deco and Liedson, both of whom were part of their World Cup squad. Germany's striker Cacau is a Brazilian who gained German nationality in February last year. The Italy midfielder Mauro Camoranesi holds dual Italian and Argentine citizenship.
Across the divide: Nationality rules in sports
Fifa's rules on nationality
Firstly, the player must not have played at senior level for another country. Then the player must have official nationality of the country he wishes to represent, plus one of the following:
*Born on the territory of the association in question
*Have a biological parent born on the territory
*Have a grandparent born on the territory
*Have lived on the territory continuously for at least five years after the age of 18
Others who could qualify for England
Manuel Almunia The 33-year-old Arsenal goalkeeper, born in Pamplona, qualifies through six years in England. Has said he would consider playing for England.
Carlo Cudicini Goalkeeper born in Milan, has played in England – for Tottenham and Chelsea – for 11 years.
Those next in the queue
Denilson Born in Sao Paulo, joined Arsenal in 2006, the 22-year-old could play for England next August.
Younes Kaboul French-born and captained their Under-21s but can play for England in 2012 if he does not receive a full call-up by France.
Armand Traoré The Arsenal left-back will qualify for dual nationality in August 2013. Born in Paris.
Where else it happens
Croatia Brazilian-born striker Eduardo took citizenship in 2002.
Germany Brazilian Cacau lived in the country for eight years.
Portugal Deco gained citizenship after six years in Portugal, having left Sao Paulo.
Eusebio Born in Mozambique but moved to Portugal in his late teens to play for Benfica and went on to become Portugal's greatest scorer with 41 goals in 64 matches in the 1960s.
Alfredo di Stefano Born in Buenos Aires, he scored six goals in six games for Argentina but later, having moved to Real Madrid, he scored 23 goals in 31 appearances for Spain.
What happens in other sports?
Cricket South Africans Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Craig Kieswetter qualified to play for England through living and playing here for four years. Unlike Arteta, all have British family.
Rugby Union Dylan Hartley, from New Zealand, make his England debut in November 2008, having long before passed the three-year residency rule.
Athletics Zola Budd was born in 1966 in South Africa, but due to her British grandfather was given citizenship.Reuse content