Liverpool youngster Isaac Mabaya will link up with the England under-18s for the first time this week, after turning down an approach from Zimbabwe.
Mabaya was part of the first-team squad to take on Shrewsbury in the FA Cup third round earlier this season, called up to the substitutes’ bench at Anfield.
It was a brief glimpse of the pathway on offer, and the 17-year-old has made great strides in recent months as a regular starter for the under-18s, as well as featuring for the under-19s in the UEFA Youth League.
A versatile young player, Mabaya has seen most of his minutes come at right-back, but he has also been used as a No. 6, a No. 8 and even on the right wing.
He featured against senior opposition in the 4-1 loss to League One side Bolton in the EFL Trophy in October, and made his under-23s debut in a 1-0 win at Derby in January.
This impressive run has earned Mabaya his first-ever call-up to the England U18s, as one of four Liverpool youngsters drafted into Ryan Garry’s squad alongside Lee Jonas, Terence Miles and Oakley Cannonier.
However, according to Zimbabwean newspaper the Herald, he has also been subject to advances from his parents’ native country.
But his father David Mabaya reportedly told the publication that “he does not have dual-citizenship,” adding: “We realised it’s too complicated to play for Zimbabwe, [with] passports etc., it’s a bit of a hassle.”
Mabaya was born in Preston and joined the Liverpool academy as a six-year-old, so it was always likely that an England U18s call-up would prove more tempting.
He is unlikely to be the only Reds youngster who is on the radar by another country, though, with James Balagizi and Jarell Quansah two others who could be.
Both are within the England setup, but Balagizi is also eligible for DR Congo, while Quansah has heritage in Barbados, Ghana and Scotland.
It was reported that Mali were hoping to convince Ibrahima Konate to switch nationalities ahead of the March international break, but the centre-back was not named in their squad to play Tunisia in the World Cup playoffs.
Konate finds himself in a difficult position due to the competition for places in the France squad, but if he maintains his elite trajectory at Liverpool, he should break into Didier Deschamps’ consideration.