It appears the Wolverhampton Wanderers winger Adama Traore has thrown himself into a ‘decision quagmire’ after torn between representing Spain or Mali despite been named again in the Spain squad by coach Luis Enrique on Friday, three days after also being called up by Mali.
Traore, who was born in Barcelona to Malian parents, has been targeted by the two federations over the past 18 months.
The 24-year-old can still represent either nation as he has not yet played senior international football.
On 17 February 2014, the Malian Football Federation reported that Traoré and his older brother Mohamed had decided to represent Mali at senior level. However, in an interview with BBC Sport in October 2015, the former stated that he was still considering his international options. He made his debut for the Spanish under-21s on 22 March 2018, playing 15 minutes in the 5–3 away win over Northern Ireland for the 2019 UEFA European Championshipqualifiers.
In November 2019, Traoré declared that he wanted to play for Mali. However, days later he received his first call-up to the Spanish national team for Euro 2020qualifying matches against Malta and Romania in place of injured Rodrigo. He pulled out of the squad himself due to injury, and was replaced by Pablo Sarabia.
In January 2020, he said he had not decided between Spain and Mali after a photograph of him posing with a Mali shirt circulated online, saying “I am grateful (to have the chance) with the two international teams – Spain where I was born and Mali where my origins are.”
In August 2020, Traoré was again called up ahead of Spain’s September UEFA Nations League matches against Germany and Ukraine. However, he was removed from the squad after testing positive for COVID-19 on 31 August. He missed the Germany match as he awaited the result of the second test to determine if the initial result was a false positive. The second test result was negative and Traore rejoined the squad on 3 September, ahead of the Ukraine match.
On 6 September, Traore was once again ordered to leave the camp after an antibodies test came back negative. Royal Spanish Football Federation cited the UEFA protocol, which recommended that he not travel with the team, even though they did not believe there was any risk of transmitting the virus to others.
In September 2020, Mali named Traoré to their squad for upcoming matches against Ghana on 9 October and Iran on 13 October in Turkey, while, three days later, Spain name him to their squad for the same international period.
“Touch wood he can play this time as it’s his third call-up,” Enrique said when asked about Traore.
“I really want to see him in a Spain shirt. Regarding the call-up he’s received from Mali, it’s up to him.
“As far as I’m aware, he wants to play for us, but it’s his decision and we’ll always respect players’ decisions on these things.”
Traore has made no public statement on the double call-up, although football analysts expect him to go with Spain.
Mali are also waiting to see if Everton’s former France youth international Abdoulaye Doucoure will honour his inclusion on their squad for the international break.
If Traore plays in either of Spain’s European Nations League qualifiers against Switzerland on 10 October or Ukraine three days later he would no longer be able to switch allegiances to Mali.
But if either players chooses to accept the Mali call up they could still swap as the African nation are only due to play a friendly match.
Fifa regulations are that players over the age of 21 who play a competitive game at senior international level cannot play for another country.
However at last month’s Fifa annual congress the rule was amended,following a proposal by the Moroccan Football Federation.
Players can now switch if they have played no more than three matches at senior level, with all the appearances coming before the player turns 21.
Appearances in World Cup finals matches or continental finals such as the Africa Cup of Nations would prohibit a change of eligibility, but appearing in a tournament qualifier would not.