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Top 10 Players Who Turned Down Their National Teams

Courtois at Real Madrid
© Ace Football

For many footballers, representing their national team is the pinnacle of their career.

10. Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)

Thibaut Courtois, the Belgian goalkeeper, turned down his national team over a captaincy dispute. Upset over not being given the armband for a Euro qualifier against Austria, Courtois walked out on the team. Despite recovering from an ACL injury, he will not participate in the Euros.

9. Adrien Rabiot (France)

In 2018, Adrien Rabiot rejected a call-up to the France national team after being placed on the reserve list. Despite criticism from the French Football Federation president, Rabiot was later included in the squads for the 2020 Euros and the 2022 World Cup.

8. Diego Costa (Brazil/Spain)

Diego Costa controversially switched allegiance from Brazil to Spain in 2013, just months before Brazil hosted the World Cup. His decision drew ire from Brazil’s coach and fans, especially as Costa played for Spain in the tournament held in his native country.

7. Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo)

Emmanuel Adebayor retired from international football in 2010 after the Togo team bus was attacked by gunmen en route to the AFCON, resulting in fatalities. Although he returned in 2011, he refused to play in 2018 due to poor pitch conditions in Togo’s capital.

6. Samuel Eto’o (Cameroon)

Samuel Eto’o, a legendary figure in Cameroonian football, turned his back on the national team twice in protest. In 2011, he boycotted a match against Algeria over unpaid bonuses, resulting in a 15-game ban later reduced to four. In 2012, he again refused to play, criticizing the national team’s organization.

5. Joel Matip (Cameroon)

Born in Germany to a German mother and Cameroonian father, Joel Matip initially chose to represent Cameroon. However, he refused a call-up for the 2017 AFCON, citing dissatisfaction with the national team setup. In 2021, Matip made controversial comments comparing African and European football, leading to his exclusion from the 2022 World Cup squad.

4. Nicolas Anelka (France)

Nicolas Anelka’s fallout with France during the 2010 World Cup was dramatic. After a heated exchange with coach Raymond Domenech, Anelka was sent home. The squad protested his expulsion, but Anelka refused to apologize and retired from international football, laughing off an 18-match ban imposed by the French Football Federation.

3. Andre Onana (Cameroon)

Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana clashed with coach Rigobert Song over tactics during the 2022 World Cup and asked to be excluded from the remaining group games. Onana left the tournament and announced his retirement from international football shortly after. He later reconciled with Song and returned to the national team for the 2024 AFCON.

2. Hakim Ziyech (Morocco)

Hakim Ziyech, a Chelsea player, turned his back on Morocco in 2022 following a fallout with coach Vahid Halilhodzic, who accused him of faking injuries. Ziyech retired from international football in February 2022 but returned to the team after Halilhodzic was replaced by Walid Regragui, helping Morocco reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

1. Ben White (England)

Arsenal defender Ben White made headlines when he informed England manager Gareth Southgate that he no longer wished to be considered for the national team. The decision reportedly stemmed from a confrontation with assistant coach Steve Holland during the 2022 World Cup. After a disagreement, White left the tournament and has not returned to international duty since.