The Irish international setup received a boost today, as it was at last confirmed that Sevilla midfielder Ryan Johansson will be allowed to play for Ireland at senior level.
Johansson joined Sevilla from Bayern Munich last summer, but his national eligibility has been a bone of contention for some time now. The 20-year-old was born in Luxembourg, but raised by a Swedish father and an Irish mother, Christine McCarthy from Mullingar. He was therefore eligible to play for all three countries, and Luxembourg fought hard to keep him.
In 2018, Johansson originally pulled out of an Irish Under 19 squad, with the understanding he would declare for Luxembourg. Even then though, there was no sense of a finality to the situation with the Irish U19s manager Tom Mohan saying that Ireland would keep in touch with Johansson and not cut their ties. As he had played competitively for Luxembourg in the past, he would only be permitted one transfer under FIFA rules and was still considering his options.
Then in January 2019, there was a declaration from Johansson for Ireland. As he had not played a senior competitive game for Luxembourg, his international transfer seemed a formality. Unfortunately, a FIFA rule got in the way, as it so often does. Unfortunately, he had not received his Irish passport before playing for Luxembourg, which deemed his ineligible for transfer.
Johansson tried to enlist the FAI to fight his case in 2019, before appearing to accept an international career with Sweden.
FIFA have since updated their eligibility rules, meaning that players can change their nationality even if they did not hold their "new" nationality when they made their underage debut for their "old" nationality. The change must be triggered before a player's 21st birthday and, since Johansson is still only 20, the news is good for Ireland.
Ryan Johansson who was originally denied the chance to declare for Ireland due to a fifa rule, I can confirm today that he is eligible to play for the Republic of Ireland due to a change in fifa rules, Jim Crawford has been in touch and he will be in the Marbella squad in June. pic.twitter.com/UbvumXz1Dn
— Paul Nealon (@paulnealon2508) May 11, 2021
Paul Nealon of Irish Fan TV spoke to the player on Monday, and he and his family are said to be "delighted" with the news.
The young midfielder's updated availability is a massive boost to the Irish setup. He currently plays in Sevilla's A team, Sevilla Atletico, and is yet to make a competitive appearance at senior level, and has struggled with injury this season.
Talk has now intensified as to whether Johansson, if fit, will be thrown in at the deep end and included in the Irish U-21 squad for their fixtures against Switzerland, Australia, and Denmark in May and June. His availability will certainly be a welcome surprise to manager Jim Crawford.
He has played for the Irish U-19s in the past, but the long-protracted legal battle with FIFA came over his eligibility at U-21 and senior level.
We've yet to see much of Ryan Johansson but the excitement around his eligibility is a pleasant boost for Irish football, and makes a marked change from some of the players we've lost to other countries in recent years such as Jack Grealish and Declan Rice.
And the fact it's one over on our bitter rivals Luxembourg before our World Cup return fixture is no harm either.