Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj has received a number of death threats over his decision to represent Belgium at international level. According to reports, Januzaj opting to play for his country of birth has angered a number of Kosovan-Albanians.
The 19-year-old was eligible to play for a host of different nations due to the ethnicity of his parents. They fled war-torn Yugoslavia in the early 90s for Brussels. Although a number of countries laid claim to Januzaj, he decided to represent Belgium and made one appearance at the World Cup. His country progressed to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by Argentina.
Januzaj’s decision to turn out for Belgium was not a popular one, even amongst players. Kevin Mirallas was one who spoke out against it, claiming there was a list of Belgians who were far more worthy of a World Cup spot due to Januzaj’s lack of domestic experience.
However, the decision is even less popular in the country of his heritage and it is understood death threats have been sent to his parent’s home. Januzaj was offered a chance to play an unofficial game for Kosovo before making his decision – Kosovo is not a member of UEFA or FIFA. However, he rejected the chance in order to focus on the end of United’s season. Januzaj subsequently chose Belgium.
Serbian radio station, S Media, along with Belgian newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad, claimed the threats were serious and that the matter was being looked into by authorities. The threats are understood to have started just a week before the tournament when Januzaj played his first game in a warm-up against Tunisia. The young player has been warned not to visit Kosovo as a result.
Although Januzaj is a popular figure at Old Trafford, ex-United boss David Moyes failed to utilize the player properly during his brief stint in charge. The Scot claimed he wanted to protect the player by using him infrequently, but he was left out of a number of big matches and rarely appeared even when United were suffering a string of bad results.
New United boss Louis van Gaal is said to be a keen admirer of Januzaj and is expected to play him a fair amount this coming season. With Ryan Giggs now retired and Januzaj putting international football behind him, he will be expected to be become a regular feature on United’s left flank for a number of years to come.
Van Gaal’s United revolution is already underway, with Ander Herrera joining from Athletic Bilbao and Luke Shaw moving from Southampton for a combined fee of close to £103 million. Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is also linked with a move to Old Trafford, with Patrice Evra and possibly, Marouane Fellaini, forming part of the deal to being the Chilean to England.
The plan for Januzaj is to put the reported death threats he received behind him and focus on the immediate task at hand – winning back the Premier League title that almost belonged to United under Sir Alex Ferguson. Judging by some of the impressive tactical and man-management decisions van Gaal made during the Netherlands’ run to the semi-finals of the World Cup, Januzaj will be working with the right man to help him through it.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd