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8 Footballers Who Waited Years To Be Recalled To Their National Team

8 Footballers Who Waited Years To Be Recalled To Their National Team
By Jonathan Byrne

News broke this week that Mario Balotelli will be making a sensational return to the Italy setup under boss Roberto Mancini.

The Azzurri manager has always championed the former Manchester City and Liverpool striker. It's still an unconventional choice for the stage he's at in his career.

At 31-years-old, Balotelli is still scoring goals, albeit in the Turkish top division. He's bagged nine goals in twenty-one appearances for Adana Demirspor.

His recall could be based on several factors. It could be form-driven, it could be down to a lack of alternatives or simply his relationship with Mancini.

Nonetheless, over the years there have been many players who may have felt like their international days were over but made returns to after lengthy absences.

Here are eight recent examples of such:

Fabio Quagliarella

International sabbatical: 8 years and 4 months

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Quagliarella might be most known for spells at Napoli and Juventus, but the Italian sharpshooter has aged like a fine wine. He's since enjoyed life as a veteran striker with some of Serie A's mid-tier clubs in Torino and Sampdoria. In March of 2019, Quagliarella featured for Italy in a friendly against Finland over eight years since his last appearance in 2010. He played in three of Italy's Euro 2020 qualifiers after impressing domestically for Sampdoria. He turns 39 next week and has 3 goals for them so far this season.

Karim Benzema

International sabbatical: 5 years and 3 months

The international exodus of Karim Benzema is well documented at this point. Where do you start? The reports of attitude problems, allegations of sexual relations with a minor, or the ongoing blackmail case? Benzema had a fairly public rift with the FFF too which didn't help things, but a few years of good behaviour seemed to have him back in the fold. Making his first appearance since 2015, Benzema was selected for the French Euro 2020 squad last summer and played an important role for the side in the tournament.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic

International sabbatical: 4 years and 9 months

120 caps and 62 goals isn't a bad yield for Zlatan for Sweden over the years. The AC Milan striker has little left to prove but decided to come out of retirement to help his side qualify for the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. Ibrahimovic had teased an international return in the years that followed his initial retirement after Euro 2016. Sweden manager Janne Andersson seemed reluctant at first to recall him but gave him an opportunity last year. Unfortunately, an injury forced Ibrahimovic out of the Euro 2022 tournament gone by.

Wes Hoolahan 

International sabbatical: 4 years and 5 months

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Many believe Wes Hoolahan did little wrong to not be called up to a Republic of Ireland squad for four years. Having left Blackpool for Norwich City in the summer of 2008 - he was an integral part of The Canaries' side who gained back-to-back promotions from League One and the Championship. A full Premier League season under his belt and manager Giovanni Trapattoni recalled Hoolahan but rarely used him in World Cup qualification. Martin O'Neill would be the one to truly get the best out of him at the age of 31.

Santi Cazorla

International sabbatical: 3 years and 6 months

Now plying his trade in Qatar, Santi Cazorla had a bit of a career renaissance after leaving Arsenal in 2018. Injuries got the better of his time in North London and for the national side. He missed out on the Euro 2016  squad for Spain but made a return in May of 2019 after impressing in his third spell with Villareal. The creative midfielder was recalled for Spain's Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and appeared for the first time in 1,302 days against the Faroe Islands. He even wore the captain's armband for the first time.

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David Villa

International sabbatical: 3 years and 2 months

One of the heroes of Spain's Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 winning squads - David Villa was a vital servant for his country over the years. Having spent time between Valencia, Barcelona, and Atlético Madrid, he announced his international retirement after the 2014 World Cup. Villa had his swansong in Spain's final group game against Australia with their elimination already decided. He was recalled later in 2017 while playing for New York FC, appearing in injury time in a 2018 World Cup qualifier.

Tomas Muller & Mats Hummels

International sabbatical: 2 years and 6 months

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You'll rarely find two high-profile players with the same time lengthy absence between international caps. That was the case for Tomas Muller and Mats Hummels as Germany manager Joachim Low recalled the two stalwarts for the Euro 2020 tournament gone by. They last featured for their national team in the Nations League in November 2018. Muller made a name for himself on the international stage at the World Cup in 2010, while Hummels had been a German regular since 2011.

See Also: Ireland U21 International Makes Young Derby Fan's 'Dream Come True'

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