After months on end of club football, another international break has arrived. International team managers scrambled to submit their squads for a break filled with qualifiers for multiple competitions. One Watford player turned heads with his call-up. Adam Masina, who made his Italian Under-21 debut in 2015, is now on the Moroccan International Team. His inclusion is an eye-opener, and a pleasant surprise, for a key reason.
Adam Masina’s Mixed Season
Masina missed the first 19 matches of the season with a tendon injury. The left-back’s reintroduction to the squad was epitomized by his last-ditch challenge on Teemu Pukki to preserve a 1-0 lead over Norwich City in late December. When initially back from injury and in the starting eleven, Masina was in fine form. Kiko Femenia was thus able to move to his preferred right-back position – giving Watford one of the most, if not the most, dangerous right-side in the league.
The 27-year-old’s form started to dip. Some fans became disgruntled with his performances. He started to make poorly-weighted passes and misplace long balls more frequently. He uncharacteristically got caught out of position on a couple of occasions.
The string of somewhat shaky matches was quickly forgotten. Against both Nottingham Forest and Cardiff City, Masina scored the winning goal – with the goal in the latter being the Hornets’ first direct free-kick goal in nearly five years. He built up a positive head of steam, so an inaugural international senior call-up is deserved. But, breaking into the Italian International Team is tremendously difficult. Morocco, in need of left-backs, noted Masina’s eligibility and acted. Masina’s international switch, despite being unexpected, is permitted.
Explaining Why Masina’s Morocco Call-Up Is Allowed
In the September of 2020, FIFA’s 70th Congress met virtually. One of the topics discussed and amended surrounded a player’s ability to switch their international teams.
The rule now states that if, prior to turning 21, a player has played three or fewer matches for an international team in non-final competitive matches at the senior level, then he can switch his international team identity. Before the rule change, the law said one competitive senior international appearance is all it takes for a player to be bound to an international team for life.
Masina played six times for Italy’s Under-21 side. However, he never made a senior appearance for the Azzurri – meaning he was eligible to declare for another nation’s international team if, of course, he had a second recognized nationality. If he makes an appearance for Morocco during the international break, he will officially be bound to them for the rest of his career.
This scenario is almost identical to Jack Grealish’s. Masina is Moroccan-born but Italian raised. Grealish is English-born but with significant Irish heritage. Both played for one of their eligibilities growing up, but ultimately switched and declared loyalty to their birth nations at the senior level. It is not done too frequently, but it is not unheard of either.
Masina Made A Shrewd Choice
Masina now has an increased chance of playing in major international competitions. Even as he is currently in a thrilling promotion race with Watford, being able to compete on the international stage will provide more uncharted footballing territory for Masina to explore.
And, simply stated, Masina has a significantly better chance of playing consistent international football with Morocco than he does with Italy. The North African nation is currently 33rd in the FIFA world rankings. Italy is number 10.
Considering Masina is the only true left-back on the squad list for the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers, his services in the starting eleven will likely be necessary.
Overall, Masina has been deserving of a senior international call-up – even if he has not been the most consistent of performers. All things considered, Watford have been notably better since his return from injury. High-profile international action can also provide a player with much-needed boosts in confidence and form. Fortunately, Masina will be able to ply his trade for an international team that will be pursuing a likely spot at next year’s World Cup.