9 players who could win their first caps: Toney, Joselu, Santos, Lavia…
For many football fans, the international break comes along with a heavy sigh. But for some players it provides an opportunity for some the proudest moments of their careers to date.
Powerhouses like France, Brazil, Italy, England, Germany and Argentina are among the national teams that have called up players for the first time with a view to handing them their first caps.
Here are nine players worth looking out for over the coming fortnight.
The centre-back joined Barcelona from Toulouse as a highly-rated youngster back in 2019. But he never quite broke through at the Catalan club and had to look elsewhere for opportunities. Loaned out to Schalke, Benfica and Nice, Todibo joined the Ligue 1 club on a permanent deal in 2021.
He now looks settled on the French Riviera and is producing the best football of his career for a Nice side that also boast Kasper Schmeichel, Ross Barkley, Aaron Ramsey and Nicolas Pepe.
Todibo’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by France boss Didier Deschamps, who has also called up his Nice team-mate Khephren Thuram, son of Lilian and younger brother of Marcus, for a potential debut. Les Bleus kick off a new cycle with Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland.
Newcastle United fans will remember the Spanish striker trying hard but ultimately failing to find the back of the net during a two-year stint at St. James’ Park. He scored just six goals in 46 Premier League appearances.
But he’s thrived since moving back to Spain. He hit double figures in three successive seasons at Alaves and has 12 La Liga goals for Espanyol in 2022-23 so far.
13 years after appearing for La Roja’s Under-21s, Joselu could soon be set to make his international debut at the age of 32. A lovely story.
Luis de la Fuente’s new-look Spain take on Norway and Scotland.
— RCD Espanyol de Barcelona (@RCDEspanyol_EN) March 15, 2023
The Brentford striker is the only potential debutant in Gareth Southgate’s latest Three Lions squad.
Toney was called up for the first time for England’s Nations League fixtures against Italy and Germany back in September but didn’t make it onto the pitch and was then omitted from the 26-man World Cup squad.
He may soon serve a ban for alleged betting offences but that didn’t effect Southgate’s decision.
“The fact is that Ivan is available for his club. There hasn’t been a trial or any judgement as yet so I don’t know on what basis we wouldn’t pick him,” said Southgate.
“He’s playing really well. I like his presence in games and he deserves his opportunity.”
Brentford signed the 21-year-old attacker on an initial loan from Freiburg and he looks set to become the club’s record signing with a £22million transfer fee already reportedly agreed for the summer.
He’s yet to open his account for Thomas Frank’s Bees, with the majority of his appearances cameos off the bench, but he evidently showed enough in the Bundesliga to make Hansi Flick sit up and take notice.
Schade is one of six uncapped players to be named in Germany’s latest squad. Die Mannschaft take on Peru and Belgium in friendlies this international break.
Chelsea’s 18-year-old January signing – currently shining back out on loan at boyhood club Vasca da Gama – looks a seriously special talent.
Having excelled for Brazil at youth level, he’s now been called up to represent the Selecao at senior level for the first time.
The midfielder is one of nine uncapped players called up by interim coach Ramon Menezes for the upcoming friendly against Morocco.
The 20-year-old defensive midfielder joined Man City from hometown club Velez Sarsfield in January.
He’s already made his debut for Pep Guardiola’s side and looks full of potential.
The Argentinian will link up with the World Cup winners as they begin their victory lap with friendlies against Panama and Curacao.
Man City’s decision to allow Lavia to sign for Southampton while spending £42million on Kalvin Phillips hasn’t looked like the club’s best bit of business.
Phillips may be part of Gareth Southgate’s England squad but he’s barely kicked a ball this season, while Lavia has looked outstanding for Southampton.
New Belgium manager Domenico Tedesco has called up the 19-year-old Belgian for their Euro 2024 qualifier against Sweden and friendly against Germany. Richly deserved.
A name that will be unfamiliar to many, Retegui’s story is an interesting one.
The forward was born and raised in Argentina and has come up through Boca Juniors’ academy.
He represented the Albiceleste at Under-20 level but is eligible to represent Italy through his heritage – and Roberto Mancini has now called him up. The 23-year-old appeared on the radar thanks to his sparkling form on loan at Atletico Tigre – he’s scored 29 goals in 51 appearances for the Argentinian club.
Retegui could commit his future to the Azzurri if he features in their upcoming qualifiers against England and Malta.
Mateo Retegui in Italy colours and this week under the orders of Roberto Mancini. Will be so interesting to see how he gets on. Mancini has said they’ve been watching him for a while pic.twitter.com/DfEd4bgNXF
— GOLAZO (@golazoargentino) March 20, 2023
The Wolves wingback hasn’t been much fancied by Julen Lopetegui, but he’s shown plenty of promise in his Premier League appearances to date.
Ait-Nouri was born and raised in France. He came up through the Angers academy and represented Les Bleus at youth level but has now made the decision to represent Algeria, eligible through his parentage.
The 21-year-old looks set to feature in Algeria’s upcoming double-header against Niger in AFCON qualifying.